Time management came up in a strange sort of way during the Health Matters show I co-host for Spice FM yesterday. We were interviewing Rachel Jones Wild from Mindful Therapies, a fantastic not for profit organisation based in Newcastle upon Tyne, about mindfulness. (If you’re in or around the locality of Newcastle it’s worth checking Mindful Therapies out. They run a variety of drop-in sessions on a pay what you can basis.) Anyway, one of the interesting things that Rachel mentioned, and something I had never heard of before was the Exhaustion Funnel. I just thought this was a fantastic way of describing what many female leaders and entrepreneurs (and probably women generally) experience.
The exhaustion funnel describes a situation where you have things to do, and within that list of things are things for your self-care. Perhaps it’s reading a book; going to the gym; practicing meditation; having a soak in the bath; whatever it may be. And then you get busy. Yes, there’s that word again, busy. You get busy and you begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed, so you look at what you have to do and you think, “What’s the easiest thing for me to stop doing? What matters least?”. You think, “I won’t read my book. That’s not really important.” So, that goes out.
You still feel stressed and you’re still busy so, you look for something else to get rid of and you think, “Well, I’ll stop my meditation because that will give me a bit of extra time each day”. So, that goes out. However, you’re still stressed, and you still feel busy.
Once again, you think, “If I don’t do my walk each day I’ll have so much more time and things will be so much better and I’ll be so much less stressed”. Therefore, that goes out too. Yet you are still stressed. Do you get the picture?
You are stuck in a time management hell loop where you gradually get rid of all the things that will recharge and refill you, and you’re left with all the things that are really making you busy and contributing to your feeling of overwhelm and stress. There is nothing there that is going to counteract that. That’s the exhaustion funnel.
If you’re in this trap what can you do. The most important thing to remember is that empty jugs can’t pour. If you are not full you will have nothing to give. You will not be able to give back to people if you yourself are exhausted and stressed. You will only make yourself unwell; physically and/or mentally. Therefore, the thing that must not go, the thing you must not stop because you are busy, is your self-care.
I know that it’s horrible when you’re too busy and that you feel this sense of duty and obligation to do everything that is on your plate, but you need to find ways to stop doing other things. If you keep committing to doing other things for other people then all that will happen is that people will say, “Oh well I’ll always ask [Steph], because [Steph] always gets things done and never says no!”. It is possible to find ways to say no. A couple of weeks ago, over on my Facebook page, I talked about finding pleasant and positive ways to turn things down. The trick is to give yourself some thinking time and then explain that you don’t have enough time to do the task justice – I recommend you take the time to watch the Facebook Live where I explain this in more detail. The method is polite, considerate and shows that you respect the individual and what they’re asking you to do but it gives you the tools to stop you getting overcommitted, overwhelmed and stressed.
Please do not fall into the trap of the exhaustion funnel. Something that you are going to do for yourself is important and it does matter, and people will notice if you don’t do it. Most importantly, you will notice, but the people around you will also notice as you become more stressed and exhausted and the work that you’re doing will suffer as a result. Ironically, you’ll probably then try to use some time management tools to get things under control which will only add to your to do list and draw again on that empty jug.
Prioritise your self-care. Make sure that you are filling up your jug. Make sure you are taking care of the priorities and the priority is you. If you are not well and if you are not full then your family, your work, your colleagues and your friends will have nothing to pull from.