We often hear and read that we can’t do it all. We must pick and choose. We need to make serious sacrifices. We can either have a great career or a great family. We either volunteer or have a side business. But we need to resign ourselves to the fact that we can’t have everything. It’s a message women regularly receive.
However, writer and author Linda Formichelli asserts that we can do it all. For instance, if your version of doing it all means cultivating a connected family, building a fulfilling career, enjoying fun hobbies, and traveling regularly, you can have that. She shares the tools and techniques in her thoughtful, thorough, and insightful book How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes out with a Sharpie. The book is filled with specific, practical, real-life strategies and examples (most of which I’ve double-underlined.)
What does it mean to do it all? For starters, this desire comes from you. It consists of goals you genuinely want to accomplish because they’re important to you. Not because you’re feeling pressure from others. Not because you think you should do these things and if you don’t, you’re clearly inadequate.
As Formichelli writes, “The point of doing it all is that you love all the things you’re doing, and you don’t want to say no to any of them, and they somehow fulfill your personal values. If you’re trying to do it all and it makes you feel cranky, resentful or just plain unhappy on a continuous basis, that’s not even close to the doing it all we’re talking about here.”
Below are five tips from How to Do It All to help you do it all — whatever this looks like for you.
Identify your obstacles
What obstacles are you facing in doing all the things you want to do? For instance, a common issue is lack of time. Which is why it’s important to evaluate how you’re currently spending your free time. Maybe you’re spending too much time browsing Facebook, running errands or worrying.
Formichelli suggests asking: “How can I better use that time to get done all the important things I want to accomplish this year?”
Another common obstacle is lack of motivation. We don’t feel inspired or energized. But waiting until we feel motivated doesn’t work, because that moment might never come. As Formichelli writes, “Act first, get motivated later.” She mentions the powerful book Get It Done When You’re Depressed by Julie Fast and John D. Preston, Psy.D, who underscore the importance of taking action, without motivation. (We’ve featured tips from the book here.)
Focus on your values
Doing it all can be uncomfortable and stressful. And it requires some hard work. What makes it worthwhile is that these goals are connected to your deepest values, writes Formichelli, who is also co-founder of Renegade Writer Press.
For instance, you connect your desire to travel to your value of education by learning some Italian for your trip to Rome. You take your family on a camping trip to learn more about nature.
Formichelli also suggests having a “values board” with images of why you’re doing it all. Her top values are freedom, health, fun and family, so her board includes everything from images of her son practicing ballet to a plane flying over landmarks.
Revise your self-talk
How we talk to ourselves naturally affects our next steps. Again, often we believe that we must choose between two things: We either travel or have a beautiful home. Instead of thinking “or,” think “and.” This reminds us of the assortment of options we actually have.
For instance, according to Formichelli, you combine your desires to volunteer and train for a 5K by working on setup for a charity race. To travel and remodel your kitchen, you cut certain expenses and explore travel hacks, such as getting cheap airfare.
Consider what you can stop doing
All of us engage in activities that are really not necessary. Activities that steal time from what really matters to us. Activities that don’t add to our lives in significant ways.
What are those activities in your life? How can you stop doing them?
For example, quit social media. Formichelli did, finding that it wasn’t vital to her business or personal life. (So did Cal Newport.) Stop watching TV or watch less. Or watch your favorite show while folding laundry. Hire a cleaning service, get your groceries delivered, and automate tasks, such as paying bills.
When we don’t establish structure or boundaries, we become slaves to other people’s schedules. To avoid that, block out specific times for your desired tasks. Then schedule other tasks around those blocks. Set up medical appointments well in advance, so you aren’t picking between times that don’t work for you. Or have standing appointments, such as getting your hair cut and colored every eighth Saturday at 5 p.m.
Formichelli also suggests dedicating an entire day or several hours for “admin” tasks—which you can’t delegate or skip. This prevents that awful scattered feeling (“I have 100 things to do!”) Formichelli’s admin day is Friday. Your day might include tasks such as planning school snacks, ordering groceries, paying bills, and fixing things around the house.
Doing it all is really about doing what fulfills you. What I love about Formichelli’s message (and book) is that with some creativity, hard work, and planning, we can build a life filled with meaning, beautiful memories, and what truly matters to us.
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