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I Need to Stay Caught Up, Is It True?

Bee at work gathering nectar
There are two ways to gather nectar: always behind, or always ahead.

We Live in a Busy World

But why do some of us feel like we can never catch up? I happen to be one of those kinds of people. Part of it is due to the fact that I like to do lots of things, part is due to the fact that I like to do things well, and part of it is due to the fact that I’m still just starting to learn how to delegate. 

But when I look more deeply, I find another reason why I believe I need to stay caught up: I’m still in grade-school mode—I don’t want to get a “bad grade.” (I want my parents to be proud of me, not disappointed in me.)

So decades later, as a grown-up running my own business, I still operate like a child trying to get his teacher’s approval. This causes me to work too hard, to take my jobs too seriously, and to put my own relaxation last.

Even When I Consciously Take Time Off, I’m Not “Off”

In recent years, I’ve gotten much better at taking time off to relax. My partner has helped me with that a lot. But because I’m so “responsible,” I sometimes don’t allow myself to enjoy my time off. Instead, I’m worrying about finishing unfinished tasks on my to do list.

This is a bit of a compulsion

So I recently questioned the thought, “I need to stay caught up.” For someone like me, there is resistance to even questioning this thought. Of course, I need to stay caught up, with everything! 

Here’s What I Found

I like to question my stressful thoughts using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work of Byron Katie. As I went through the questions, and realized how stressful this was for me, I started to open to a new perspective.

What if I didn’t need to stay caught up? I’m not getting graded. Even my business does not depend on me doing everything on my to do list every day. I looked at my calendar today and estimated that I would need an extra 90 minutes to complete everything I “needed” to get done today. 

But when I looked closer, I saw that everything on my to do list was optional. My business would run just fine if I don’t answer all of my emails right away, or if I don’t read everything people are writing in The Work 101 course that I offer, or if I don’t catch up on several administrative tasks. I’m holding myself to a perfectionistic standard, which is not even attainable without sacrificing everything else. 

It Is Reasonable to Take Time Off Every Day

When I was a kid in school, evenings were for doing homework. I still use that thinking today, making evenings my catch-up time. But what if didn’t? What if I didn’t do all of my “homework” before bed every night? 

What if I was satisfied with a B or a C instead of and A? I would have a lot more time for doing fun things, doing relaxing things. I would have a more balanced life. 

What if this noble idea that “I need to stay caught up” was just a trap? What if I turned it around to “I need stay caught up with myself”? That kind of listening to myself, paying attention to the fact that “I don’t really want to do that assignment now—or at all”—could lead to a lot of freedom.

For those of us who are hyper-responsible, being a little irresponsible can look like balance.

Dive into The Work with Us

If you’re interested in questioning what you’ve always assumed to be true, join us for a course in The Work of Byron Katie. There’s a 9-week online course available for you.

Have a great week,

“You can do it forcefully or with awareness. In anger or in peace.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

Further reading: Perfectionism: Is it Good or Bad?

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.