Productivity Myth #1: I Can Do It All!

Like it or not, you cannot do everything you want to do, need to do, would like to do, should do, and have to do.

Not only do you have to contend with your ever-expanding task list, but there’s also the endless connections, interruptions, distractions, and time demands that are coming at you at an alarming rate and from multiple sources like emails, texts, tweets, calls, colleagues, friends, family, pings, rings, and vibrations from all sorts of devices.

These all demand your limited time, energy, and attention.

You’re faced with too many choices, opportunities, and expectations.

There is, simply put … too much to do. Period.

I believe on some level you know you can’t get it all done, and yet there lies deep within you a fantasy – a myth really – so unrealistic that it causes you more harm than you can imagine.

It’s the “I can do it all” myth. This belief that you can do whatever you set your mind to do.

And you cling to this belief day after day after day.

Part of what fuels this myth is the “I can get caught up someday” story you tell yourself. You start to fantasize about stuff like …

If only I could come in on the weekend and work undisturbed

Or …

If only I could just have a week with no interruptions

Or …

If only things would slow down for just a little while

And you know what? You probably could get caught up … if only.

But that won’t take care of the problem, because the deluge of stuff will continue and before you know it you’ll be backlogged again.

The reality is you will never get it all done. I once heard a stat that claims for every 3 things we add to our task list, 1 will get completed.

I’ll let you think about that for a moment …

You are unwittingly participating in a race you will never win.


Added to this losing race is the fact that those undone things lead to stress and insomnia because of the Zeigarnik effect, which in essence means incomplete tasks will stay on your mind until you finish them.

This “I can do it all” mentality fools you into making poor decisions about how you spend your time NOW. It makes you spread yourself too thin and it wastes time.

It prevents you from giving your work the ruthless triage it deserves.

Triage is a disaster management term where in a crisis situation medical professionals must determine quickly and ruthlessly who can wait, who to treat, and who will be left to die.

It is this type of thinking you need to apply to your projects, tasks, and commitments.

Imagine yourself as a juggler. You’re pretty skilled but you just have too many pins in the air. So you can decide which ones to set aside and to juggle later … or maybe never. This is triage.

Or you can try and juggle them all and watch as some crash to the ground. Because some will crash – and it’s usually the big important ones. Like your own peace of mind or work-life balance, or maybe it’s that million-dollar idea.

Use your gut to help you triage your work.

Here’s what productivity expert David Allen has to say about going with your gut …

“Prioritize [or in this case, triage – gf] according to energy, mood, intuition, and emotion. Learn to listen to and trust your heart. Or your intuition, or your gut or the seat of your pants or whatever anatomy is the source of that mysteriously wonderful ‘still, small voice’ that somehow knows you better than you do, and knows what is better for you than you do. LISTEN to it … take the risk to move on your best guess, pay attention to the results, and course-correct as you keep moving along.”

Knowing you cannot do it all may help you say that powerful two-letter word ‘NO’ a bit more often. Not just to others, but also to yourself.

Let go of the fantasy that you can do it all. Get more stuff done.

Now, get on with your day!


About Georgina Forrest

Georgina Forrest is a Productivity Coach & Organizing Specialist at Smartworks! Enterprises Inc. in Red Deer, Alberta. Her credentials include Certified Professional Organizer (CPO®), Organizer Coach, and membership with Professional Organizers in Canada (POC) where she has attained Gold Leaf status – a designation acknowledging her as an experienced professional organizer. Her specialties are geared toward increasing productivity, streamlining administration and decreasing stress in the workplace. She will teach you how to manage your time, space and information so you can be more effective and efficient at work. Additionally she offers training programs, productivity coaching and time management-related presentations.