What if you can’t lower your standards?

by | Jun 29, 2022 | Entrepreneurship

Last week, I shared some of my thoughts about the limitations of the productivity industry.

I have another one for you!

You’ve probably heard this advice: “If you are overwhelmed by your to-do list, it’s time to lower your standards for yourself.” You might have even heard this advice from ME.

This advice can be incredibly helpful. Embracing our limitations and lowering our standards on some things can be life-changing..

But that advice has a limit. Sometimes, lower standards turn into even more work. Sometimes, lower standards have deadly consequences.

A few weeks ago, I forgot to put up our paint cans after my toddler painted with them. It would have taken me 15 seconds to do, but I had 1,000 other 15 second projects that day. The next day, I discovered rainbow artwork in our hallway with the carpet as the canvas. Hello, brand new one-hour project.

I CAN lower my standards about how many new projects I initiate at work, and how clean our house is, and what my daughter selects for her clothing. But I CAN’T lower my standards on paying my taxes on time, or buckling in a child seat properly, or keeping the medicine cabinet locked.

There are a lot of things in our lives that need high standards. What then?

I’ve been feeling the weight of this a lot lately. I am pretty good at trimming my life down to the essentials and scheduling out the projects that make the cut, but the responsibility to remember and catch the important things, especially in my personal life, can feel heavy.

I can’t exactly time block “remove all chocolate from reach before leaving the dog alone,” can I?

I don’t have all the answers for this problem, but a few things have helped:

  • Minimizing my to-do list does help me notice what’s around me so I can head off the most problematic consequences.
  • I’m aware that I’m not super observant or great with memory. I can get lost in my own thoughts. So I try not to ask myself to remember something later. If I think “I’ll run to the store real quick and then clean up this paint,” there’s an 85% chance I won’t remember. I need to either do it now or write myself a note.
  • Where I can, I use either routines or automations. We added a spring hinge to our pantry door, for instance, to keep out prying canines and small humans. And I leave the key in my office door to help me remember to lock it when I’m done working.

At the end of the day, we will all, always, be human. We all end up with late fees and inadvertent messes and missed opportunities. There’s room for grace in this – for forgiving ourselves and one another. We’re in this together.