By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA / Published October 2019

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Life has a way of catching up with you. Everything moves so fast we hardly have time to think before we make another commitment. Eventually we become overcommitted. Then we experience anxiety, frustration, stress, and panic. We feel stuck. Trapped—in sticky peanut butter and jam—sandwiched. This must be how Deborah is feeling right now.

     Deborah walked into her best friend’s office, closed the door, flopped down in the chair opposite the desk, and heaved a big sigh. The tears were coming. Her friend gave a puzzled look that said, “Is something wrong?” and she burst.

     With the tears came an onslaught of rhetorical questions and statements. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get all my work done? I missed another deadline. I can’t satisfy anybody anymore. Everything is going wrong. I can’t finish my work, so I take it home. It never stops. I am irritated. I snap at people. I know I’m not nice. I can’t sleep. I don’t ever have any time for Steve. We haven’t had dinner together for a week now. He sits alone while I am on the telephone trying to comfort my mother. With dad gone, she depends on me so much. What was I thinking? I volunteered for the CAI Education Committee, but I can’t make the meetings. Our new accounting and property management software is impossible—it is NOT user friendly. And to top it all off, the dentist called and said I missed my second appointment in a row. I can’t live like this. What’s wrong with me? What happened? It didn’t used to be like this. I should be able to handle all this.”

     Finally, she stopped. When she looked up, her friend couldn’t help but smile slightly, like she knew a secret and Deborah didn’t. Deborah’s expression turned to “What?” Her friend learned forward and said, “Deborah, if you add a person, task, chore, or obligation to your life, you have to delete something to make room for it. You only have so many hours in a day. If you add, you have to delete.”

     From the shocked expression, you could tell those words were a revelation to her as if she had just learned the world was round and she would not fall off if she went too far west. Her friend said, “Deborah, it’s like your computer keys – Insert – Delete. If you insert or add something to your life, you have to delete something else.” It clicked. She got up and said, “Thanks, I know what to do now.”

     Here is what Deborah did. First, she made a list of all her work-related obligations and a second list of all her personal obligations. Those lists alone were eye opening for her as she realized no human being could be expected to do everything on those two lists and do them well-much less be happy about it and have time and energy left over.

     Then she rated the items on each list on a priority/must do basis and marked which ones she could delegate or eliminate.

     While she considered what could be delegated, she had to confront the fact she was a control freak. Her motto had always been, if you want something done right, do it yourself. Then she heard Dr. Phil’s words echoing in her ears, “So, how’s that working for you?”  She finally had to admit there were other people who could do a half-way decent job, and delegating the task to someone else was better than not getting it done at all. At least when the inquiries came in, she could say it was in progress.

     Eliminating tasks became an issue when she realized she feared rejection if she deleted something or told someone “no.” What would they think of her? Would they still like her? Would they consider her a bad person or worse, lazy? She finally realized she could not live her life pleasing everyone. She had to do what was right for her.

     Many of the items that remained on her lists had paper and files associated with them. She divided those papers and files into Piles with Meaning.

     The first pile was the DO IT NOW pile. These items needed immediate attention because they had deadlines. She prioritized this pile with the most urgent on top.

     The second pile was the LIGHTEN UP, HAVE FUN pile. It didn’t have anything in it.

     The next pile was the SHARPEN THE SAW pile. This was mostly her stack of filing, which included appointment cards from the dentist and her doctor that needed to be put into her calendar. She found a card from the Jiffy Oil and Lube shop reminding her to get an oil change months ago. She laid that card under her car keys so she would remember to do it on her way home. Then she found several blank birthday cards that had been purchased and never sent. She stopped right there and put those birthdates into her calendar as a recurring reminder. Her husband’s summer ball schedule was buried in there. She took it out and put the dates into her calendar. She found an old movie schedule. Wow, it had been a long time since she and Steve had been to the movies. She made a mental note to take him to the movie Sunday afternoon. Good grief, there was the dog’s new rabies vaccination tag. What was it doing here? The brochure for the vacation they wanted to take to Alaska was at the bottom. She moved it to the next pile.

     The last pile was the NEED MORE INFORMATION pile. She realized these items needed some research, a telephone call, or a response from some else. Maybe she needed to run some numbers, set up an appointment to meet with a vendor or association president to go over a proposal, or research something. She prioritized this pile too and moved the Alaska brochure to the LIGHTEN UP, HAVE FUN pile.

     A couple of weeks later, Deborah’s friend dropped in to see her. Deborah was doing just fine, no longer sandwiched.

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA

Florida CAM Schools

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while at the same time dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999, Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a former member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. For more information, contact, (352) 326-8365, or