No, this isn’t a typo. I don’t mean indispensable. I truly mean dispensable and here’s why.
If you are indispensable then you are a roadblock in your own life. Everyone is counting on you to help them, they essentially can’t survive without you, or at least think they can’t. No one else can do it the way you do, right?
I’m like you…often feeling squeezed among layers of responsibilities and usually pressed for time. I have felt like I can’t focus attention on any one thing well since I’m just doing a quick once over on many competing items. Life can look like a nest of hungry baby robins depending on mama to be fed. You want to help everyone but you are just one person and there are only so many worms.
Life lessons discovered at work
I often learn valuable lessons at work. I love my IT job where we are practicing lean startup principles for product development. We iterate on small releases. We experiment our hypothesis and we pivot if necessary. We essentially build software in small chunks of functionality, we measure the success with data, and we learn.
These same principles can be applied to my own life. I’m not suggesting “lean” romance or “lean” parenting…this gives off the impression of spending less time with my family and that certainly is not my goal.
Life is busy. My husband and I work full-time. My kids are both in travel sports that have multiple practices and games each week. And, my mom lives in assisted living community and I strive to at least spend time with her once a week. And, I have prioritized taking care of myself so that I feel better and have the energy to keep up with this schedule.
Becoming Dispensable is a Savvy Skill
In order for life to scale for me, I needed to look at all the responsibilities that I had on my plate and see which ones could find new homes on someone else’s plate. Here’s a few pivots I have made in the last year to make myself more dispensable:
1. I asked my boss for help. I was managing several product initiatives and was feeling overwhelmed. He had recently hired a new Project Manager that I could tell had savvy skills. We are now a team of two on our initiatives and it’s great to watch her grow into the role. I have basically made myself dispensable on many of the initiatives she has picked up.
2. Mom needs groceries each week. I naturally just assumed this was my role when she moved to our area. It was stressing me out to figure out when to fit in a consistent grocery trip for mom and not feel like I was shortchanging our visit. I asked my bachelor brother, Tim, if he could own this task. He didn’t even hesitate – “of course”, he said.
3. My kids have lots of practices and games. I’m not even sure we sat down and decided this but my husband ‘owns’ baseball for my son and I ‘own’ volleyball for my daughter. This means we read those emails, put dates on the calendar, book any travel arrangements, ensure the kids have the right gear, and coordinate carpool. The game changer is carpool! There are 3 other families in our volleyball carpool. This means that I only drive to practices 25% of the time. To help facilitate the carpool, one of the moms made a Signup Genius. Huge time saver for me. This results in a night to go visit with mom, enjoy monthly book club with my friends, work on my blog, or just (God forbid) do NOTHING.
4. My two teenagers (13 and 15) are self-sufficient in the mornings. I explained to each of them my health goals and they truly get it. It’s my mental therapy and the best time in the day to carve out for fitness. I’m literally out of the house before their alarms go off. They get themselves up, groomed, fed, and pack their lunches and walk the dog and ensure they are at the bus stop on time (well…except that one time where my fabulous neighbor took my daughter). I’ve made myself dispensable in the mornings. I’m proud of my kids for taking on these responsibilities. Now it’s a ‘treat’ when mom stays behind on the first day of school, birthdays, or big test day to cook pancakes.
More Ideas for Becoming Dispensable
Here are a few other ideas to make yourself dispensable:
· Change your volunteering at school so you are either helping with specific activities that include your kids (e.g. field trip, mystery reader, holiday party) which doubles as quality time with them or volunteer for just an annual event. Avoid the all year room mom or PTA chair position if you are stressed for time and feeling overwhelmed. Now that my kids are older the volunteer opportunities aren’t as prevalent. When they were in elementary school I would either put focus in the annual Sock Hop (which didn’t fall around other crazy holidays) or do the one hit activities where I could spend time with them and get to know their friends and teacher.
· Hire help for housecleaning, yard maintenance, or the shopping. Or barter! I used to have a scrapbooking business and would pay my helper in product instead of money.
· Pay your kids commission to do some of the ‘extra’ jobs around the house. Many hands make light work. Explain that it’s a win-win. They earn money for the next thing they have to have and you are freed up to get what you need done so that the family can do something fun together on the weekend.
Bottom line is we can’t do it all. Something has to give and will give so it’s best if you decide what you are willing to drop or give up completely. Your personal health and fitness goals aren’t negotiable. You can’t write a check instead of working out, setup a Signup Genius, or hire someone to eat cleaner for you.
What are the ways you’ve made yourself dispensable so that you have more bandwidth? What’s something you are going to try in the next few days? Who can you ask for help? I’m always pivoting and experimenting with new schedule tweaks so please share your ideas with me.