It's 3 a.m. and it's happened again: you're awake, working on yet another all-nighter. Playing your cards right would have allowed you to go to bed at a peaceable hour. So what happened? Maybe getting to bed on time would have meant allowing someone to help you. Whether it's a presentation for work or party planning for your child's birthday, relinquishing control can be a healthy response when perfectionism rears its ugly head.
Many people pride themselves on the belief that they can do it all. Planning quality time with family, a superstar performance at the office, and a five-day-a-week workout routine might be overdoing it. Instead of sweating it out at the gym, you'll end up stressed out by an unrealistic to-do list and losing sleep trying to complete it.
When you're used to being in control, letting go could make you feel panicked. You're afraid that if you don't do it yourself, it won't be done right. While no one else can celebrate your child's birthday for you and you can't contract someone to see the doctor for you when you're sick, some tasks can be delved out without a hitch. Relinquishing control by prioritizing your to-do list can help decrease stress and improve your quality of life.
If you have trouble prioritizing, imagine the worst-case scenario of letting go of each task. It might be helpful to jot down your fears. Then, take a step away from the project. When you return, dissect those scenarios. Identify the elements of your fears that have a one-in-a-million chance of happening and let them go. Figure out which negative outcomes are truly possible or even probable.
Once you've identified which tasks you can delegate, find some help. Could a spouse, grandparent, day care provider, or neighbor step in? Ask your supervisor or assistant at work for guidance, and allow them to voice their opinions on how to split up your workload. If you're a hyper-busy person or an entrepreneur, you might consider hiring a personal assistant to help out with everyday errands. Most college students would be willing to run errands for $10-15 an hour. The time and petty annoyances it would save you might be worth the tradeoff, especially considering the toll stress can take on your health over time.
3. Shrug off the small things
Delegating is only the first step of letting go. Being less controlling also means letting the small things slide. When a mistake happens--and it will--don't react immediately. Ask yourself whether the error was truly harmful. For example, if your spouse purchases the wrong brand of peanut butter, you may be tempted to correct him or her. Resist the urge. Instead, thank your partner for running the errand and think of all the time it saved you.
4. Accept imperfection
If you're not a natural delegator, it won't be easy at first. It might never be easy. Your worst fears about giving up control will be proved right at times--there will be mistakes. Before resentment starts to build, asses your expectations and realize when you're being irrational. Remember that all the planning in the world can't guarantee a perfect outcome. Focus on what you're gaining by giving up control: more time for (and, yes, control over) the things you really care about.
5. Embrace mistakes
Unexpected outcomes are another result of this process. Maybe the "wrong" peanut butter will be cheaper and more delicious than your old brand. Your new assistant could be the one who finally comes up with a system to help you pay your bills on time. If you're willing to weather those initial moments of hair-pulling panic, letting go can benefit your stress levels and your sleep schedule, and buy you valuable time.