Smart Women: How to Accomplish Something When You Feel Like You Can't Do Anything

Seasoned and aspiring women leaders and women entrepreneurs are powerhouses. Yet, life challenges can arise that force you to adapt to a new normal -- meaning you aren't powering ahead at 100 percent of your mental, emotional or physical capacity. You may in fact, be in survival mode.

When you are in survival mode, two things can happen:

  • You may get overwhelmed or despair wondering how to get something done when you do not feel up to doing anything.
  • You may not realize that you are discovering your own unique, powerful strategies -- strategies for accomplishing your biggest personal or professional goals.

I experienced both of these during a period when my physical energy was so low that even driving seemed tiring.

1. Hone Your Ability to Be Selective and Strategic

During that low energy time period, I had no choice but to be selective and strategic. As I approached each day, sometimes each hour, I would ask myself:

  • "What has to be accomplished?" Surprisingly, it is often much less than the usual long "to do" list to which we've become accustomed.
  • "What do I have the bandwidth for right now?" If you do not have any bandwidth in the moment, be calm. You might in ten minutes. Not feeling your best is not a fixed state. It ebbs and flows with windows of possibility.

2. Use Heaving Lines to Draw You to Your Goal

Growing up on the water with boats taught me about the heaving line: a lightweight line with a weight at the end to throw between ship and shore, or from one boat to another, to pull a heavier line across.
I used the metaphorical heaving line as a tool to make it through the day.

  • "What is the smallest action I can take that still gets something important done?" Break your most important project or projects down to the simplest next step.
  • "Who else can get this done?" Delegating is another exquisite use of the heaving line whether that is delegating to staff, other team members, or hiring short-term help. All leaders and women in particular, benefit from improving their ability to delegate.

The Most Astounding Results

The most astounding results from being selective and strategic, and the heaving line strategy came when I decided, even when it made no sense and seemed impossible, that I wanted to train for my first multi-sport (triathlon) event.

I threw the first heaving line: I asked the bike shop who could install a trailer hitch on the car for a bike rack.

A few weeks later, I threw another heaving line. I called the installer to get an estimate. Eventually, I drove the seven miles to the shop to have the hitch installed. That meant hours of rest to recover from a simple errand..

In the fall, when the bikes were on sale, I leveraged a window of feeling "ok" to try out a couple, taking a few turns around the block. Eventually, another line pulled me forward: I bought a bike, not knowing when I would be able to ride it.

From one line to the next, in the tiniest of increments and without insisting on big accomplishments or falling prey to impatience (that's another unexpected upside of not feeling 100 percent--you don't have energy to waste on impatience), I took the smallest steps possible.

In late November, with the help of serendipity and a doctor, I discovered that the once-helpful thyroid medicine was now causing me to feel badly. As I reduced the dosage under medical guidance, I rapidly began to feel better.

In January, I started training with a triathlon coach. In August, I completed my first international distance triathlon, and in October, my first Half-Ironman triathlon -- a 1.2 mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run done back-to-back.

From Surviving to Thriving: You Too Are Discovering Powerful Strategies

Out of necessity during a difficult time, I discovered strategies I now rely on to turn my business vision into a reality. I want women leaders and women entrepreneurs globally to lead at their best. I want a more inclusive world for women and men, boys and girls.

When the scope and scale seems impossible (and it can), I remember that I've experienced impossible before. Then, it was about surviving. Now, with what I learned from that time period, it's about thriving.

Have Hope and Trust Your Resilience

You may be focused on surviving right now. Have hope. Trust your resilience and remember to keep medical professionals in the picture.

Stay alert to your own unique discoveries. Hard, often painfully-earned though they may be, those discoveries will help you thrive personally and professionally. The pay-off will be for a lifetime.