I belong to a network of entrepreneurs and small business owners called, “What Works.” A few weeks ago its founder, Tara McMullin, posed a question: “What’s your REAL capacity?

She posed it at an interesting time because, well, capacity was something with which I was struggling. 

This time of year is when I’m simultaneously working to wrap up one year whilst preparing for the new one. For me, this means I’m starting my annual review process and starting to map out my goals and plans for 2021. It also means making decisions. And there was one, in particular, that had been stressing me out for a few weeks! 

To relieve this stress, I eventually told myself…

“You have to make a decision but it doesn’t have to be right now.” 

This was my way of acknowledging I didn’t have the capacity, and letting that fact be okay.

I posted this in the group, and shared how making this decision brought me so much relief. Because, as with most decisions, there are several layers to it: There’s making the decision. And then there’s doing the work that comes afterward. As I shared in the group, in this instance, the former is the easy part relative to the latter. So, I gave myself permission to defer this until January and immediately felt so much lighter. Still do.  

Now, you could read this as a sort of behind-the-scenes reveal. As I am making some changes for 2021. Some of which will be noticeable to you; others are operational and will, hopefully, be imperceptible to you. However, the goal of these changes is to enhance your experience – whether as a reader of my weekly(ish) missives or as a coaching client. 

An invitation

But I’d rather you read it as an invitation to examine your capacity across many dimensions. Look at your time, your finances, your energy, your emotional bandwidth, your (physical) space, and your business model (if relevant). 

Start by taking an audit of where you stand with each of these dimensions right now – along with any others that may come to mind. Do things feel spacious or crunched or somewhere in between? 

Recall the last time you felt spacious or crunched or actually exceeded your capacity. When did you begin to notice you went a bit too far? Where did the “feeling” appear – like were you tired, snippy, etc.? What was going on? Were other people and what they were or were not doing part of the reason? 

As you know, capacity is not static. lt is elastic, expanding and retracting either because of what you initiated or in response to external factors. Oh…2020!

Yet, perhaps like me, you can sometimes make the mistake of “adding” to your plate without considering what also needs to be “removed.” Clutter can take many different forms, but at the end of the day, clutter is clutter.

You only have but so much time, money, energy and emotional bandwidth. Your space can only accommodate but so much. And you can only work with so many clients. I believe you get my point. 

But, here’s the challenge:

There’s no set formula for dealing with the elasticity of capacity. 

This is something you have to experience and feel your way through. And in the process of your capacity shifting from one state of being to the next, you often bump into capacity’s “friends,” i.e., decision-making, fear and permission. 

In my case, I gave myself permission not to decide right now. And although taking the last two weeks of the year off was always part of my 2020 plan, the decision I deferred gave even more meaning to what I intend to do during this time.

I plan to spend some of it doing absolutely nothing work related. I am dedicating the other part of my time to crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s on the changes I am making for 2021, completing my annual review process, and yes, starting to prepare for the work associated with the decision I’ve deferred.

What I was reminded of from embracing the reality of my capacity is this: 

You and I tend to make better, more informed decisions when we’re not feeling overwhelmed. 

Obvious, right? 

But at this time of year, in general, and given this year, in particular, who isn’t feeling slightly overwhelmed, and at or over capacity?! I mean, really, who isn’t a wee-bit stressed out?

Moments like this are often when fear shows up. When I think about the more common types of fear — fear of making the “wrong” decision, fear of judgment by others, fear of failing, and fear of rejection — I realized that what was bubbling up most for me was the latter. I was afraid of being told, “no.” Eventually, I decided if that was the worst possible outcome I’d be okay.

So, How ‘Bout You?

When it comes to your time, your finances, your energy, your emotional bandwidth, your (physical) space, and your business model (if relevant), what decisions might you benefit from deferring? How might doing so actually expand your capacity – right now? Because in the words of a few wise friends, “no decision is a decision.”

What permissions do you need to give yourself – be it as they relate to your own expectations or those of others? 

What fears are bubbling up for you as you perhaps wrestle with tweaking your capacity? 

When Tara posed her question, she had no idea of how timely that was for me. Who knows, perhaps me writing this today is timely for you because you, too, are grappling with matters of capacity and its attendant “friends.” If so, then I truly hope sharing my story will be of help to you. 

Especially as you start to wind down one helluva a year – one that likely challenged your capacity in some manner.

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