We often have to-do list so long that it’s not clear that there’s an end to it. Some tasks linger unfinished for a long time, and it’s easy to start feeling guilty or ashamed about what you have not yet completed.
What can you do to avoid the negative effects of guilt and shame?
Guilt acts as a motivator. Focusing on the gap between what you have accomplished and what you want to accomplish leads to feelings of dissatisfaction. That energy can be motivating to act but when you’re not able to act, focusing on your accomplishments instead gives you a sense of pride in what you have done. Banish the guilt by feeling good about what you have already done.
Shame is a different story. Feeling shame about work you have not completed is likely to make the problem worse, not better, making it an emotion that is almost never helpful. One of the outcomes of many mindfulness techniques is an acceptance of your current situation. You need to remember that all of the work you have to do will be there when you get back to work. In other words, remind yourself that feeling guilt or shame at that moment doesn’t help.
Take time to focus on one or two things you’re doing well. Remembering to keep our challenges in perspective helps us to overcome them, and we can all find something we’re doing well. Write your progress down and review all the things you’ve finished.
Summing-up: You want to use guilt as a motivational tool when you are in a position to get work done. When you’re not, develop strategies to leave it behind. And find ways to reduce feelings of shame. Recognize that failing to get some work completed does not make you a bad person. It just makes you a person. Focus on your work done.