MamaBlogger365 – A Career That Works by Michelle Friedman, CPCC

What Are You Tolerating?

I help accomplished working mothers define their goals and then overcome obstacles that get in the way of success in work and life. Often we talk about the internal obstacles, or Saboteurs, that keep us thinking small and avoiding the risks so necessary for growth.

Other times the roadblock involves external obstacles. Yes, some are big. However, surprisingly I find that even the most put-together working mothers can get very stuck and drained by small and petty annoyances. You know, those little items that are not big enough to stop us in our tracks, but just linger on our to-do lists (and in our minds) for ages.

Tolerations: small (usually) petty annoyances that drain your energy

When left to accumulate in this way, these “tolerations” can take a large toll on our precious energy and concentration levels. My clients are busy building careers and growing businesses – so any kind of drag on their momentum comes with a cost. I always say that living with a long list of tolerations is like driving a car with one foot on the brake. And then we wonder why it’s taking so long to get to where we’re going!

Talane Miedaner writes about tolerations. She says that most of us are tolerating 60-100 things at any given point. Every time one of these tolerations comes to mind, and that little voice in your head says “I have to fix/deal with that”, mental energy is expended. Now multiply the energy lost by the times you have said that same thing to yourself. Aren’t you just tired thinking about it?

Here are a few categories of tolerations. Any sound familiar to you?

  • Small things around the house or office (light bulb out, phone call that has to get returned).
  • Something about yourself that is driving you crazy (bad habits such as the overflowing inbox, not having veggies cut up for healthy snacks in a hurry, a car that is a mess).
  • Something about external situations (your spouse’s clothes left on the floor, kids who are now old enough to pitch in around the house but aren’t).

So what to do? How do we take this unnecessary weight off? First, recognize that some things may never get done, and let them go. But for the rest, get into action. During a recent session of my Momentum Coaching Circle, I had the group work through the following steps in clearing their tolerations:

  1. Brain Dump your Tolerations (minimum of 25) – Make the scary list! I know, you say you already have a to-do list. But I want you to give yourself the gift of getting it ALL out of your head and onto paper. Even better, put it all in Evernote! This free and super-amazing app is my mental file cabinet and an indispensible tool for every working mom.
  2. Cluster into Categories- By Action (i.e., fix, call, errand, organize) or by location (i.e., rooms of house) or by time frame (i.e., easy to do, won’t get handled anytime soon).
  3. Create a plan to get it done (select the people to enroll for help, set aside blitz hours or day).
  4. Schedule it on your calendar (pick the time and protect it for this purpose).
  5. Have someone to report back to and make sure you celebrate!

One bright client of mine likened tolerations to graffiti; a little bit is bearable, but when the growing amounts are left to accumulate, it takes over the wall. What I want for my clients, and all working moms out there, is to have an emptier mind with much fewer tolerations. Please create the habits that allow you to have the energy and clear mind to be your best self in work and life.

Michelle Friedman, CPCC, is a professional development coach, organizational consultant, trainer and speaker serving ambitious women at mid-career and the companies that employ them. Her passion is empowering women to shine in their professional lives while leading a balanced life outside of the office. In addition, she consults to progressive employers committed to attracting, retaining and advancing their female talent. Based outside of NYC, she is married and the proud and extremely busy mom of three boys, ages 14, 11 and 9. Visit her at, and follow her on Twitter: @michfriedman.

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