Perimenopause and Productivity

NOTE: If you have ovaries or love someone who has ovaries, this post is for you.

I follow The Holderness Family on Facebook. They are the “Christmas Jammies” people who have expanded their enterprise into parenting, self-care, and pickleball.

During the pandemic, their videos made me feel laugh and feel connected to the world at the same time. They are brilliant.

As a 49-year-old woman, I was especially interested in their recent podcast, The Silver Linings of Perimenopause featuring Dr. Kourtney Sims, M.D.

You should (really, really should) give this episode a listen.

Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Menopause is a single day. It is the one-year anniversary since your last period. Everything before that day is perimenopause. Every day afterwards is post-menopause.
  • Perimenopause helps morph a woman’s superpowers from nurturing others into self-actualization. How about that for an origin story?
  • The physiological and psychological changes can be managed rather than simply endured.

One of the psychological changes some women experience is brain fog. Compared to their baseline levels, some women in their 40s and 50s experience a slight decline in memory and ability to concentrate.

I thought I was showing symptoms of early onset dementia. I struggle for words and was gearing up to tell my beloved that I would likely forget his name soon.

I know…funny but not funny. Forgive me for the bad joke. I have brain fog sometimes.

Ovaries or not, perimenopause or not, for years I have told clients the following…

You are fired from the job of remembering stuff.

Memory is a faulty task management system. Logically, we all know this, but we behave as if it isn’t true.

We are working against ourselves when we do (and say) things such as:

  • Neglect to note an action item. “I can remember to do that.”
  • Operate day-to-day with no task list. “I don’t have time to make a list.”
  • Attempt to manage multiple task lists. “I’ll just write this on whatever is handy.”
  • Ask other people to remind us. “Hey, can you help me remember to…”
  • Let email dictate our actions. “My task list is my email inbox.”

In my seminar, Get your Tasks Together…you are fired from the job of remembering stuff (catchy title, huh?), I ask participants to do the following:

  1. Choose one centralized list of action items
  2. Inventory ~80% of your tasks there
  3. Redeploy your mental bandwidth

By the end of the seminar, they possess the tactical knowledge to operationalize these three objectives.

Be kind.

Other than “don’t rely on your brain,” the most frequently dispensed bit of productivity advice I have is to show compassion and love.

Berating yourself is unproductive and leads to procrastination and perfectionism. I say this to you as a recovering perfectionist.

Shameless plug: check out my online course, Unwrapping Perfectionism.

Whether your brain fog is caused by hormones, stress, illness, fatigue, or any of the other buffet of issues that affect cognition, self-flagellation is not the solution.

Stop trying to remember stuff. You suck at it.

Delegate the task of remembering tasks to your centralized list.

Do the things: sleep well, eat well, stay active, and so on.

And, most importantly, be kind.

Be kind to yourself.

Be kind to the foggy people you care about.

Just be kind.





Perfect Target

Is perfectionism your productivity barrier?

Check out my online course, Unwrapping Perfectionism.






Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.

8 Comments

  1. Linda Samuels

    Your sense of humor, practical advice, and compelling call for compassion is awesome! Thank you for this post.

    I’m so grateful for my lists that remind me of what is important and keep me on track for appointments and more. I’m not sure it coincided with perimenopause, but a long while ago, I knew as capable as my brain was, it just couldn’t remember everything. It needed a backup system.

    For years I’ve said to myself (and others) if I don’t write it down, I probably won’t remember. Not writing it down or cueing myself only adds to undue stress and anxiety. And who needs more of that? No one I know.

    I love your line, “Stop trying to remember stuff. You suck at it.” Brilliant.

    Reply
    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      It is such a relief to embrace the suckage of the memory components in our brains. I know that I sleep better and feel so much less stress!

      Reply
  2. Seana Turner

    I’m with Linda. I have to write things down… and I mean, immediately. I’m amazed by how quickly thoughts run out of my head. I felt like perimenopause went on forever. The brain fog and difficulty remembering things (especially names of people I know well!) has been surprising.

    Nice to read a post with some humor on this topic!

    Reply
  3. Sara Skillen

    This is such great information – I was lucky to not experience too much of the brain fog, but maybe that’s because I rarely think I’m going to be able to “just remember something.” I always write stuff down, either handwritten or digital. I think a mindfulness practice helps some, too. I did notice the other when I was typing some client notes that I couldn’t remember how to spell “debris.” Weird!

    Love the thought that post-menopause is a time of self-actualization. I’m totally on board with that one!

    Reply
  4. Lisa Gessert

    Im with the crowd, I am turning 65 in March, remembering is just not an option any longer, I write it down! Wonderful post with facts and humor.

    Reply
  5. Julie Bestry

    I have a freakishly good memory, as long as I’ve paid enough attention to something to encode the memory, and as long as I’m not in the middle of a panicky freakout over something. Those are two big IFs. I teach clients that even if you’ve got a great memory, you should act as if you’re going to need to retrieve a piece of information on a day that you have the flu, the internet is out, and you’ll be fined $312 if you forget it. Silly, but vivid. It prompts you to back yourself up.

    I’m so with you! Delegate remembering things to written lists (analog or digital) with timers and reminders (and for heaven’s sake, use the geolocation function in your reminders so your phone says, “Hey, you’re about to pass Food City. I bet you need diet Coke!” It’s fabulous, and nobody seems to know about it. And if you’re putting something in the car to remind a friend or colleague you’re bringing it to them, TELL them to remind you to give it to them the next time you meet. Between the two of you (and some technology), it’s more likely to be done.

    Not obligating yourself to remember something — indeed, not obligating yourself to REMEMBER TO remember it is the biggest gift you can give your future self.

    Reply
  6. Carolyn Brackett

    I support this article with 100,000 thumbs up. However, plenty of women do not understand the process. Thankfully, I’m past enough of it to be able to help other women, but it’s just too personal for them to listen and say, “Oh, no, surely not THAT”. So I suggest that they read your article with passion.

    Reply
  7. Connie Gratias

    Spot on as always!!

    Reply

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