If youre like me, you suffer from a chronic illusion. You constantly tell yourself, “Someday Ill get everything under control.” In my mind, its soon—just not now. Its after the soccer season ends. After my husband gets a new job. After I write this article.

All my female clients seem to have the same affliction, this “Someday ...” thinking, and they wonder whats wrong with them. They think its personal, as opposed to the way life is these days. Theyre wrong. Its not them. Its not me. Its not you.

That mythic place of peace and prosperity, where you finally have all your papers sorted, e-mails answered, and towels perfectly rolled in the linen closet, doesnt exist. You cant read a book on time management and get organized once and for all. You cant count on getting everything done once your toddler is out of the pulling-everything-out-of-the-closets phase. Because, inevitably, something else pops up as the fly in the ointment or 40 other issues suddenly come out of nowhere.

You can never get your life totally under control because so many factors that influence it are not under your command. I dont know one person who has gotten to the end of her to-do list. And theres relief in that. The more you give up the illusion that you can get it all together if only you could do everything right, the more you can relax and enjoy the reality of life—with all its chipped teeth, blown schedules, and jam on the walls.
So many of my clients feel better knowing that to-do lists arent for finishing. That alone allows them to get going and do their best. Whats important is putting what matters first, making sure you get to that, and letting the rest go.

I strive for this kind of peace by thinking of life as my dance partner. Sometimes Im leading, sometimes Im following, and the beauty and grace come from responding to my partner rather than insisting that Im in charge. Im learning new steps all the time. And if that means the 22-inch pile of files atop my filing cabinet has to stay there another three years, Ive vowed that I wont be a wallflower worrying about them. Ill be too busy dancing.

M.J. Ryan is a life coach and the author of many self-help books, including This Year I Will... and a member of Health magazine's Health Expert Network.