I have entered a season in my life where my time seems to evaporate exponentially. What I need to get done continues to pile up and I’m lucky to have time and focus to write down my tasks. My house is piling up with projects and my work life is just as busy.
I recently realized something, though. I’m making many things harder than they need to be. I’m thinking about the giant task that needs to be completed – expecting perfection and overthinking everything. It’s not working. So I changed my perspective to an organized solution and started working on the easiest things first. Sure, I felt like I was cheating, but I began making significant progress on my items and it made me feel better about the other things I needed to do.
You can live a more organized life, I encourage you to consider these strategies that have worked for me:
Strive for Progress, Not Perfection
Lately, I’ve been focused on progress, not perfection. I’ve never felt more like I’m cheating in my life. But, I started to notice that when I was getting the easiest things done first, it felt empowering. There is something very satisfying about marking lots of items off of my to do list. Once I’d work my way through a few things, I’d look at the bigger projects and realize that I could accomplish tiny bits to get me closer to my end result. I haven’t completed a big project in months, but by breaking the big stuff down into tiny pieces, I’ve accomplished tons of tiny steps daily (and as a result, some of the big things really are getting done).
Give some needed attention to the big projects in your life, but instead of thinking of the whole thing – think about “cheating” and break it down into tiny bits. Seriously, the smaller, the better. You projects will seem like a small, reasonable item to accomplish and you’ll be more likely to make it happen. Remember, progress, not perfection.
Write Down Details & Follow-Up Items
I write everything down. I’ve trained myself to take “task” notes in meetings – it’s a process I’ve used for nearly 20 years. If it needs to be a follow-up item, I’ll add a “*” to my notes and I’ll follow-up with everything before it’s filed to write down all of my starred tasks. I’ve found that I can skim through minutes and notes faster if I look for my starred items and nothing gets forgotten because it’s immediately transferred to my task list.
Free your mind by writing down everything from your meetings, phone calls, emails and any communication that requires your involvement. Once it’s written down, look through your notes to find important tasks (I’d recommend using a symbol to streamline your follow-up) and transfer these to your task list. Remember step one, strive for progress, not perfection. Work with what you can accomplish and go from there.
Don’t Overthink the Plan
I can tell when I’m feeling out of control because I’ll wake up at 4am and think about everything. I’ve forced myself many times to stop “productive 4am thinking” (which is never productive) and focus on other things. By thinking about something else, I often come up with a realistic solution – then I take a note and email it to myself so I stop thinking about it and can work through the task when I’m rested.
When your mind is spinning and overthinking, you’re not doing anyone favors – especially yourself. Give yourself a break to focus on other things, and you’ll see the solution will begin to present itself in due time. Try talking a walk, baking something or calling a friend – you deserve to spend time on yourself and things that will give you the break you need.
Yes, I still have piles in my house and a work task list that seems never-ending. But I’m making small progress every day, I’m feeling better about everything and I’m moving closer to accomplish my goals. Your goals deserve your attention. Focus on a little bit right now and you’ll make the progress you deserve.