Photo by Kjartan Einarsson on Unsplash
I was sitting in my apartment office and my brain froze. I did not know what to do first. I had piles of papers on my desk, magazines stacked up, and books were falling over and off of shelves. Under my desk and everywhere I looked, was unfinished projects: art, books, filing, e-mails to send, and bills to pay.
I was confused, exhausted and unable to decide what to do. So I got up, walked out of the office and closed the door. I felt overwhelmed every time I went in there. I joke that I at least have 8 books in me. I was not laughing anymore. The thought of having “homework” every time I went into my office cluttered my mind.
After about 30 minutes, I decided to try again, determined to do at least one thing on my “to do list”. When I walked into the room, I looked over at my book shelf and saw Laura Stack’s book, “What To Do When There is Too Much to Do”. A few years ago, I read a few books by Laura Stack – The Productivity Pro. I took a test in one of the books and the results floored me. Basically, it said that my job was killing me and It was truly a wakeup call. The stress of the job and my own low confidence was getting the best of me. Her booked helped me to realize that I could get better if I took action on the things I could control and that I needed to fire myself from my previous employer.
After thumbing through the book, I went online and ordered two more of her books from the library that focus on productivity, specifically in the home: “Find More Time” and “The Exhaustion Cure” . They were a Godsend.
The following list contains action steps that I took to get things done and find more time in my day. All of the actions were inspired by what I read in her books. She also recommended books on Feng Shui which I write about next month in my blog post entitled: Seeking an Uncluttered Life Part 2 in which most of my focus is on getting more energy out of my day by decluttering my mind and home.
1. I created a master “to do” lists to add everything that needs to get done. I made one per month on an excel spreadsheet and add tabs daily until I reach the end of the month. I have another tab for future projects as well. I put times on the left and columns for what needs to be done today and what needs to be done this week. I cut and paste the repeating tasks so I don’t have to type them over and over and move the things that need to be done into corresponding 30 minute chunks of time. I give myself flexibility and a little freedom for life’s surprises, but get the most important things done daily.
a. From the master list, I create a daily “to do” list, one step tasks, and a project list for multistep tasks.
b. At the end of each day, I transfer tasks that were not completed to the next day or move it to a future date if it is not a priority or is takes more than one step to do.
c. I schedule projects when I have more chunks of time. Weekends work best for me.
i. I break the projects into manageable steps.
ii. I ask, what is the next step? And do it.
iii. I eliminate half-done projects, distractions and excuses.
2. I plan for things ahead of time and see how long it takes to actually do each task.
a. I eliminate the “do it later” thinking. If it takes less than 3 minutes to do, I do it so I don’t have to think about it anymore nor do I have to add it to the “to do” list.
b. I plan what I need in the morning, the night before. For example, I make my lunch and snacks the night before and prep the kitchen and bathroom with the items I will need in the morning. I also made checklists for my morning and evening routine so I did not have to think about it if I was tired. I just do it. This eliminated excuses not to do it.
3. I match the tasks to my energy and purpose.
a. I do challenging work in the morning and tackle priorities first because I can think clearer.
b. I do routine tasks later in the day since they don’t require as much energy or thinking.
c. I look over my day and ask for help before I begin to feel overwhelmed and I study myself to know when certain tasks are draining me. I get up, take a break, stretch, and do a couple of minutes of tasks that require me to move around the room.
d. I match my schedule to my priorities. I am a thinker and an introvert. Thinking energizes me, so does exercise. I schedule these activities when I need energy.
I also take time in the morning to pray, reflect on my goals, listen to inspirational teachings, music and read the bible. Thinking also slows me down. So having the list, helps me to focus and stay on track in the morning.
I have been doing these steps faithfully for about three months and really see a difference. I am able to focus and get a lot more priority tasks done in a day. I have more time in my day to do the things that bring joy to my life because I have tackled many of the unfinished projects. I have a plan in place for tackling future tasks and projects. Like all of us, I don’t have it all figured out, but am eager to learn and grow. My day is open for new possibilities because now there is room to receive them.
Sometimes, we just need to move around a few things to see clearer and get things done. It all starts with a plan, taking action on the plan, and matching our schedule to our priorities and energy level. Take the time to reflect and figure out what is working in your schedule and what is not.
What is the most time bound and energy sucking activity in your day?
Does it need to be broken down in smaller parts? Is there a more efficient way to tackle the tasks?
Not sure where to start? Join me next month for Seeking an Uncluttered Life, Part 2 where I focus on decluttering my home and finding more energy.
Laura Stack is an author and sought out international speaker. For more tips and resources from The Productivity Pro, go to https://theproductivitypro.com/ .