Priorities, Productivity and Perspective
Do you ever feel as though your life is just one big to do list that never gets completed?
Well, if you do you’re not alone. Many of us feel as though a starting gun goes off at the beginning of the day and the hours that follow seem a lot like a marathon with no finish line. Some spend their nights dreaming of the things they worked on during the day or what has yet to be done. And others lie awake thinking about it. It reminds me of the poor guy in Greek mythology, Sisyphus, who was condemned to roll a great boulder to the top of a hill only to have it roll back down just before he reached the summit.
I was feeling this way recently, and in the midst of the craze I was aware of a longing to escape from the tyranny I had created for myself. And it really is a self created tyranny. So much of our lives is dictated by the habits and patterns we fall into and the way we think about things. The danger is when we become so tangled up in routines and thoughts that we forget that we are the ones who created them. A good coach can help you pinpoint the underlying patterns that are the root of the anxiety you are experiencing – so that you can take steps to alleviate your suffering. And with practice, we can all learn to do this for ourselves as well.
I don’t know if I have this whole thing licked just yet, but I believe I’m making progress. I thought it might be helpful to share the process I went through. Though the solution I came up with may not be the right one for you, the process itself may help you find one that is a perfect fit.
(1) GET A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE.
When you get to that point where you feel something’s got to give, the most powerful thing you can do is find a way to pull yourself up and out for a bit – so that instead of being immersed in your pattern, you can simply observe it. I noticed that I was in a continual state of churning — so preoccupied with wanting to keep working at things on my list that I had little patience for anything else that required my attention, including my kids. I was acting in a way that was inconsistent with my true values. And I didn’t like what I saw.
It became apparent that I was having trouble shifting gears from achieving my work related goals to giving energy to other equally important parts of my life. I realized the pressure I was experiencing to finish everything before I could attend to what was next was largely self imposed. What I really want is to experience a sense of ease and lightness in the things that I do — to enjoy not just the outcome, but also the process of achieving my goals and living my life itself – all areas of my life.
(2) CREATE A SYSTEM THAT SUPPORTS YOUR NEW PERSPECTIVE.
Ask yourself the question, what do I need to do to align my actions with my new way of thinking? What new habits or patterns can I create that will better serve me? I had to remind myself that finishing everything on my to do list is a pipe dream that only leads to disappointment. I remembered my own advice to clients – use your never ending “to do” list as a “maybe I’ll do list” so that your mind can rest in knowing that nothing is going to fall through the cracks. With that in mind, I created the following system for myself:
- Each day, I identify a list of my top three to five priority tasks from my “maybe I’ll do list” as well as some additional items that would be great to do but okay to leave undone if necessary. I enter these things on a “THINGS TO DO TODAY” list on my calendar in an appointment slot at the beginning of the day. I also create a “THINGS I DID TODAY” entry as an appointment slot at the end of the day.
- Throughout the day, as I accomplish things, I transfer them from my “THINGS TO DO” list to my “THINGS I DID” list, and take delight as the former list gets smaller while the latter grows larger. (It’s even a bigger thrill for me than checking a box!)
- At the end of the day I spend twenty minutes to stop, assess and plan for the next day. I acknowledge myself for what I have completed. I look at what remains on my “THINGS TO DO LIST” for that day and transfer any incomplete items to my “THINGS TO DO” list for the next day (which leaves my THINGS TO DO list for that day blank and gives me a feeling of closure – woo hoo!). I take a look at my calendar and my “maybe I’ll do list” to assess what my priorities are for the following day and add them to the next day’s list. Then I clean off my desk and go pick up my kids.
Granted, there will be days where all heck breaks loose and I’m unable to follow my system the way I’ve planned it. And that’s OK. The more I follow it, the more engrained and natural it will become. My goal is to change my feeling of being out of control to become more intentional and conscious about the way I use my time. So any little change will be progress. I encourage you to be kind to yourself as you endeavor to change your habits and patterns as well.
(3) BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
You can start this before you go to bed at night. Envision yourself waking with energy, enthusiasm and inspiration. I like to take a quick glance at my “THINGS TO DO LIST” for the next day with gratitude that I will have everything I need to accomplish it. I believe this allows my subconscious mind to begin working on things while I sleep – which will potentially lead to new insights when I awaken.
As you begin your day, get very clear on what you’d like to experience by day’s end — and every moment in between and see if you can experience that state before you even begin. See if you can remember the last time you were in your productive zone, where you accomplished more than you thought possible. Move into that feeling and replicate it for yourself. If you find yourself becoming anxious, stressed, or slipping into old patterns, come back to your intention and desired perspective, take a deep breath and let it inform your action.
The important thing is to tap into your inner genius to find the answers you most need. I’ve found this to be so important that I’ve written a book about it. It’s called The Pinocchio Principle ~ Being Real: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be and it will be released on 1/11/11. I’ve also decided to work with a small group of eight people to lead them through this process (based on the book) as well. A few spots still remain. We’ll meet at my office in Phoenix for 90 minutes twice a month for a period of six months, beginning in January. Contact me at Diane@DianeBolden.com if you are interested in participating. The cost is $900 ($75 a session) and payment plans are available.
Stay tuned for more information and subscribe to my free monthly ezine at www.DianeBolden.com to hear about free upcoming events, videos and teleseminars.
Though comments are currently closed, please feel free to email me at Diane@DianeBolden.com with your feedback, questions and thoughts. Have a specific challenge you’d like to see a post written about? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you!