You know what it’s like, you have all sorts of plans for the day, the week, the next 5 minutes. Then, when it gets down to the actual doing, the wheels fall off. At times like this getting back on track can be difficult.
I had lots of plans for my day off, ok I went to the dentist and that took a chunk of time out of the morning but then I intended to get a lot of work done. What I actually did was sit in front of the television and watch the Winter Olympics.
I don’t regret doing that. It was live, Australia got a silver medal out of it, it was actually really exciting. (All this from someone who happily says she is not interested in sports.)
It wasn’t however how I thought I would be spending my day. I wasn’t sick, there was no particular reason for it, I was just tired and not able to put my mind to the tasks I had planned to do. While it’s definitely not something I want to do regularly, I believe that we can get into the habit of thinking that for some reason we aren’t allowed to have an off day or feel like we just want to veg out in front of the television for a bit. Sometimes we just have to give ourselves a little bit of freedom to fall apart for a moment before we pick the pieces back up again and keep going.
I have given myself time to recharge for a moment and now I have to regroup and get stuck into my tasks. Here’s the plan to do just that:
Step 1. Make a list
Oh, how I love a good list. I have had a couple of great list apps recommended to me recently and I am using both. Sad I know! One is for work and one for home. (The last thing I want is to be faced with my work ‘to do’ tasks when all I need is the grocery shopping list, so I keep them separate)
I create lists for all parts of my life and it’s how I make sure I do everything I need to do. There are the things others expect from me, the things I expect from myself and then there are the random pieces of information I want to remember sometime down the track. They all go on to one list or another.
Step 2. Prioritise the list
When I really want to get back on track and make the most of the time I have to get particular things done I always prioritise my list. There are things that are urgent, things that are important and things that can wait a while. It’s really crucial to identity which is which and work on the most important things first.
This can be difficult to do because most of us are hard wired to work on the easy things first and work our way up to the difficult things later. This is always a trap because we end up leaving too little time to get the difficult things done, rush them and don’t do justice to the task.
The other day I had a great long list of things I needed to do. I began the day feeling very optimistic about getting it all done and then an urgent matter arose. I did not get to the first item on my list until 2pm. It was actually very difficult for me to not become anxious about all of the things I was not doing while I was taking care of this urgent and important matter.
If I had known it was going to happen, I would have put it first and spent the time needed to sort it out. I suppose it was because it came up unexpectedly that I found it difficult to reconcile with my ‘work’. I had to keep reminding myself that the world would not stop turning because I had emails sitting in my inbox unanswered and requests for my time and attention ignored. Once the important work was done, I could get back to all of that stuff.
Step 3. Make a time to complete each task
Barring the unexpected things that throw a spanner in the works, it pays to make a time to action each task on the list. It might be as specific as ‘See x about y at 9.30am’ or as vague as ‘Read and action emails between 10 and 11’. I use a combination of these depending upon the task that needs to be done. Doing this in advance makes it very clear whether there will be enough hours in the day to do all of the things I think I need to do.
When I first started doing this I realised that I was being far too ambitious and there was no physical way I could complete each of the tasks I had listed in the time I had available. This was actually a good thing. It made me go back and revisit my prioritising to determine what actually needed to be done today and what could wait for another time. It also helped me to understand that a long list of to-do’s was a guaranteed way of making me feel as if I had not accomplished anything in the day because there would always be more on the list still left to do. I like to use my Lifewrangling Planner to do this.
Step 4. Find an accountability partner
At times we all need someone or something to help us keep to our plans. It’s not this person’s job to make us do it, remind us to do it or do it for us. Instead, by sharing our important tasks with another person, we can create accountability for ourselves to get the job done. It’s easier to avoid something when we only disappoint ourselves. When another person is involved it raises the stakes and make it harder to put something on the back burner or forget about it because we know someone else knew of the plan.
Step 5. Celebrate success
It’s important to take a few moments to contemplate the things we have achieved before we bowl right on to the next task on our list. Taking the time to celebrate a success helps to recharge the batteries and stops our work just being the endless striving to simply cross things off a list.
Getting back on track:
So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, a little flat or just uninspired, pull out a notebook, your planner or your phone and start making yourself a list. You’ll be glad you did.