Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Wrapping up loose ends, I ran across a question that came from Wojciech: how do you “set your mind into simplicity mode when there’s 1,000,000 things to do”? It’s a great question, and I thought I would offer my strategies.
Generally when I start thinking that there are a million things I need to do, it is because my perception has gotten out of whack. I look around me and see so many things, and I worry about them. They grow in my mind until I am overwhelmed and practically unable to do anything.
But the reality is that there is never as much to be done as I think. I start by making a list.
I am a natural list maker. Right now I am keeping all my to do items up at Remember the Milk. Everything is there: my project items from Bonsai, my weekly routines and the one-off things that happen not so frequently. I also will send things from email that need attention, as well as enter things that come to mind.
I don’t set due dates in RTM unless I have something that truly has a deadline. So I have a list of dated (and past-due) items that I look at.
Simplifying the List
I have a tendency to put a lot of
garbage unnecessary items on my lists. I go through the list for today and ask myself if it really has to be done at all, or if it would be better handled another way. Those things that don’t have to be done today, I tag to be reviewed later and remove the due date.
No, I’m not talking about the university here, but rather Most Important Tasks. When I am feeling overwhelmed I pick 3 tasks that I need to get done. Once those three are done, I can work on whatever I choose to do.
Blasting Through The To Dos
After getting the MITs out of the way, I start a bonus round with the list and knock out as many little things as possible. I may not feel like I want to do them, but I will get them done just to get the list size down.
The one thing I haven’t mentioned yet is how I adjust my mind to make this all happen. If I am feeling overwhelmed, I am thinking about many things at once, and the temptation is to start all of them immediately. Instead, I purposely make myself concentrate on working on only one thing at a time. If I can keep my mind focused, I am able to stop everything from seeming overwhelming.
If something keeps intruding on your single-tasking, write it down and make sure you get back to it later. Don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked. This is not easy to do, and it is counter to what many people recommend in this day and age. But with practice, it is very possible.
It is easy to get overwhelmed, especially when it seems like there is so much to do. But with a few conscious steps, you can cut the cycle off and make real progress.