Strength-Based To-Do Lists

Do you ever wonder why you aren’t getting stuff done? If you do, please read on and see if you identify with this…

My to-do lists are more like delusional wish lists. Lately there has been an added element to that, too:

My delusional wish lists are ruining my morale.

I write down tasks and then immediately feel the desire to flee far, far away. This impulse quite understandably curbs progress.

This time, however, I have a plan, and it’s based on my strengths.

For me to even begin this plan, I had to spend time recognizing my strengths and weaknesses. Once I did that, I saw why certain tasks were remaining on my list for an embarrassing amount of time. I’ve illustrated this exercise below. (more…)

What To Do When Your Time Management Techniques Fall Apart

What To Do When Your Time Management Techniques Fall Apart

Have you ever felt crazed by all the stuff you have to do?

Is the stuff you have to do managing you?

Do you have so much stuff to do that you want to go home and hide not only under the covers but under the mattress?

If so, maybe you are managing the wrong thing. I recently read a Harvard Business Review article by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy titled Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.  I talk to people about time management nearly every day, so this article really hit home with me.

Here a few pointers I derived from the article:

  • Working longer hours is not time management.
  • Time is a fixed resource. Although you can work longer hours if you like, you will eventually run out of time.
  • Energy, however, is renewable. Pay attention to the four main sources of energy in humans — body, emotions, mind, and spirit — and reap the rewards.

“Yeh, right!” you may say. “But I’m too busy for that!”

“But there are payoffs,” I’ll argue. “Read about the Wachovia study that Schwartz and McCarthy refer to in their article if you need more convincing. I’ve cited the source below so you can access the article. You’ll find out that you actually cannot afford NOT to renew your energy!

If you just want the bullet points, stick with me. I’ve got you covered: (more…)

Productivity amidst Chaos: Simplifying Your Approach for the Purposes of Time Management and Sanity

I’ve got a stack of papers on my desk that just toppled over because the pile got a bit too high. It’s like a tower ready to collapse, ominously leaning one off to the side. I’ve got a million things to do today and all of them are important. I feel scattered. I’m exhausted, and the coffee I drank in hopes of waking me up only served to give me a case of the jitters. It’s only 11 a.m. and I am wondering just exactly how I am going to get through the day.

If anything in the above paragraph sounds familiar, read on. I’m talking myself off a ledge here with a few techniques that have worked for me in the past. Come along on my journey towards a simpler, easier, more productive day!
There are three things I can do today to simplify my approach and get more done: 1) Obey the Rule of Three, 2) Can the Perfectionism; and 3) Eliminate Electronic Distractions. Allow me to explain…

Obey the Rule of Three
I have a business coach friend who admonishes me constantly because I try to do too much all at once. I could go into great depth about the history of why I do this (societal approval, family patterns, and overall neuroses, to name a few) but really, who has time for that? My friend’s Rule of Three plays out like this:
You only get to pick three things you are going to work on right now. If you want to get even simpler and narrow it down to one, that’s great. But just pick three things and make them your focus.
I can hear protesting voices even as I write.
“SURE!” you may be saying. “That’s great for you, honey, but I have more than THREE THINGS to do today!”

I hear you. I still believe in the rule of three, however, for this reason: Maybe you’re different, but personally, there is no way I can do ten things at once. Actually, I can’t even do THREE things at a time. I can, however, work in chunks of time. In one chunk of time, I work on one thing. In the next bit of time, I work on the next thing. And so on.
I feel a little bit calmer when I do this and I am calmer, I tend to produce higher quality work. Would you like to this, too? If so, do this — take a breath, focus, and decide what the next hour will look like. What is one specific task you can do to advance on one specific project?


Procrastination Soup

Procrastination Soup: When Putting Stuff Off Feels Like a Virtue

The aroma of homemade vegetable soup wafts from the kitchen to the office as I sit here and write. It’s a cold winter day, and I set time aside this morning to make something nutritious and wholesome. Good of me, wasn’t it? Not really.

Procrastination can take many forms, and it’s important to watch for that.

When you say yes to something, you automatically say no to something else. This morning, as I chopped all the vegetables to make this wonderful soup, I chose not to do other work that is admittedly much more pressing.

Virtuous procrastination has taken a very strange form for me lately. (more…)

On Getting Out of Your Own Way

Have you ever started working on a project that was really important to you, but then suddenly you just stopped?

Do you work on your ideas and then abandon them before completion, or do you finish them only after a Herculean effort at the end?

Examine your stories. You may find roadblocks there.

Stories are the collection of things you tell about yourself. Your stories involve how you look, how you feel around certain people, and what kinds of things you think you need to make your life complete.

Stories also include your perception of your abilities: things you do very well, and the things you might not even want to try because “you’re bad at that.” Your stories started a long time ago, and they have since become part of your identity. (more…)

The Undercurrent: Dealing with Sneaky & Mean Inner Critics

What drags you down?

My negative thoughts can attack me on even the best of days. They are so persistent and so effective that I have come to call them The Undercurrent.

The Undercurrent is a quiet, unseen, and vicious tug that is always running just beneath the surface of seemingly tranquil waters. It has a nightmarish component: In the river of my thoughts, there is a monstrous force that reaches up from underneath to grab my neck and drown me.

Whenever I want to do something I deem noteworthy, this negative “stop her now” energy lurks about, waiting to spiral me downwards to my untimely death.

There’s hope, however!

I’ve identified this B Horror movie drama as the scalding disapproval that comes from my inner critics. I have a whole bunch of them, and they are like guerrilla warriors, ready to ambush me when I least expect it!

That’s why I have to pay attention. It’s either that, or have my hopes and dreams slain by those tricky little soldiers.

Today, I won. I followed my dreams despite The Undercurrent. I didn’t drown; in fact, I’ve made small steps towards accomplishing my goals. Lately, I’ve been winning more often. I’ll share how. (more…)

The Clean Your Plate Club

Anyone over a certain age likely remembers some version of the clean-your-plate club. It’s a simple as it sounds:

Eat everything on your plate and then you get to belong to our club. Eat your broccoli, those mashed potatoes, your potato roll, and that gravy-covered meat there, too, even though you’re not even sure what it is.

In other words, you get approval for cleaning your plate, and maybe even a lollipop.

While I do not argue the virtue of eating your vegetables and I certainly don’t want anyone wasting food, I take issue with the psychological implications of feeling like everything on your plate must be consumed before you can do anything else.

Cleaning your plate in a metaphorical sense implies that you must finish your projects – no matter how many you’ve got going, before you can go out and play. In other words, there will be no fun till the work gets done. (more…)

On Blasting Through the Wall of Criticism

Real and imaginary critics abound.

If you’re trying to reach a challenging goal, you’re likely to hear a few voices in your head telling you that you can’t do it. Depending on how much attention you give those voices, the resounding echoes of their negativity can be overwhelming.

One of my clients described the criticism she hears while writing to be an enormous wall of criticism that simply will not allow progress to occur. Instead, she suffers, and thinks a lot about the criticism. Any words she writes appear to be pale echoes of what could be.

We’re working on blasting through that wall. Here are a couple of techniques we’ve found that actually work. Try them! (more…)