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?
Can the Perfectionism
When I say Can the Perfectionism, I mean throw it in that little circular file where all of the rest of the garbage goes. I’ll say it in all caps: THROW PERFECTIONISM AWAY. Yes, I still want to do a good job. Yes, I can finesse whatever I’m doing later on. Yes, I care about quality. It is necessary for me to make this one realization right now, however: Expecting perfection on the first (or second or third) pass is unrealistic, oppressive, and a waste of time. Plus, it just plain stresses me out!
I’ll picture this approach, instead, and since it reads kind of like a meditation, I’ll put it in italics:
I am managing my time well. I have certain tasks to do. I have allotted a certain amount of time on my calendar to make progress on a specific project, and I’ve decided not to be paralyzed by the idea of perfection. I dive into my project and I am in the moment. I work on it and yes, there are a few glitches here and there, but I know that if I keep chipping away, I will get where I need to go. I am much more efficient without the shackles of perfectionism! From here on, I solemnly swear to stop doubting myself. If I return to this bad habit, I will revisit the concept of canning the perfectionism until this approach becomes a habit.
Without the insidious, invisible obstacle of perfectionism, it is as if I have purchased time somewhere from some cosmic vending machine. I save time. LOTS of it. What about you? Are you willing to abandon a little perfectionism, too?
Eliminate Electronic Distractions
Electronic distractions for me consist of the following: Facebook, my way-too-smart phone, and email addiction. Although when I am distracted by these items, I feel like it’s only for “just a minute,” I have to be honest. How many of these “just a minute” items am I allowing to happen every day? And just how important are they? Facebook could be eliminated from my life completely or, if not, could be visited over the weekend for about 10 minutes if need be. My way-too-smart phone could be shut off. Push notifications could be shut off. Any distracting apps on my phone could be removed. My email, something I check somewhat obsessively, could be scheduled for small blocks of time in the morning and in the afternoon.
What about you? What are your electronic distractions and how are they taking away from time you could spend completing your projects?
I hope you’ve benefitted from the techniques I’ve discussed. I feel better for having talked about them! If you have any additional time management or distraction elimination ideas, write to me a firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you! Until then, have a wonderful and wonderfully productive week!
Debra Payne, PhD
Associate Certified Coach