- Someday Lesson: Unless you know exactly how long your to-do list is you can’t make objective decisions about what to work on.
Since December is Planning Month on Someday Syndrome let’s tackle a Someday Challenge that’s planning related. Specifically let’s look at Angela’s problem with being overwhelmed with everything she has to do.
Angela suffers from I’ll Get Around To It Someday. She knows what she wants but can’t seem to find the time or energy to follow through. She says “Someday I’ll find the time and energy to fulfill my dreams.” The thing is she’s not very specific about what those dreams are. When looking one year into the future however, she’s much more specific saying that she will have implemented some of her programs, have produced the show she wrote and be able to support her children financially.
The problem is that she’s so overwhelmed by the normal anxieties of life that she can’t see clearly. It seems to be so much stuff that she’s paralyzed by all the stuff. She moved her office in-house so that she could work on things 24/7 but that hasn’t worked which isn’t surprising. Bringing the office into the home is likely to create more anxieties not fewer. Without a clear separation of work life and home life the stress and guilt of working or not working 24/7 multiples exponentially. Every moment at work outside of regular hours takes away from family time and every moment with the family is one less moment striving for the work-related dream.
In our go-go-go world this sense of paralysis is common and it’s something many people suffer from. It happens when you allow your to-do list to get longer and longer which results in panic and paralysis.
Angela mentions anxiety at all the day to day stuff. That especially happens when you keep it all in your head – it builds and each item seems unrelated to anything else. As well, as I said working on things 24/7 is not the best way to get things done. I take plenty of time off and I’m one of the more productive people I know. I focus on relaxing when I’m not working and when I do work I don’t fritter because I know I have time to relax later.
So what does Angela need? She needs a plan. She needs to know what she’s working on when. However, she can’t create that plan until she knows exactly what she wants to work on. Yes, in her one-year-in-the-future vision she hints at what she might work on now, but the ideas are still very abstract. They’re results, not actions.
When looking into the future, it’s important to focus on actions. Outcomes are great, but they don’t motivate well because they leave a gap between the current state and the future outcome. That gap can only get filled by action.
And what actions does Angela need to do? What actions do you need to focus on if you want to achieve your dreams? How can you choose any one thing when there the to-do is longer than a line up to buy U2 concert tickets?
You might just pick one random item and work on that. Or you might pick the top three things that have reached crisis mode.
Or you might take a bit of time to plan out your actions, which first requires some research.
In this case, research doesn’t mean going out and looking up information or talking to others. For this type of research you are going to interview yourself. Using a blank piece of paper or a new document on the computer, write down the numbers 1 to 100 (if you’re using paper, you might need two or three sheets). Now fill in all 100 slots with everything you do during the day – both work and non-work related. Don’t forget as well those things that you want to/feel you should get done but haven’t gotten around to yet.
Why? What will Angela get out of overwhelming herself even more? How will this exercise help you?
Right now Angela feels overwhelmed by all of her to-dos. These to-dos however are only in her head. Just like in last week’s Someday Challenge, Angela needs to clear her head of the overwhelm and getting it out on paper does just that. Plus by giving yourself a goal of 100 items you’ll likely have a hard time reaching the goal and you’ll realize that you don’t actually have as many things to do as you thought, taking off some of the pressure.
By emptying your head of your to-dos you’ll also be able to look at all the items objectively. When they sit in your head they all seem equally important and necessary.
So now you have a list of items that you do (or want to do). How do you take this list of actions and turn them into a plan that works for you, gives you time to relax, and moves you towards your dream?
You prioritize, delegate and delete items from the list. You whittle it down until it fits into a schedule that’s manageable and comfortable.
And no, it’s not easy. In fact this sort of Someday Challenge paralyzes many people.
You need help. You need the outside objectively of someone who isn’t so intimately connected to the actions, someone who can help you decide priorities and what doesn’t really need to get done after all.
You can get that help by filling out a Personalized Someday Assessment. It takes only a few minutes and just might mean the difference between being overwhelmed and being happy.