I know some very smart people look down on making list articles. I see their point, it’s “dumbing down” the content. It cheapens the intellectual exercise of organizing information. It’s a good point. Imagine if a book was made up of nothing but lists on each page. That might be a little overboard; a little too simplified. However, I see lists as a helpful tool for people to organize their lives. It’s a helpful skill to develop really.
What I’m talking about is the ability to compartmentalize in certain situations. Some of you who are reading this have some genuine stress and feel overwhelmed by circumstances in your life. When I listen to people in my office talk about the challenges they face, they really have a litany of problems piling up, whether from choices they have made or because they are feeling negative effects from what others have down around them or to them. Even though I am a trained therapist, I still can feel how overwhelmed and hopeless life can be. I have been there and sometimes get caught up in those feelings too. Where do you start when you have spouse with cancer, a child with a continuing drug problem, you are behind in mortgage payments and you can’t sleep at night? Pretty overwhelming right? What about the person whose spouse left them after 10 years of marriage with three children and empty promises about responsibly helping raise and provide for the children; “Oh and I can’t sleep well either.” Many of you run from one fire to another and when someone suggests we should find a better balance it feels pretty insulting. Where do you start? And how do you decide where to start other than what is right in your face? I see how making a list might be a good start. So we like lists to begin making order out of chaos.
In a previous post I shared the Covey matrix for prioritizing. I love it and encourage others to use it frequently. It really helps you identify and focus on what is most important. But first, make your list of things you want to accomplish and break it down into what needs to happen from month to week to day. You may have a house project you want to finish by the end of January and that is a high priority. Okay, you also still need to get ready for a family party this weekend so that might be more urgent. That needs to be more of a focus today that the house project even though that might be more exciting than baking those rolls or whatever. Your focus lands on the more urgent task and that is where your energy is going to go. That was an example, now after making your own list and pick the three things most urgent today or tomorrow. Think of them this way, if you got only three things done tomorrow what would be the most important off your list? 99% of the time you will get more done off of your list than those three, but you will feel better about your unfinished stuff because you got the most important things done first.
Try it it takes some
practice and a little flexibility but it works and you are getting better at compartmentalizing when it’s appropriate.