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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Getting Things Done - An Introduction

Let me paint a picture for you.

It's eight o'clock on a Monday night. My husband has just gotten home from work, my kids are bopping around being crazy. Everybody is hungry, it's time for dinner.

But I'm in the final round of an online writing competition and I can't tear myself away from the poll.

Dice onions, refresh page, cut up peppers, refresh page, start cooking sausages, talk to friends about the poll, oh shit! I'm burning the sausages! Flip them, refresh page.

All was going swimmingly (if too slowly for my hungry family's liking), when I came across a jar of olives that I could not open.

Conundrum. To go upstairs and have my husband open it for me would require at least two minutes away from the poll! I tried to go quick. Sprinting up the stairs with jar in hand, I twisted my ankle for the first time in ten years.


Also, I lost by two votes. And you know what? I would have lost by two votes whether or not I saw the updated poll every ten seconds or not.

On the flip side, dinner was freaking delicious.

Moral of the story is: Don't try to do too many things at once. You will hurt yourself.

This isn't just for physical injuries and it isn't just about superfluous things that don't really matter. It goes deeper than that. How many times do we do nothing because we have so much to do? If I think about everything I have to do in one day, I paralyze myself. It is too much.

If I think about the task I must complete after the task I'm currently undertaking, I lose steam. I get caught up in the to-do, and never appreciate what it is I'm getting done.

Relax. One thing at a time, two things max. More than that and you're courting disaster. Let go of the things that don't matter. Prioritize, but really think about your priorities. Try to see them from outside yourself. Sometimes our priorities are wrong, and we don't even know it. We give way too much importance to one thing, and not nearly enough to another. Learn from these mistakes.

Accept what you can get done and leave the rest for the next day. Then do the same thing tomorrow.

I give myself a list of 16 things to do every day. I've been doing this for two years. I have never gotten all 16 done. Not once. At first that was totally defeating. But getting everything done on the list isn't the point. Having somethign concrete that allows me to organize my day while still feeling like i have a choice is what the list is for.

I'll talk more about it tomorrow, when I actually talk about the mechanics of getting things done.


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