It's easy to have a routine or setup that keeps you organized when things are slow. But a lot of people (should I say all?) lose trust in their system when things get crazy. When you're so busy things like eating and sleeping start falling by the wayside. So busy that things you care about get no attention.
For the first three months of this year, that's what my life has felt like. With a full time job, a large family, starting a new home business, Fusion, and some client work, as well as making time for spiritual growth, there has been little time left for things like running a personal blog.
Learning and writing about productivity and the tools involved has consumed a lot of my time over the past two years, but has it made me a more efficient worker? This period of time has been a good test for me. I've been thinking through three ideas on how I keep my sanity and stay organized during times like these.
Accept that you'll never get it all done
This is the first and most important item to remember. Some of the tasks your boss sends across your desk will never get crossed off. Accept that some of the brilliant ideas you've had while in the shower will never get completed. And some of the promises you made will get broken.
Forgive yourself. And move on.
Remember that priority is relative and what seemed so important one day may mean nothing in two weeks. That which is truly important, truly inspired will repeatedly gain your attention.
Break things down to the smallest size possible
I'm not big on contexts. For the most part, they don't fit into my life where most of my work is in front of a rectangular box. But I'm learning how important the concept of breaking things down truly is. Time, spaces, and opportunities to perform certain tasks are constantly shifting. To be efficient, your tasks need to be broken down to their smallest, most obvious actions in order to maximize the smaller, less obvious opportunities to be productive.
Knowing something is true and making it a reality in your habitual workday are two very different things. The idea of focusing on one thing to the exclusion of all else has been frustratingly hard for me to accept, embrace, and repeat in my life. With multiple email accounts, RSS, Twitter, and Tumblr around feeding my desire for constant stimulus, creating an atmosphere where I am one with the task at hand has occurred more fleetingly than it should.
But oh, what sweet productive bliss it is to reach this state and feel good about your day. It's been a slow process, but I am learning this. And in fact, I've found incredible peace in this concept. Here's a scenario that's been common for me in recent weeks, and one that I'm betting a lot of people can relate to:
I have multiple larger tasks/projects I am responsible for and that I am always consciously aware of at work. This particular day I've opened my email and found that I have three more tasks requested of me for that day. And lastly, I have four other tasks that were left over from the day before. Simply put, there are seven non-project related pieces of work that I want to complete today and I also want to complete a few tasks for the larger projects assigned to me. And since it's only 8:38 AM, the realistic side of my brain tells me there's a darn good chance I'll receive some more calls for help before the day is over.
Sound familiar? I consider this an opportunity for stress. But what I'm learning, ever so slowly, is that there is peace to be found in the idea of
taking things one at a time. Not exactly earth shattering, I know. But sometimes the simplistic can be hard to grasp.
So now I do a quick prioritization of all these tasks and start on the most important. And I focus on that task until it's complete. Then I move on to the next. And the next. Rinse and repeat.
At the end of each day, there is a good chance the entire list of tasks is not checked off. But that's okay because I was productive. Tasks were completed. Progress was made. And tomorrow will come and I'll do it all again.
The peace I spoke of comes in the moment where you believe and say to yourself, No matter what else is happening right now, no matter what everyone else is doing, I'm working on THIS and will do so until I'm finished.
Anyone who has read recent books/blogs on productivity will be familiar with the ideas above. There's nothing new here. But from my experience, it's so often easier to play with new tools than develop habits and the result is that the concepts merely get lip service.
I want the habits to be a reality in my life.