time management

Tame your to-do list with the 4 Bs!

091013 todo list
091013 todo list

We’ve all got to-do lists a mile long. Sometimes something languishes on my to-do list for months.  Or years!  There are just those tasks that I never get around to, and the to-do list starts to feel like a big shame list.  How can it be a week/month/year later and I still have those things on my list?  Ugh. What does your to do list look like?  Does it make you go, “Ugh”?  Then it’s probably not working as well for you as you’d like.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to cross things off a list – it feels great!  And I bet you love checking stuff off too. But strangely, as soon as I cross something off, there are three new things to add.  It’s never done.  It’s never empty.  There’s always more to do.  It’s like the little brooms in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice that keep multiplying and multiplying.

So I have some tips for taming that to-do list, since it’s probably not going away.  These come from my mentor, Martha Beck – and she’s one smart cookie!

They’re easy to remember – the Four Bs.

1. Bag it.  This is a really good one.  We have a lot of shoulds – I should go to yoga, I should go to that party, I should should should rearrange the towels in the linen closet.  Sometimes we even tell ourselves we have to.  I have to join that committee.  I have to do this myself so it gets done right.  Actually, you don’t have to do much of anything.  There might be consequences if you don’t, but it’s very freeing to know you don’t have to.  You can choose to.  Choose to join the committee because it’s important to you.  Or bag it and say no, you just don’t have the capacity to do that right now.   You have a choice!  And if you’re sleep deprived like most humans on the planet these days, maybe choose sleep.  I regularly bag all kinds of activities in order to get the rest my body craves.  And so far the world has not exploded because of it.

2. Barter it.  See if you can find someone who loves to do that thing you can’t stand.  This works great both at home and at work.  I do all the dishes, but my husband does all the laundry. I feel like I’m getting a great deal!  Someone else at work might love to organize, and you love to write and edit.  Can you barter certain tasks?  Can you trade?  You can also hire out tasks as well.  If it’s not getting done, and it’s stressing you out, maybe it’s worth it to have someone take care of it for you.

3. Better it.  This is my absolute favorite.  This works for anything.  Face it, there’s a lot of stuff on our to-do lists that we don’t want to bag, and that we haven’t figured out how to barter.  We’re gonna do them ourselves.  So how can we better it?  Think about your task and something you can do before, during or afterward to help you enjoy it more.  Can you play music?  Take a walk in a park before or afterward?  Buy yourself a little treat when you finish the task?  Oh, and here’s the cool thing about treats: Our mind processes all treats about the same.  A treat is a treat.  So a pack of gum or a magazine at the checkout to better your trip to the grocery is just as effective as something much bigger that might cost way more money, like a new pair of shoes.  Lots of small treats all day long are super-great for your brain, and help you stay happy while you’re doing your regular routine.   Take the dogs for a walk.  Enjoy a hot bath.  Play a game with your kids.  Look for ways to make others smile while you’re getting your work done.

4. Batch it.  I love this one too.  This is great for getting a whole lot of similar tasks done, like emails or bills or some other project.  Sometimes it’s helpful to block out a chunk of time and just do it all in one fell swoop.  Take a Saturday morning to straighten your closet. Block out an hour to clear up your desk.  Set a timer.  Avoid distractions. And then reward yourself with a treat when you’re done!

I love to help people with big dreams, but the reality is that most of our daily life is full of regular tasks, so enjoying those and really savoring all the little stuff makes such a difference in our energy levels and then gives us the boost we’re looking for to accomplish something big like writing a novel or changing careers.  So give these simple 4 Bs a try – let me know how you do by emailing me at carla@livingwildandprecious.com or leaving a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!

30 Day Challenge - a surprising decision

So, I'm starting my 30 day challenge - actually I began it yesterday, and knowing that my focus right now is on time management and accomplishing tasks, you might be surprised that my 30 day challenge isn't about checking stuff off the to do list.  I'm still going to keep doing my ten minutes of daily paper management which is working so well! I think I've got a habit going that I can stick with!

I'm going to continue my 10 minute morning grass time as well.  Sitting with my feet on the grass and almost always a cat or two nearby, taking time to plan my day, read something inspirational and then just sit for ten minutes letting everything be - it's the perfect way for me to begin every wild and precious day.

Here's my surprising challenge:  For the next 30 days, I'm going to paint or draw for 30 minutes.  When I first imagined having control over my own schedule years ago, I pictured lots of free time to be creative.  While I have no special talents, I enjoy playing with drawing and painting, and I'm struck with a pang of longing when I go to galleries and admire the colorful paintings, especially when they're of the Louisiana wetlands.

But painting and drawing always ends up at the bottom of the list.  It doesn't get priority because I need to do the "important" things first.  Well, that's changing! The truth is, I have time to paint or draw and get my other tasks done.  When I've tried this strategy in the past I've noticed that by rewarding myself some time every day with something fulfilling and fun, I manage to be more productive.  Similarly, when people who are trying to lose weight focus less on food and more on doing and finding things that bring them joy and happiness - when they start practicing extreme self-care - they find that something shifts-- and their eating habits magically become healthier, without even thinking about it.

So that's my plan for the month.  I'm excited!

I'm not quite ready to post my "artwork" for all to see, but I'm also going to take at least one nature photo a day - I've always loved that and I'll make it part of my morning grass time, usually.  Today's photo is a raindrop caught on the ginger.

So are you thinking about it?  What would you like to do for your 30 day challenge? Join our Facebook Group (It's open - come on in!) to share your plan and get support from a whole passel of coaches!  And tune in here - I'll be posting my nature photo and letting you know how each day goes!  I'd also love to hear from you in the comments - what kind of challenge feels delicious to you this month?

The time management anti-diet

Ok.  Here's what I've decided.  I have a somewhat complex relationship with time similar to some people's somewhat complex relationship with food.  I've managed to deal with it for the most part and make it look pretty good from the outside, similar to how someone might diet themselves into submission but always worry about a relapse or how someone might binge and binge on junk food and then feel terrible, shameful and yucky afterward, even if it doesn't affect their actual weight, either because they don't do it very often or because there's purging involved too. This is not to make light of anyone's difficulties with food, or to say that I'm experiencing the same thing as someone with those difficulties.  However I do believe there are similarities, and that they're both serious issues that can get in the way of living our best lives.  So I'm going to step out into the open and talk about it - and see what happens when I shed a little light on something that I think is a big challenge for many. Just like overweight people know that all they need to do is eat less and move more, I know that all I need to do is use my time wisely and take care of my stuff.  Duh.  Easy.  So if it were that simple we wouldn't have an obesity epidemic. And we wouldn't have television shows like hoarders, and there would never be a giant pile of papers about ten inches high on my desk.

I've determined that it's time to take a new approach to my time and organization.  I'm going to use the science behind my thoughts and behaviors to change my relationship with my time and my stuff.  I'm using Martha Beck's book, The Four Day Win, as a guide.  Even though it's written for weight loss, I'm figuring out that it's all the same stuff.  Let me explain.

Martha says what happens when you put yourself on a diet is that you end up with "famine brain".  All you think about is food and you are suddenly hungrier than ever, and your body, now that it's received signals from your brain that all the food is being reduced, does everything it can to conserve energy and hang onto every molecule of fat just in case you never eat again.

Similarly, when I try to "finally get fully organized and manage my time like a grown up", my mind starts freaking out with cries of, "There's not enough time!"  Which then causes my body to immediately want to give up and go to sleep. It's truly fascinating.

So today was the first day of a new approach, which includes the "actual dealing with time and stuff" part, similar to "actually eating less and moving more".  I'm spending ten minutes per day on paper piles of any type - they're actually not too bad right now because I've been working on them in this way for months.  So I'm sort of at the spot that someone might be who is looking to shed the last 15 pounds to get to their most natural, "feel good" weight. I'm looking to shift my attitude toward time and stuff in a way that will "feel good" forever.

My reward for doing ten minutes on my paper piles is a sticker.  Yep.  That's all I need.  I love to put a sticker on my calendar!  After four days, I get a bigger reward, which is 30 minutes of doing absolutely whatever I feel like doing, ideally a creative something that I keep putting off, but I'm going to wait and see about that part.

Most importantly, the other thing I'm doing for the next four days (I get a sticker for this as well) is observing my "time famine" brain.  Observing and watching and learning.  Getting really curious about what my brain has to say.  Today, knowing that this was the first day of a new approach to time, I slept in. Not part of the plan!  Thanks, brain!  Quite a bit later I felt panicky when I looked at the clock and it was already 1 p.m.  My mind was screeching, "NOT ENOUGH TIME!!! AAAAAHHH!!!"  Which led to my body responding with, "Give up! GO TO SLEEP!" I just observed nonchalantly.  And did my work.  And hosted an incredibly beautiful moonlit wordless walk tonight. More on that, and time, and turtles, tomorrow.  Yay!


Too early, too late, too soon, not soon enough

Someone emails you a question, and you read it and know the answer.  You could email them back right away and tell them.  Or your mind might get in the way.  "You're not even supposed to be checking email right now!"  "They'll think you're not busy, just hanging out on your computer if you respond right away!"  "It's 9 p.m. on a Friday night - what will people think if you respond to an email now?  They'll think you don't have a fun social life!"  Oh, Mind, you are so very funny.

Or let's switch to blogging.  You have an idea, some cool photos, a basic plan of what to write.  But then your mind pipes in.  "It's too early to write - let's do some other stuff."  Or, "It's too late - we'll do it tomorrow when we're fresh." Or "That post would make more sense on a Friday and it's only Thursday."  Or "Those photos are from an event last week - who wants to read about that now!  Too late!"

Your somewhat nutty but well-meaning mind has you putting things off, waiting because it's too soon, and then abandoning because - Oh! Now it's too late.

Guess what?  None of it is true.  And it really gets in the way of getting valuable stuff done.

So want a real life example?  (I only know this stuff because my mind has its nutty moments!)  Way back in April, an extraordinary fellow blogger named Jackie featured me in a beautiful Shine post on her site.  And I never really told anyone about it!  Why?  Because of my mind.  First it seemed too soon.  Then I was busy, then I was out of town, then I was out of town again, then it seemed too late.

If this ever happens to you, tell your mind to shhhhh... and do the thing.  It's not too soon. To write your memoirs.  To dust under the bed, even if you did it last week.  To call your mom.  To try that business idea.  Or if you don't do it and your mind says it's too late, again tell your mind hush.  It's not too late.  To send the thank you note.  To organize your finances.  To plan that vacation you've been dreaming of. To start taking care of your body.

So, without further ado, here's the link to a Q&A session with Jackie - I loved her questions and loved doing this interview!  Perhaps reading this link is exactly what you need today, and that's why I'm posting it, two months later in June.  That's what I'm believing tonight.  Thanks again, Jackie for the insightful questions!

Tackling tricky to-dos

Do you ever have something on your to-do list that you really want to do - deep in your heart you want to do it - you just know you do - yet day after day it doesn't get done?  Something you value.  Something you know will make you feel great once it's done.  Something that will benefit you, or someone else. Something that will make your heart feel warm and glow-y.

What the heck?  Why does it sit there, day after day? This task or project - this call to make, this card to send, this blog post to write (ahem!), this creative fun thing you've been dreaming of for weeks - why does it remain on your list - undone, un-checked-off?

Why would you not do it when you really want to?  What's happening?

Well, perhaps you've made it so important in your mind that you've made it difficult to start and finish.  Or maybe it's a task with too many steps - pick the right card, find a stamp, find the address, say the meaningful thing from your heart that you want to say (will you be able to express the contents of your heart clearly enough?), get it out to mail. . .  so it stays undone.

Or maybe it's so easy you keep thinking you'll do it later - it won't take long to make that call, write that blog post - but then you wait and  it's the wrong time in the zone you're calling - it's too early/too late, too close to tomorrow (as in midnight) - so you put it off one more day.

Maybe you finally do it.  And it FEELS SO GOOD to get it done.

So you ask yourself, "Why??  Why can't I remember how fantastic it feels next time this situation happens? Why will I find myself in the exact same boat-- at midnight, looking at a list of happy little tasks, none of which are that complicated, and none of which I did today? Why does my mind toss out the 'doing it later will be fine' line?  Why do I fall for it every time?  How do I ever change?

Hmm.  I can think of a couple of possibilities.

1. Recognize when your mind is lulling you into avoidance.  And when it does, really listen.  Sometimes your mind is making a solid point.  Sometimes you've really loaded up your list - sure they're all cute little lovely tasks, but there are thirty of them!  Come on!  No wonder your mind is encouraging you to take a nap!

2. If it's not because your to do list is overloaded (but I bet that's the reason, I'm just saying) then picture how it's going to feel when the task is done.  Put yourself there, in that brief Nirvana of glowy-heart-ness.  Then set your timer for five minutes and start.  Find the stamp, the address, the card.  Sit down to write.  By the time five minutes are up, you'll be riding the momentum of doing.  You'll easily finish the job now.  Congratulate yourself!  Pat yourself on the back!  And promise that you'll give yourself no more than three other happy little to-do tasks today.  Not thirty.  After all, there's have-to do things too - like taxes, job emails, whatever.  They gotta get done too - and if you're also avoiding them, well-- we'll deal with that in another post!

Now go sit in the grass in the sunshine for a little while.  Buster would approve of that being on your to-do list...