If you’ve got a lot on your plate, it is all too easy to get to the point where you cannot think of the task in hand because five or ten other things nag away at you saying they need to be done Right Now. This more than just having a lot to do like the Red Queen in Alice who runs as fast as she can and stays in the same place.
This is the state of confusion, where stuff we haven’t yet got to looms larger and larger. We get into the state described in the general confession in the Book of Common Prayer:
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done … and there is no health in us.
This confusion is about priorities. To give you an example: many years ago when first worked from home, I was only contracted to work 15 hours’ each week. Easy enough, you would think, but I still got into this state of confusion. I was racked with guilt while I worked because I was at home and therefore should be doing housework, but the moment I started on the housework I felt guilty because I should be working. That state of confusion is made much worse when there actually is too much on your plate, of course.
One way to break the cycle is to give yourself credit for the things you do get done. At these times I make a things done list as well as a things to do list. Of course, you should do all the standard time management stuff like differentiating between what’s important and what’s urgent and prioritise accordingly, and turning off your email and your phone. (Things have to be pre-apocalyptic for me to turn off Instant Messenger).
So here goes.
Last week I:
- went to the doctor and dentist which had been nagging away for ages because both were important but neither were urgent
- switched electricity suppliers and bank accounts
- dealt with a stack of post THIS high, and turned it into a stack of recycling this high and a stack of filing this ___ high
- wrote a cheery chatty letter to my family (thank goodness for email, there’s no need to post it)
- put £4.50 into one of those booths and got myself a photo that the Daily Mail will use if I ever turn out to be a murderer, and posted it off to the driving licence people
- got a replacement sock for the New Phone of Shininess (even my phone loses socks)
- tore down my Geocities accounts
- decided to ignore the fact that my wireless network needs reconfiguring and trailed a cable through the house instead
Some of it was important some of it was urgent but all of it was getting me down. I thought I was running as fast as I could to get nowhere, but when I looked at this list I realised that actually I had made a lot of progress on all sorts of things.
So that’s Ben’s Top Time Management Tip: Keep track of what you’ve done because it gives you a sense of forward movement even when your to do list keeps on growing.
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