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Monday, November 10, 2008
Even though I'm a professional organizer, I have plenty of moments where I'm anything but organized and "put together"! I try really hard to take time for myself and my family, especially on the weekends. Unfortunately, the emails keep coming and the phone keeps ringing, which means that on Monday morning, if I've ignored it all weekend, there's more catch-up work to do than usual.
I often find that my Monday sets the tone for my whole week, so I make an effort to be as organized and productive as possible. This morning, I tried something I haven't done for a while, and I was reminded of the simple power of this technique. It's a two-pronged approach.
First, the brain dump. Get a clean sheet of paper (I recommend grid-lined paper and a trusty clipboard) and start writing! Write down all the things that are on your mind that you need or want to do today. Little things, big things, even tasks you know you can't complete in one day. Don't categorize or go into great detail, just jot as quickly as you can.
The second step is to "time it". Assign a time value to each item on your list. How long do you think each task will take? 2 minutes? Five? Ten? A half hour? 10 hours? Write the time (in minutes) beside each item, then add them all up, and divide by 60. This is how many hours you expect it will take to do everything on your list.
This morning, my one page list of mostly small tasks came out to 6.75 hours, and that was not including several tasks that I had listed as needing an hour or more! So in other words, all the "little stuff" I knew I needed to do was going to take nearly 7 hours - much more than I would have estimated if I had just glanced through the list.
My first reaction was, "Wow, no wonder I feel so behind, there's no way I can do all this today. What's wrong with me? I'll never catch up!" Then I had a revelation. Yes, all these phone calls and emails and errands are time consuming, but nevertheless, they are important. These things take time. Everything takes time! If I'm expecting to keep up with the information flowing in and out of my life in a mere hour or so a day, I'm placing an unrealistic expectation on myself. When I fall short of my expectation, I beat myself up. Doing this doesn't create any more time in my day or increase my productivity.
If the reality is that I have six hours of phone calls, errands, and emails to do today, and these tasks are important to me, then I shouldn't feel bad for doing them. And I especially shouldn't feel inadequate because I can't do it all faster. If I don't get through my whole list, I'll know that it's ok, because I really did have a lot to do!
Yes, sometimes we do have to put the little things aside in order to fit the big things in, lest they get forever pushed aside by the "tyranny of the urgent". But when you do spend a day playing catch-up, give yourself a pat on the back! You are amazing! You accomplish great things, every day. You connect with people, you care for your family, you nourish yourself.
So next time you're feeling overwhelmed with "Monday Madness" (or any-other-day-of-the-week madness), try the brain dump/time it, and take a moment to reflect on the expectations you set for yourself and how these expectations (whether you meet them or not) make you feel. And give yourself credit for all the things you accomplish, even on your maddest of Mondays.