As days begin to shorten after summer solstice, many of us start to experience an unusual seasonal phenomenon: As quickly as days grow shorter, our To Do Lists grow longer. They get filled with more and more stuff: winterizing stuff, work stuff, home stuff, holiday stuff, travel stuff, year-end stuff. Soon we feel as if we are drowning in stuff that just has to be done right now. By time holidays roll around, we are stressed, tired, exhausted, and cranky. It's hardly way to welcome in holiday season.
There's only one solution for it - in addition to chocolate, of course - and I'm sorry, but it doesn't involve running away to a tropical island until madness dies down. That's what Kranks try to do in Christmas with Kranks, a wonderful movie based on John Grisham's Skipping Christmas. It doesn't work for them either. No, what we have to do is take back control of our lists and our lives. We have to cut that list down to manageable size.
"How?" you say? I'm so glad you asked. Because that's what this Musing is all about. To start with, before you can trim your list, you have to make one. Start by choosing someplace where you can write down all chores you have to do. (I keep my list in a spiral notebook. A client of mine uses a computer spreadsheet. Another uses her PDA. Figure out what will work best for you.) Don't sort it out by categories like "home," "family," "work," "school," etc. Just let it be jumbled together. And don't include appointments over which you have little or no control.
Here's an excerpt from my list (The real list is much, much longer): - put snow tires on - send gift list to parents - send gift list to brother - finish Change One Habit e-book - plan March trip - develop future teleclasses - clean out linen closet - balance business check book - bring in furniture from balcony - find out when family is coming for holidays (call Mom) - replace buttons on black shirt - bug brother about gift lists for kids (call) - buy holiday cards - re-write website copy - develop product survey - write copy for new, First Muse Bank website - write family holiday newsletter - defrost freezer - paint laundry room - write 4 D's essay
There are a couple of advantages to having everything written down. First, it relieves you of that nagging feeling that you are going to forget something important. Then sheer physical presence of that list (and its length) will remind you to stop and think before you take something else on. Do you really have time and energy to handle another project right now? Your list is a great reality check. Finally, you will experience sheer joy when you can actually cross something off that list. (Which is why I like to write it down in a notebook; then I get satisfaction of crossing it off. Just deleting it off a spreadsheet doesn't quite do it for me).
When you've finished list and shaken writer's cramp out of your hand (chocolate may help), you're ready to start cutting it down to size. That's challenging part. To make it easier, apply first Four D's: DELAY, DELEGATE, DO LESS, DELETE. Here's how.
For each item on your list, decide if you can:
- put it off until after holidays (or longer) (DELAY), - have someone else do it or hire it out (DELEGATE), - make task shorter or easier, or combine it with another task (DO LESS), - strike it from your list completely (DELETE). Your goal is to cut your list in half - at least.
To help you decide which D to apply, here are a few questions:
DELAYING. Ask yourself: - Does this really have to be done now? - Is this my deadline, or somebody else's? - What would it cost me if I put this off for a week, a month, six months, or a year? Can I live with that?
If you decide that you can delay that task, write a date beside it so you'll be sure to get back to it then.