If you spend your life feeling overwhelmed, in the midst of chaos, or just too busy, do you assume other people have it all together and can accomplish more than you with less stress? Or do you believe that the manner in which you do things is the only way you can get things done? I can show you another way. First, say ‘hello’ to a self-confessed undisciplined time-waster.Don’t get me wrong-I have always gotten things done. I have clean closets and no junk drawers, I always arrived at work on time, cooked healthy meals and made sure my kids had clean clothes for school. I made lists of what needed to be done for my family and my job. I would plan a party or a holiday weeks in advance with a list for groceries, attendees, and a schedule of tasks. Lists made that part of life a snap!
However, when it came time to do something for myself, I was at a loss for where to begin. There was so much I wanted to accomplish, but I went at it haphazardly and accomplished very little. Then I would be left with the regret of feeling unfulfilled. It took growing into middle age to have the time to learn more about myself and to figure out how to solve this dilemma. I learned that I needed to develop better organizational skills and self-discipline in the “me” part of my life. Any activity that involved either of these skills made me procrastinate. As a writer, I had no problem dreaming up a biography for my characters. That required imagination…no problem. Plotting my story was another, um… story. To think it through and write it in outline form seemed too big, too time-consuming, too hard to accomplish.
Whatever causes you stress–job, family, personal time–the following steps can make a difference. As a writer, it’s especially important to learn to stay on task and organize your time well. That kind of discipline creates freedom. When you practice self-discipline, getting priority tasks out of the way first, you have guilt-free time to play, feel accomplished, be calm and experience fulfillment. Each completed task is a victory and piling up those small victories creates a stronger self-confidence which gives you a more naturally occurring courage to deal with the difficult tasks we encounter.
“The price of discipline is always less than the pain of regret.”
Begin by evaluating how you spend your time. Do you procrastinate on the less pleasant tasks? Feeling stressed because you can’t get everything done in the time that you have? Checking email constantly? Abandoning projects before they’re completed? Make note of which tasks eat up more time than they are worth.
Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Are you great at concepts, but not so great at following through on them? Maybe your strength lies in how well you care for home and family, but on your job lack of organization makes it harder to get work done. In both cases, the discipline you work to develop will drive you to keep working on a project long after the enthusiasm for it has faded.
Take one area of your life and create a list of goals. In my case, as a writer, my primary goal is to write a book that is highly readable and to enjoy writing it. Secondly to publish that book and the third goal would be to earn a living writing and selling books. I have many goals beyond those for different pockets of my life and relationships, but you get the idea.
Now that you are more aware of where you stand in the world of discipline and organization, strengths and weaknesses, how do you proceed? Try the ideas outlined here:
* Make a list. No matter whether you’re writing a book, building a shed, getting in shape or designing a garden, a list of tasks to complete will move you forward toward your goal. Prioritize the items on your list putting the most difficult or unpleasant to complete at the top of your list. Once those are out of the way, the rest are easier .
* Break down big goals into manageable tasks. If your goal is to write a chapter each week, break that down into a reasonable word count per day. If your goal is to lose 50 pounds, decide how much you need to lose each week to get there.
* Make a schedule for completing your project and reaching your ultimate goal. Also set a specific time daily to work on the project. As a writer, I spend half an hour dealing with emails, write and research for my blog and my social media sites from 2pm-5pm; write and research for my books from 7pm-10pm; read from 10pm-11:30pm. Mornings and mealtimes are for household tasks, exercise and spending time with my husband. I also have a ‘bigger picture’ schedule for finishing my book and preparing it for publication.
* Say “No” to distractions and non-essential tasks or interruptions. When I’m working in my home office, my door is closed and the radio, TV and phone are off. I don’t check email constantly. I don’t act on a sudden realization that I forgot to get the laundry out of the dryer. Delegate when possible. If my husband has an errand to run, I may ask him to run mine as well.
* Once you have your goals defined, make a commitment to follow through on a plan to accomplish them. Track your commitments. Use healthy self-talk to remind yourself of your goals. Get support from a family member or a friend to stay on task. Decide what behaviors reflect your goals. “What gets measured is improved.”
I love hearing from you. Tell me how you handle your time and tasks.