Does your mind ever race through the things you have to do for the day before you even get out of bed? And is the list so long and wide that you feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by it? Where to even start?! This was what happened to me this morning. Luckily, I’m getting better at handling this. Practice does make “perfect” – but in truth I am content with the word “better.”
I once heard a story: “You walk into your office and notice that since you left the window open, the wind had blown the papers on your desk everywhere. And as you speak, more paper is being blown into the air. What are you going to do? You can feel frustrated, and sit down and cry. Or you can close the window, and begin picking up the paper, one piece at a time.”
This simple story comes back to me every time I feel overwhelmed. I realize that this feeling is a result of my own mental cluster (remember, I have not even started my day yet). So first things first: I need to clear my mental closet and get organized (to “close the window”). I take a short break and write down the list of things that need my attention today – while sipping a cup of my favorite Spanish latte. And I feel better, immediately.
Then I need to allocate time to work on the things on my list. Time cannot be managed, but it can be scheduled. Some people believe in prioritizing tasks based on their matter of importance – tackle the most important things first. Good advice. But I find that sometimes it makes sense to prioritize by the amount of time the task will take. Many times I tackle first things that take a small amount of time, say a few minutes. It helps me build momentum and prepare me to deal with the more time-consuming tasks. And sometimes I just go with my heart, and do the things that I feel most compelled to do.
There are no rules, really. It depends. But the principle is the same – clear the mental clusters, put them down on paper, and schedule time to address them, one at a time. We may not have a say on what will happen in our day, but we do have a choice on how we respond to it.
So what is your day going to be like?