Is your desk, and your mind, filled with endless to-do lists? Are you in charge of your schedule, or is your schedule in charge of you? It's time to organize your tasks and schedule, so you can reduce the stress in your life. Read this article to learn the system that works for me.
There I sat. It was a beautiful day in Southern California. I sat sipping my tea and enjoying the beautiful view from my office window. Then, reality set in and spoiled my perfectly wonderful morning. My eyes slowly became focused on my desk. Rather, my eyes focused on the several inches of paper that covered most of my desktop. I had finished my latest project the day before and realized that I wasn’t exactly sure what to do next. All those pieces of paper referred to different things that needed my attention. Then, I began to think about everything I had to do that wasn’t even listed on one of those pieces of paper. I began to feel a bit overwhelmed. Then, I began to feel a bit depressed. How in the world would I get all these things done? Then, a little voice in my head said, “What is my calendar doing on my desk!” Then, I began to think of how much of my calendar I was carrying around in my head as well.
When you begin to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or a bit hopeless, it is time to examine whether or not your expectations for yourself, or commitments you have made to others, has created an untenable situation. You will no doubt have projects or a “to-do” list connected with home, work, and elsewhere in your life. But what is the order of each list, and how do you meld all the lists together? Then, how do you add your schedule onto the top of the list you have created. If you have not appropriately prioritized all of these different lists, you may become like a sailboat that has gone off course, turned into the wind, and is sitting dead in the water with its sails unable to take advantage of the prevailing winds. When you add your day-to-day schedule on top of these lists, the mounting pressure to complete all of the items on all of your lists will form a wall that will cause you to lose your flow, your momentum, and your motivation! Moving through life without a clearly defined path will cause you to forget things that you should do and decide not to do things that could result in greater success. When you find yourself floating still in the water, it’s time to take a look at your tasks and your schedule, and plot a course of just how to proceed.
To begin this exercise, redefine your lists as goals that need to be added to your calendar. This list of goals is not same as the goals that you set for yourself in life. It is not the New Year’s resolutions that you decide upon during the last week of each year. It is the list of what needs to get done within the next 7 to 14 days. These are the deadlines that generally create stress in your life. What is crazy making about the list is it is never ending and constantly needs to be reshuffled. It is not as if your list of obligations and responsibilities ends as the work week draws to a close at 5:00 p.m. on Friday. What happens then is that the target shifts to tasks that must be done at home. Then there are those commitments resulting from charities, volunteer opportunities, or special interest participation. When Monday morning rolls around, the list from work clicks back on in your head. Throughout the day your focus may be drawn away to the awaiting list of family obligations or other must-do tasks around the home. The result from the lists that develop from all of these sources may seem like a free floating band of rings circling your head. I particularly find this to be the case when I begin to consider the deadlines imposed on me because of the schedules of other members of my family. A goal calendar is different from a traditional calendar because it it is a detailed list everything in that you are responsible for in your life. Most people have a calendar on their computer, phone, or wall of their office, but those calendars generally focus on appointments or significant project deadlines. A goal calendar is an exercise in understanding, and coming to grips with, the expectations and obligations of your life.
If you are starting your goal calendar from scratch, create a spreadsheet on your computer. Each column will focus on a different area in your life. Each column should have a very specific focus. Do not have one column for home and another for work. If “home” is one column, you will likely leave out responsibilities connected with your relationship, your children, pets that require interaction, immediate repairs or tasks, routine errands, or a host of other aspects of your day-to-day life. In particular, don’t forget about taking care of yourself. I consider exercise to be a necessary part of my daily routine, and I build it into my goal calendar. Now, add in columns associated with work, volunteer, and community related responsibilities. When you finish, you should not be able to think of anything that you need to do within the next 7 to 14 days that is not on that list. When I engage in this exercise all of those sticky notes that I have posted around my desk magically disappear. There may be many columns on your spreadsheet, but chronicling everything that you expect yourself to complete may help you understand why you are feeling overwhelmed.
The next step is to prioritize each column. This is the point at which you may begin to remove things from each list because you choose to postpone the deadline. You may also decide that some of the tasks are unnecessary, or there are so many things to do that you may need to adjust your commitments and expectations. Yes, that means occasionally telling other people that you just cannot do everything for everyone. Tasks or responsibilities may be given priority in each column because of their importance, but most often deadlines may be associated with each task or responsibility.
After you have adjusted the contents of each column, create a second page on the spreadsheet. Create columns for each day for the next 14 days, and then begin to copy items into the appropriate column. After you are finished, take a look at the list. Are you still feeling overwhelmed? It is time to start hitting the delete key once again. When you have completed this exercise, you should have a priority list for each day over the course of the next two weeks. Now it is time to incorporate your schedule into this list. Begin adding items day-by-day into your existing calendar. Wow! You may be feeling overwhelmed all over again. This is the time to once again consider deleting or postponing items from your list. If you cannot reasonably expect to complete your list of priorities when you add them to your daily schedule, then you care over committed, and need to think about simplifying your life. Of course, you will continually be tinkering with this list. Deleting items that you had the opportunity to complete early. Adding items that arise with an immediate deadline. Finally, add in all of those items onto your calendar that you postponed for more than 14 days. Once your calendar is complete, color code it relative to the area of your life that creates each item on the calendar. In my own calendar, one color focuses on activities associated with my children. Another denotes my husband’s travel schedule which causes me to adjust my priorities on those particular days. A third color focuses on writing deadlines. A fourth focuses on routine work obligations that I complete each week. The list of colors is quite extensive. It is a colorful calendar to be sure, but I can get a glimpse of my day just by looking at the colors on the screen.
Eventually this exercise will become part of your routine. While the exercise itself may initially seem overwhelming, organizing your life to this degree will minimize stress. It may also motivate you to turn away from aspects of your life that consume copious amounts of your time, while giving you little satisfaction in return.
Well, there you have it. This article was written to be short and to the point. Put the wind back in your sails. Get your calendar off your desk. Then, clear it out of your head as well. Become inspired to take charge of your schedule. You have no time to waste because you will never have another chance to rewind today and start all over. So, get going!
Copyright © 2011 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D. All rights reserved.This article (including the copyright notice) may be reprinted with the following the following attachment:Bingo Games, Motivational Material and More at www.UnCommonCourtesy.com!More than 200 holiday, religious, educational, and diversity bingo games and concentration sets available . Bingo games for adults and children to play at home, school, church, corporate meetings, and just about anywhere you can imagine. Games made to order for every occasion. Motivational articles and personal growth exercises too! Join Susan Rempel, Ph.D.’s blog: Seek THE Positive.
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© 2011 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D. All rights reserved.