Today I woke up with a whirlwind in my mind. My wife has to go to the doctor. I didn’t get to spend much time with my son yesterday. I have two clients who need extensive work done today, with a dozen others waiting with questions. There’s a six pack of important business concerns to be dealt with. I got up late and don’t have adequate time to maintain this blog, do my regular hour of meditation, and exercise. I didn’t eat well, sleep well, or get a lot done yesterday that needed to get done. On and on.
On days like this, it’s easy to stall out in the face of so many things that are all seemingly critical – to become immobilized by uncertainty. Perhaps all the things I mentioned sound fairly trivial and life-as-usual to you, but I’ve become accustomed to my wife being well, spending abundant time with my son, happy clients, a smooth business environment, and a morning routine that starts my days off on the best possible foot.
What to do when every part of the ship is a little battered by a storm?
1. Prioritize First: Not Everything Needs Attention
Clearly, the most important thing is my wife getting to the doctor. No offense, clients and colleagues, but business is just a daily dedication I make so the ship continues to sail. No offense, myself, but all of that self improvement has limited usefulness. I’m getting set to fail on purpose again.
Secondly, the extensive work for clients needs to be made some progress on. I am behind in my projects, but so what? I’m going to address the pressing concerns and leave the rest of it alone for another day. I don’t have much time for work today, so there’s no sense in worrying about the questions, overall project progress, or internal concerns of the company. The stuff that I promised will get done needs to be completed if my first priority allows, and that’s all.
Priorities simplify down the things asking for attention to those things that you can actually get done. Prioritization is not just about gauging the relative importance of things, it’s about deciding what things are unworthy of attention. Out of simplicity comes focus.
2. Make a List: What’s The Battle Strategy?
Given what I’ve chosen for the day, I know which two clients will probably get real work in and I know that I’m leaving work early. In leaving early, I know that my wife is going to the doc and that I’ll be spending time with my son. The evening is unclear, it depends on how the day goes, so I’m not going to plan anything. I could plan to return to work, I could plan to come back and complete the stuff from my morning routine that’s not going to happen – but that would be just guessing, so even though I wrote them both down I’ll cross them off. Morning ritual, stability in business, and good customer service – all out the window for today, and I’ll try again tomorrow. I set my limits so that limits are not imposed on me.
Making a todo list shows you where you can combine your priorities to accomplish more simultaneously. Without priorities, though, it doesn’t do much good. In making your daily lists, don’t add in dream targets – just write down what must be done in the order it must be done in. If there’s more time at the end and you can go further, so be it. But don’t burden your days with expectations for things that aren’t core to them. Ambition serves to give you priorities but there’s no sense in having inferior goals weigh you down as you attend to the very business of life.
3. Write and Gain Perspective
To tame the whirlwind in my mind, I made a list and observed the whirlwind. I wrote about the whirlwind here, and now it’s outside of me. It’s here, sitting in this post for you to observe and hopefully to help you with your own whirlwinds. That’s one of the reasons I write, you see – to externalize the thoughts. Once you write them down, they’re outside of you and you can let them go. Meditation does the same thing, but in meditation you don’t necessarily manifest out into the world how it’s going to go down. In meditation, you dismiss those things you aren’t affirming.
If prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to God, then perhaps writing is talking to the world and meditation is listening to the world. Not to confuse prayer and writing, but I get a devotional sense when I write with honesty.
4. Center Yourself and Calm the Storm
With the whirlwind limited in priorities and todo lists, externalized so that it can be further trivialized as an object, I’ll go next for a quick mantra meditation. A short one, just 20 minutes. That’ll calm the last remnants of swirling concern and then I’ll be centered and relaxed.
I won’t bust out any of the guided meditations or meditation audio, just this excellent YouTube video.
5. Shoulder to the Wheel: Let’s Do It
From there? I’ve got my list of prioritized concerns, so I know exactly how I’m going to do this. I have a better perspective and will soon be more centered. I already have an overwhelming sense of positivity that I didn’t have thirty minutes ago.
The ultimate strategy of all remains alone: just get started. Shoulder to the wheel, full attention to the first thing on the list.
Let’s get it done. It’s going to be a good day.
Thanks for reading,
You may also enjoy:
- Simplifying life has nothing to do with all your stuff – blog.penelopetrunk.com
- The Limits of Self Improvement – programminglife.net
- How to Handle Life When Everyone Has an Opinion About What You’re Doing – huffingtonpost.com
- Energy, Time, Priority, Work/Life: 4 New Ways To Organize Your To-Do List – 99u.com
- Write Down Intentions When Starting a Task to Stay Focused – lifehacker.com
If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it. 🙂