November 06, 2009

“I Don’t Know What I’m Going to Do Today”

In my last post, I suggested that when you get to the point of saying, “I finally got caught up!” you use the extra leverage of that situation to get caught up in other areas of your life. If you take that approach, you may soon get to the point where you wonder whether there is anything more for you to do — where you look at your schedule and say, “I don’t know what I’m going to do today.”

It is not that there is nothing to do, but the few things on your list look like they might take you only a few hours to complete. What do you do then?

First, I’ll tell you what not to do, because this is what I used to do. Do not take your two or three hours of work and try to stretch it out so that it fills the entire day. I used to do this all the time, and then I would look back a week later and find that most of those things still weren’t done.

This happens for at least three reasons. First, when you intentionally decide to slow yourself down to less than a comfortable working pace, you lose energy. You lose focus. It is hard to really accomplish anything. Second, some things turn out to be more complicated than they looked at first. Third, the world is always giving you more things to do. You never know when something might come along that requires an action on your part. Some days give you three or four days of things to do.

And today could be a day just like that, even if it starts out looking like your to-do list is getting frighteningly thin. The best approach, then, when you think you have only a few things to do, is to do all the things you know you need to do, and do them quickly. I’m not saying to rush, of course — I almost never recommend that — but set about the things you mean to do as if it is important to get them done soon.

If it is 8 a.m. and you have just three hours of things left to do, see if you can get them done by 11 a.m. After all, there is a good chance that by 11, you will have something else to do, something you don’t know about yet.

And if you get everything done? In modern life, that hardly ever happens, but if it does, it is still no cause for alarm. Here are some things you can do if it seems that there is nothing left of your to-do list:

  1. Relax. Take a deep breath. Look around you. Stretch.
  2. Double-check. Are the things you just completed really finished, or are there a few final touches you would want to add? Is there a follow-through action that would be helpful at this point? Or is there one more thing you meant to do that you forgot about along the way?
  3. Check your surroundings. Is everything clean, restocked, organized, ready for action?
  4. How are you doing? Are you personally in need of exercise, meditation, or some kind of activity that helps keep you going — perhaps something you might have neglected when things got busy?
  5. Check with the important people in your life. You appreciate it when they come to your assistance during your busy times. Is there something you can assist them with right now? And if not, is there something you could do right now if you had the right kind of help?
  6. Think ahead. What is your next deadline? What can you do now to prepare for it?
  7. Consider your priorities. What do you want your life to be? What more can you do now to turn your life into the kind of life you want to be living, or to change the world around you into the kind of world you want to be living in?

There is always more to do, and the moments after you finish your to-do list are often the times when you can make the biggest changes in your life, by doing some of the things you thought you’d never get to do. These are the moments when you are the most powerful, because you have the time to create something new and the time to do the things you really want to do.

No comments: