Break it down. Make it simple. Feel satisfied.
People often ask me how I manage to be so productive whilst maintaining a lifestyle that is enjoyable and stress free. I live in Thailand (yes by the beach) and am an author. Beautiful no doubt, but this doesn’t exactly pay for all of my lifestyle choices. So, I freelance as a writer of websites, a copy editor of books and blogs, I am a counsellor, writing mentor, writing therapist and workshop facilitator.
I have to travel to various locations to do re-cons for new websites and run my workshops in different places (including different islands). All of this means I have to juggle schedules, management, students, clients, travel and those who work on ‘Thai time’ (a bit like the Spanish ‘mañana, mañana’).
I just published a book. I also need to give a progress report on my next book in about six weeks. I have A LOT to do. That is just the basics. Every day there are follow up emails, Facebook and other social media around my published book that seem never ending. Yes there are days I wish I had a P.A.
I also want to maintain my lifestyle. I am trying out Tai Chi for the first time and have a two-hour class three times this week to fit in. I have a session this week on women’s sexual health and vitality (why not!) and I have a friend coming to visit with her daughter. Reading the above three paragraphs could definitely stress me out if I let it. I don’t.
I am organised. This keeps all stress at bay. Many people think that getting or being organised is time consuming and can be stressful alone. It doesn’t need to be at all. So here is how I do it. You can too!
Let’s start with a quick list of what you need.
They are all very cheap and easy things to have:
- A clean and empty desk/working space
- A lined note book
- Another note book – your ideas book
- A diary/calendar
- A small fit-in-your-daily-bag note pad (or phone with notes)
- That’s it. Let me explain.
I hope the clean desk is obvious. Messy desk, messy mind. Simple. The lined note bookis your daily ‘to do’ list. Depending on how busy you are, you can do this daily, every few days or each week. I do it daily. Every morning (or the night before) I write down what I need to do. This de-clutters my headspace and clears the mind of trying to remember everything.
If this is your first time then write down everything that needs to be done this week. Now on a separate page, write down what needs to be done today only. If your weekly list is long or busy, you will feel stressed out. Be realistic about what truly needs to be done today. Make the list doable! Simple tasks.
For example I would not put on my list ‘social media’ because that is stressful and could take all week (or year!). I would break it down to ‘link my amazon page to my LinkedIn page,’ ‘put photos from the book launch on my Facebook page,’ ‘send newsletter’ etc. Get the picture? They are doable and guaranteed to be ticked off that day and provide a great level of satisfaction. One small task at a time and my ‘social media’ will get done – without stress!
Don’t Forget To Tick
Each time you have finished a task, tick it off your list. Revel in the absolute satisfaction of penning that tick. Ooh it feels so good. It also stimulates you to tend to the next task.
What About You?
Do I need to remind you to put something for you on your ‘to do’ list? Do you put tasks first and you last? If your answer is yes then make sure you put ‘go for a walk’, ‘have a coffee with a friend,’ ‘meditate’, whatever it is, on your list. Factor it in to your day. It should be in your diary AND your ‘to do’ list. There are 24 hours in a day – gift yourself some of those moments. Don’t let life pass by knowing you attended all your tasks but had no ‘you time.’
The other note book is more of an ideas book. This is for bigger projects or something you want to get around to, but just not this week (or month). For example, my next book started in my ideas book and wasn’t brought over to my daily ‘to do’ list until my social media felt under control. When it was brought over I again brought it in small tasks, ie: ‘research a specific topic’, ‘send one email’ etc. It still remains in my ideas book with scribbled notes and thoughts all over. This is the space to be messy if you need to. Ideas in your ideas book can be big but once they come over to your ‘to do’ list, they must be small, simple and achievable.
The diary/calendar is for deadlines and appointments. This serves as a reminder when writing your daily lists – check how much realistic time is available that day to tend to this list. It should be kept neat and organised so you can actually see at a glance what is there.
The small fit-in-your-bag note pad (mine is always a kitch cheap note pad) actually lives in your bag. That way you always have paper and pen if you have a thought or something you want to tend to later (yes phones do the same thing but I am old school). Don’t forget to transfer these to your ‘to do’ list if you need to.
Once you own all of these things (note books, diary etc), it is SIMPLE. Truly.
It will take you about 5 minutes a day to keep it clear and doable. Just 5 minutes. This morning I looked at my ‘to do’ list and it had gotten too big (and messy). It happens. It’s OK. I looked at my dairy to see what appointments I had today and how much time available. I opened a new page and wrote 12 things I wanted to do today. At least half will take me only a couple of minutes each (send a particular email for example). I feel completely confident that I can tick off my entire list today. No stress. Just sit at my clean desk with a cup of coffee, my ‘to do’ list and voi la.
Rules: Yes there are rules. Only one actually.
Turn your internet off whilst you are doing anything that doesn’t require it being on. It is amazing how much time we waste on Facebook, youtube or whatever your vices are. Open your email just to send an email. Open your Facebook only to post a message related to your ‘to do’ list. Then minimise it. Turn your sound OFF so you are not distracted by every ping. Or like I said, just close them.
You are organised, whipping through your ‘to do’ list and probably have time spare to do something you enjoy. So go and enjoy.
Happy stress-free day planning. I am off to Tai Chi.
Romi Grossberg is the author of ‘The 5-Minute Guide to Emotional Intelligence’. She also has a newly set up support group on Facebook (with the book title name) for those going through the book – ticked off the list just yesterday. For more information, go to www.romigrossberg.com
Huffington Post, 2016