Recently I was listing out all the writing tasks I needed to be working on right then. There were nine.
Nine tasks. Some were difficult and long, some were urgent and small, and some I just didn’t want to do at all. Now, you are probably fantastic at juggling your many tasks and deciding which to do first, which to put off, how much time to spend, etc. But not me. I sat and stared at the list and fluttered my hands and started freaking out. Egad! I was never going to get any of them done.
But after about ten minutes of freaking out, I finally chose one and started working on it. In the most inefficient manner possible. This was a task that should have taken three minutes to plan and fifteen minutes to complete. Twenty minutes later, I was still “planning.” Fortunately, my hubby got home just then. Saved! He would rescue me and help me focus. He’s very good at that. I organize the paperwork in our marriage, and he organizes the mental energies.
“Help me!” I pleaded. “I’m being a total spaz.” I explained my problem and told him my list of tasks. Three minutes later I had a prioritized list of what to do and where to start. Oh, also, something he said made me think of the perfect plan for the task I’d been “working” on. Magic. He’s like my muse.
Sadly, I don’t always have him around—since, you know, I like having a roof over my head and money to buy food. So I’ve grown to realize that I really need to get a grip on how I deal with tasks when I have too many of them (or tasks that I’m avoiding because they’re hard).
How do you do it? I asked him. Apparently he has two guiding principles:
1. Do the most important things first.
2. Start now.
And you really only have about three minutes to decide which are the “most important things.” Because after that, step 2 starts to apply. Even if you prioritized wrong, it’s better to do that and then start on things rather than spend all your time prioritizing.
I like the simplicity of this approach. It appeals to the logical, ordered part of me (I really do have one). I think I would add a step 3 too, though: Stop when it’s good enough, then move on. Because I sometimes spend waaaay too long trying to figure out “perfect” when “good enough” is actually a better choice at the time. Sure, a manuscript you’re sending off should be the very best it can be, but maybe the email you’re sending to your child’s teacher doesn’t need that fourth draft. Just a thought.
So those are the steps my husband and I suggest for overcoming hand-flapping, hyperventilating, and overall crazy-making indecision. What works for you?
* Today’s post is brought to you by last week’s snow day. Win!