You know, I used to think (and I believe many people are very much like me in this regard) that once I became “successful” I wouldn’t have as much to do; that everything would be under control and I’d be able to sit back and “enjoy the ride”.
Well, boy was I wrong, that’s just NOT the way it works. In fact, the exact opposite is true – the more successful we become, the LONGER our “to-do” lists become. We just get better at managing all those activities that are vying for our time and attention.
I have some questions for you today.
First, are you good at multitasking?
MOST people believe they are very good at multitasking, yet multitasking is not actually possible. As human beings we are not capable of simultaneously performing multiple activities that require conscious thought. Our brain just can’t take in and process two simultaneous, separate streams of information and encode them fully into short-term memory. And if something doesn’t make it to short-term memory, then it can’t be transferred later into long-term memory for recall.
And if you can’t recall it, then you can’t use it!
And, even more shocking is the fact that multitasking actually causes a 40% drop in productivity! 40%!!!!
Also, did you know that just carrying around a bunch of mental clutter in your mind is just as bad as conventional multi-tasking? It’s true! And we all have a whole bunch of mental clutter, right?
Think about that mental to-do list that you carry around with you everywhere you go – the kids’ activities, the doctor appointments that need to be made, the follow up calls that you have to make, the meeting tomorrow morning, the lunch date with your best friend, and so on. It’s all mental clutter and it’s competing for brain power with whatever it is you are trying to work on right now.
Even if you decided to focus on one task at a time from here on out, you would still be multitasking because you would be mentally juggling so many other things.
So, it’s time for a brain dump. It’s time to get your mind clear of all those extraneous (and yet important) distractions so that you really CAN focus on just one thing at a time.
Get a notebook and start writing down a list of all the things you are carrying around in your head. Be sure to gather up all the lists that are stuck to the refrigerator, the post-it notes that are stuck to your computer monitor, the myriad of paper scraps that are floating around with reminders on them, and write them all down on your own Master List.
As you go through the days and weeks to come, add to the list. If something pops in your mind that you “should” do, write it down. If you get a brilliant idea, write it down. If little Johnny comes home and tells you he needs a notebook for math class, write it down. Then, when you complete something, cross it off the list.
Each day, refer to your Master List to decide which things are most important to focus on. Since you will have everything that needs to be done in ONE place, it will be much easier to identify what the priorities are for the day.
And, most importantly, you will have peace of mind knowing that you have captured everything on your list and you won’t have to spend all of that anxious energy trying to remember everything or wondering what you’ve forgotten. You will be much better able to focus on the task at hand.
Now for my second question: How many times each day do you catch yourself saying, “I should __?”
Do you even know?
If you’re like most people, it probably happens several times each day – with or without your awareness.
Are there things you keep telling yourself you should do, but you just never seem to get around to them?
Just like our mental to-do lists, these “shoulds” take up a lot of mental real estate – space that could be used for other, more productive purposes. See, when we are thinking about things over and over again and trying to recall them, we ARE multi-tasking – just as surely as if we were watching television while simultaneously texting a friend, scrolling through Facebook, and writing a new keynote.
“Shoulds” are not things that necessarily NEED to be done. They are things that you would like to do or things that you feel obligated to do out of some sense of guilt.
Here’s an example from my own life: Back in 2014, as my business got busier and busier, I found that I was saying, “I SHOULD…” a lot! I SHOULD go practice karate… I SHOULD start yoga… I SHOULD learn to meditate… I SHOULD… I SHOULD… I SHOULD…
Then I heard one of my mentors, Vern Harnish, say the following: “Routine will set you free.”
And then it clicked.
I created a system that allowed me to turn my “SHOULDs” into “DIDs.” That’s an amazing feeling and now I’m going to share that system with you! I have taught this system to hundreds of people and it has helped so many of them to feel more in control of their lives. But, of course, there is a balance to be struck… we can’t focus on so many “shoulds” that we’re taking our attention off our main goal. This system allows you to routinize your most important “shoulds” within the constraints of your daily schedule.
Step 1: Carve out available blocks of time. Look at your daily schedule and find pockets of time that could be used to schedule in some of your “should” items.
Step 2: Make a list of your “shoulds.” Identify things that keep bothering you over and over again. Maybe you know you SHOULD start a strength training program… maybe you think you SHOULD start writing for an hour every day… or meditating… or blogging… or menu planning… or, or, or…
Step 3: Determine which “shoulds” are the highest priority.
Step 4: Determine the minimum amount of time you actually need to spend on your “Shoulds” to be effective.
Step 5: Schedule those “shoulds” into the blocks of time you created in Step 1. This takes some trial and error. You may find, like I did, that it is not feasible to spend all the time you WANT to each day on your “shoulds,” but some time is better than no time, so be happy with your progress. You may also find that some of your “have tos” are not quite as critical as you thought they were. You may also be able to scale back the time allotted to what’s NEEDED in order to free up more time for the “shoulds.” Who knows what you’ll discover. Have fun with it. Flex and flow and adjust, celebrating your progress as you go.
I have found (and so have so many of my clients) that having a Master List on which I can easily see all of my competing to do items and routinizing my “shoulds” is an unbeatable combination when it comes to moving my business AND my personal life forward in a way that is much less hectic and much more enjoyable. My mind is so much less cluttered with extraneous thoughts and I am a much more effective and productive person.
I hope this system helps you too!