Next: Focus on One Thing
With a lot on your plate, it’s hard to pick one thing to focus on. But that’s exactly what I’m going to ask you to do.
Pick one thing, and give it your focus. Yes, there are a lot of other things you can focus on. Yes, they’re stressing you out and making it hard to focus. But think about it this way: if you allow it all to be in your head all the time, it will always be your mode of being. You’ll always be thinking about everything, stressing out about it all, with a frazzled mind – and it’s not going to help your time management efforts – unless you start shifting.
- Pick something to focus on. Look at the triaged list from the first section; if you have 5-6 things on this Short List, you can assess whether there’s any super urgent, time-sensitive things you need to take care of. If there are, pick one of them. Otherwise, pick the most important one – probably the one you have been putting off doing.
- Clear everything else away. Just for a little bit. Close all browser tabs, turn off notifications, close open applications, and put your phone away.
- Put that one task before you, and allow yourself to be with it completely. Pour yourself into it. Think of it as a practice, of letting go (of everything else), of focus, of radical simplicity.
After finishing the task (or after 15-20 minutes have gone by at least), you can switch to something else. But don’t allow yourself to switch until then.
By closing off all exits, by choosing one thing, by giving yourself completely to that thing, you’re now in a different mode that isn’t so stressful or spread thin. You’ve started a shift that will lead to focus and sanity.
Third: Schedule Time to Simplify
Remember the To Not Do list above? Schedule some time this week to start reducing your projects, saying no to people, getting out of commitments, and crossing stuff off your task list so that you can have some sanity back.
There are lots of little things that you’ve said “yes” to that you probably shouldn’t have. That’s why you’re overloaded. For better time management, protect your more important work, your time off, and your peace of mind by saying “no” to things that aren’t as important.
Schedule the time to simplify – you don’t have to do it today, but sometime soon – and you can then not have to worry about the things on your To Not Do list until then.
Fourth: Practice Mindful Focus
Go through the rest of the day with an attitude of “mindful focus.” That means that you are doing one thing at a time, being as present as you can, switching as little as you can.
Think of it as a settling of the mind. A new mode of being. A mindfulness practice (which means you won’t be perfect at it).
As you practice mindful focus, you’ll learn to practice doing things with an open heart, with curiosity and gratitude, and even joy. Try these one at a time as you get to do each task on your Short List.
You’ll find a less overloaded to-do list, and that each task is just perfect for that moment. And that’s a completely new relationship with the work that you do, and a new relationship with life.