You are going along with your tidy t0-do list decorated with empty check-boxes waiting to be marked.
And then, WHAM!
You get hijacked like the rhino in today’s picture and carried off to some unknown destination.
Hours go by and you are tossed to-and-fro by this new crisis and that new task.
Before you know it, the day is done and your eyes find that tidy to-do list. Still pristine as the moment you created it, unsullied by your hand. You glumly pick up your pen and add six new items to that list so you won’t forget to take care of everything tomorrow.
Ever had one of those days?
What about one of those weeks? or months?
What do you do about it?
Read more books about time management?
Swear off email for a day? [Note that I said “swear off” not “swear at.”)
Throw away your list and pretend it never existed?
Go on vacation and blame everything on “being away from my desk”?
Work on weekends or evenings when it is blissfully quiet?
Or do you get determined to get it all done if it kills you or those around you?
We all have our busy times. And we all manage the “stress” differently. I’m curious to hear from each one of you what you do when your best-laid plans for getting things done go awry.
Meanwhile. Try not to feel like the rhino in today’s photo….
It’s true; Everyone has those days. But whatever cannot be done today can certainly be done tomorrow. The urgent (mortgage payments, credit card payments) can do damage to your credit report if not paid in a timely manner, but the world will not collapse if you miss a payment. I learned my lesson when the World Trade Center was attacked. I made a foolish financial decision on that day. Looking at my bank account I saw that I had lots of money so I paid many bills in advance . . . and bounced 5 checks. Like bank accounts we only have a set portion of time. If we categorize only the few things of greatest importance as urgent actions that absolutely must be performed on a certain day, we have freedom to NOT stress about what doesn’t get done one day, because there’s always tomorrow. And if tomorrow isn’t granted to us, we won’t care about what we left undone. and neither will those who love us.
The only thing needed is to keep the list of truly urgent matters tiny. Everything else can wait. (And by the way, my credit rating is still in the 800’s).
At the very beginning of time, if you had a choice, smooth sailing or taking what life brings you I feel sure most people would pick take what life brings them.
Smooth sailing would be dull, there would be no measure of a sunny day if they were all the same.
Dealing is life. Conquering, accepting, moving around or through—it is what life is all about. Some days rougher than others but all important.
It is difficult to think this is a learning experience while in the middle of a mini crisis. But of course it is. It is also a chance to let all your experiences and values kick in. Usually the way out of a situation is already within you.
It makes you stronger. And stronger is always better.
Jacqueline GIllam Fairchild
Her Majesty’s English Tea Room
Author: The Tuck You Inn Series
Darlene L. Turner
Good question, Steve! Seems like that’s what my life has been all about this year. Days, weeks, and months like what you’re describing. There have been many times I’ve felt like that rhino. I’m just ending a week of vacation, so I know my work email is piling up. I don’t look forward to booting up my laptop tomorrow. So, how will I deal with all that work piling up? Well, after pulling my hair out (and a few cups of coffee!), I will deal with them one at a time. 🙂 I know…easier said than done. I just have to keep telling myself this.
However, I know the stress will pile up too, so to help relieve it, I will do what I love to do….write, tole paint, hot yoga, read, go for walks with my hubby, etc. Do things that make me happy. This will help me forget the stress…for a little while anyway!
Thanks for your post!! It’s very timely for me. God bless.
I can relate. I find it necessary to commit each day to the Lord and then trust that (as I use time effectively), He will enable me to complete the tasks that really need to be done. I literally pray, “God, take my to-do list and do with it whatever You want to align it with Yours.” At day’s end, I chose to believe that He answered. That sounds so simple, but it doesn’t go without feeling stressed sometimes.
With many demands on my time and energy, I’m constantly processing two thoughts:
* Live present in the moment. Easier said than done when the to-do list continues to grow.
* Live as a drawn person, not a driven person. That is–drawn to the Savior and then led by Him step by step rather than driven by what others say I must do. As an author, I find this one particularly challenging.
For me, I’ve learned to title my list “To Ask” instead of “To Do”. I’m always surprised at how quickly it whittles down when I pray and ask for guidance as to what the Lord thinks is important.
As well, those things that get moved to the bottom often take care of themselves before I get to them.
Works for me!
Usually when something comes up that distracts me from my “to do” list, I add it to tomorrows “to do” list. Unless it’s something important like trying to finish my first chapter and synopsis, so I can send it off to be critiqued before I move ahead with more writing. I have learned that I can’t do everything I want to do in one day. Spending time with my boys, whether it is taking the dogs for a four mile walk or going swimming at the local pool is more important than any “to do” list. I enjoyed your discussion Steve. It made me think.
I get presented with this issue every week – being hijacked by drama around me or my own lack of focus on the priorities. For the past few months I have started picturing where I want to be by Friday date night, and picturing as clearly as I can what is the single most important thing to have completed. This hasn’t perfectly solved the whirlwind of demands that occur in my office or at home, but it has streamlined my thinking. Maybe more importantly, picturing that one most significant thing for me to finish gives me an emotional grounding of peace that protects me from being drained dry by events. I have to practice cultivating that peace and focus though every day and be kind when I don’t quite make the goal.
I might have given you a different answer two weeks ago. Last week a lovely 27 year old wife and mother in our church died after battling cancer for eight months. Her husband is our youth minister and their son is ten months old.
I have another friend who went to her dermatologist to have a spot removed from her back. It got infected and now she’s been in the hospital ten days and continues to fight for her life against some unknown infection.
I’ve prayed so much the last week for these friends, and it puts other things into perspective.
God. Family. Friends.
There’s a couple of lines of dialogue from a very forgettable movie of the 80’s–so forgettable I’ve forgotten the title. Kirtsie Alley and Dan Laroquette played the leads.
Character One: “How do you handle stress?”
Character Two: “I find the source of the stress and break its kneecaps.”
How often that solution felt so good until I realized I was the primary source of my stress. Saying “Yes” to too many things. Giving up control of my time to other people or things. Thinking if I wanted it done right, I had to do it myself. Throw in being OCD which leads to procrastination.
What I’ve learned is to stop when stress becomes the rhino. Take a break–10 to 30 minutes and PRAY. Then re-assess and prioritize.
What are the A’s, the B, the C’s on the list. Do the A’s first. Do the B’s when the A’s are finished. Don’t fret the C’s–they’re the least important and probably don’t need doing. They’re also usually the easiest to do so we go for those first. Don’t. The A’s first. Get those done.
Look for what I can say “No” to, and what can I delegate.
Time can be managed with self-discipline and a plan. You might even save your kneecaps.
Janet Ann Collins
Thank you for this post, and thanks to all the people who have replied. It’s such a relief to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t get everything done! Yesterday I made a separate To Do list of things that must be done, but not on or by a certain date and wrote “Do one thing from list” on my usual daily To Do list. Previously I had all of them on the list for each day and that was discouraging because I could never get them all done in one day. I’ll have to wait and see if this helps.
Haha, yep, I’ve had those days, and weeks, I think I’ve even had a couple of those months. I determine to get it all done, even if it kills me, then I pray the Lord will help me. Somehow, it always pulls through. I’ve found that Jesus is an expert at everything, and He’ll fix a lot of my problems if I’ll only remember to ask.
Bringing HIStory to Life
At some point in my life, I began to visualize my to-do list as a page on a clipboard, even if it was just a torn scrap on the desk. When something important and unforeseen happened, another page curled down over the to-do list, covering it completely. This was now what had to be done. The rest had to wait. It’s still there. It will happen when the more urgent item is taken care of. At the same time, if it’s someone else’s demand which is not as important as my plans, it may simply be added to the bottom of the existing list.
I get so much satisfaction from checking off an item that I sometimes list jobs I just completed and check them off. (tee-hee)
Have I had one of those days? Every day for the last 18 months, pretty much. I could be in a commercial: This is Sally’s life. This is Sally’s life on agenting.
Yeah. Agenting, the new mind-bending drug that leaves you sitting in diapers in the corner, drooling.
🙂 I love this job. Love, love, love it. But getting through my “to do” list feels like a fantasy. A fantasy/thriller/horror novel. 🙂
Sandy Faye Mauck
To do lists are like New Year’s Resolutions—hopeful but ridiculous for me. Man plans his course but God orders his steps.
Not all men and women are the same but I call my husband a plow horse. He gets his blinders on and plows through the day. He makes his list and carries things over.
But being a mom teaches us to see the peripheral. You have no choice. The baby has a marble in his hand, the siblings are rivaling. You constantly have to stop your course.
Even in retirement things don’t change. That is why I start my day with the Lord. What He says to do- I try to do. What I think needs doing, can wait.
I am learning to keep my lists little and my directions in His hand and don’t stress about what I cannot accomplish. He has it all figured out.
I used to take on so much either from others or from my own preconceived notions of what needed done that I became a person not nice to live with. So when we moved across the country 18 years ago I made the commitment to take on one thing at a time and gradually increase that as long as I felt like I was living like a Christian in front of my kids on a daily basis. If not, then, what was the good of all my accomplishments? I do what is really needed and if life interrupts my progress then the list can wait until tomorrow. “And today I’ll walk beside Him, for He know what is ahead.” (From the song “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.”
When life feels chaotic, I need to ground myself and remember what really matters most. Lately the best way to do that has been listening to Fernando Ortega on Pandora and spending time in worship. Ten minutes of worship provides a day full of perspective.
Nancy B. Kennedy
Long Breaks = kryptonite achilles heel termite ridden ankle breaking weakening things. Don’t let long breaks destroy you! — Nathan Bransford
For my day there is nothing more important than morning prayers and devotion, they take precedence over EVERYTHING else, NO EXCEPTIONS! Once devoutly performed I then assess the days activities. I prioritize (by importance) and then categorize each prioritized item by mode of execution (two categories only, things I must do myself and things that can be handled “executively” with the cooperation of others).
This method quickly ascertains my “orders of the day”. I will ask for help, assign or hire out all “executive” actions and get them underway. I then turn to the remaining items that are designated “self” and begin knocking them out. I usually place a “treat” or “reward” mechanism as the last item on the list. This is my own personal self discipline in action.
The “treat” of “reward” is usually something very simple but enjoyable. I won’t allow myself this pleasurable experience until I have “earned” it through accomplishment of the list (for example, visiting the Steve Laube blog to see what is happening today or going to YouTube or social media or even having an ice cream cone). Hence, my posts to the blog are usually late in the day.
Some folks may think this harsh or silly but it works well for me. It’s from the “old school” way of thinking (duty first) that you meet your responsibilities before you indulge yourself.
Ezra 10:4 Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.”
I feel I am never alone, in anything I do, day or night, the Lord is with me and I with Him, forever. God Bless!
Hmmmm, what do I do when I have one of “those” days? I keep pressing on. This summer has wreaked havoc on all my grand writing plans. Real life trumps writing life. Every time. As it should. So, as far as this goes, I’m re-adjusting my personal deadlines and working hard toward them.
As far as those other to-do’s? I do a mixture of everything you mentioned above. I stay up late when there’s a time limit on something on the list. I do what I need to in order to accomplish those things.
Other times, I add the undone items to my list for tomorrow, prioritize and then do as much as I can the next day.
Sometimes, if something sits on my to-do list long enough, I realize it wasn’t all that important and scratch it off. 🙂
But, Jackie brings up an important point. Life is unpredictable. I need to flex with the unexpected and keep priorities straight: God, family, friends.
First, awesome blog. I’ve been reading for a while now, and always find something inspiring. Love the Fun Fridays.
I agree with everyone that prayer and prioritizing are important, but sometimes we have weak moments and it doesn’t always relieve the stress. It’s great advice, but often hard to put into practice.
I’m a high school science teacher, and like many other commenters, what you’ve described is pretty much the status quo for my life. The irony of teaching is that you are required to spend massive quantities of time planning, then nothing ever goes as planned because of outside circumstance. It can be an endless frustration.
I manage by using something my colleagues and I call chunking. We start each week with a piece of paper and draw lines dividing it into eight sections. Each section is a list category, where items are added based on similarities that will allow us to do them more efficiently. For example, two items that need to be completed in the guidance office should be done at the same time, so they go in the same section. Phone calls generally have their own section. I find it’s more efficient to make several at a time rather than fitting them in where I can.
The nice thing about chunking is the satisfaction of completing the smaller lists. Even if the rhino obliterates two-thirds of the page, I still feel like I’ve accomplished something. Small victories make all the difference in managing stress.
Thanks for sharing. I hope you have a better, less stressful week.
In my experience, most every day is “one of those days.” I think this is just one of the realities of being a knowledge worker. Each of us has countless connections and commitments vectored through us, very few of which can be consciously thought about in any given moment. So when the load is light, we have the illusion of “being on top of our schedule.”
But quite often, more of those connections and commitments make a demand on our time than we are able to process. Then we feel overwhelmed—and a lot of us feel guilty, as if we should have done better planning, should have not committed to so many things, shouldn’t be so busy, etc.
For me, the most unhurried person who ever lived was also one of the busiest and most productive, and that was Jesus. I never hear about Him saying, “I have too much to do.” He apparently said “no” to a lot of requests for his help—no doubt disappointing many (e.g. Martha). On the other hand, sometimes he worked Himself into exhaustion. But then amazingly, He also took to the hills and, as we would put it today, “went off the grid.”
That latter practice apparently so centered His person and focused His thinking that whenever He came back “on,” He got more accomplished than anyone else ever has.
To me that’s the real issue: not am I getting everything done, but am I doing what I’m called to do? Do I even know what I’m called to do? Or do I just let other people’s demands end up being my “calling”?