What’s the first thing you think when your alarm goes off in the morning?
If it starts with “f” and rhymes with stuck, you probably need to learn how to say no. And I’m not talking about turning down party invites, favours to family members and added responsibilities at work.
Nope. Because if you’re anything like me (and almost everyone I know) the most demanding person in your life is… wait for it…
You want great things for yourself, right? And the only way you’re going to get them is if you work your butt off. You want to do things on your terms, you want to live your own adventure, you want your house to be clean, you want financial security, you want a healthy body, you want friends and love… hell, you want it all.
That’s great! I do too.
But wanting and striving for everything all at once might be the reason you’re still struggling to achieve anything. There are limits to what you can do.
Lately, I’ve been hitting those limits pretty hard. These days I write at least two posts or articles a day for my writing clients, help Stephen out with his yoga business, and have a never-ending always-expanding to-do list on My Five Acres. Things like research, writing, social media, photography, replying to emails, technical updates and writing for other sites to build our traffic.
And that’s just work. I also babysit my nieces every day after school. Stephen and I cook a healthy meal every night and clean the kitchen. I want to do yoga daily and try to actually leave the house every day. My bike needs cleaning and the floor needs sweeping and the grocery store is calling and and and…
Will it surprise you if I tell you I’m not knocking the ball out of the park on any single aspect of my life?
I do my best to over-deliver to my current clients, but my client list isn’t growing. I love what we do on My Five Acres, but our goals still seem far out of reach.
Argggh. There’s never enough time or energy.
These self-imposed responsibilities build up in our minds, creating a kind of “busy buzz” that overwhelms our time and stresses us out, even if we never actually accomplish any of our tasks.
Lots of people will tell you to get up earlier or give up fun things in your life, like TV. But those are only short-term solutions. The only real solution – if you want to stay sane and avoid collapsing from overwork and stress – is to learn how to say no – to yourself.
Here’s a five-minute exercise that has been helping me cut through the noise and get shit done.
It’s a great way to learn how to say no to yourself and rock out your to-do lists.
Step 1: Write everything down
Get a pen and some paper. I mean it. Don’t do this on your computer. For some reason, paper and a pen just work better for brain dumps.
Take 30 seconds to write down every single thing you can think of that you have to do, want to do, and have been putting off. Include every aspect of your life: work, chores, fun, health, financial, relationships. Get it all out there.
Let’s play the Jeopardy think music while you write. Da daa da da, da da da, da daa da da, duh! Da-da da-da da…
Here’s what my list for today looked like:
Unless today lasts for about 376 hours, there’s no way I’m getting all of that done! Which brings us to step 2.
Step 2: Slash and burn (burning optional)
Now, we’re going to be uber-radical. We’re going to cross things off our list without actually doing them!
Talk about adventure!
Read through the list and cross off everything that’s not urgent and won’t get you any closer to your goals today. Keep going back through the list until you only have three or four items left. Be ruthless. An overlong list is a ticket to heart-attack town.
Once you’ve crossed off the non-essentials, everything left over is today’s to-do list.
Put the items in order from most important to least important and write the new list on a clean sheet of paper or stick them in your digital list-making tool (I adore Workflowy).
This is what you’re going to get done today. Start now with the most important thing and when it’s complete, cross it off. Don’t allow your busy little mind to get sidetracked by anything else all day. Remember, you already crossed off those inessential tasks, so don’t let them derail your day.
Step 3: Create tomorrow’s list
Throughout the day, new list items will pop into your head. Resist the urge to add them to today’s list. Instead, pop them into a list marked “tomorrow”. First thing tomorrow, use this as the basis for your new list. Repeat all the steps every day to have your most productive week in ages.
But Jane, you’re asking (whining really, but we won’t dwell on that) what about all the demands on my time from other people?!?
That, dear reader, is a subject for another blog post.
♥ (Tough) Love, Stephen & Jane