I normally consider myself a go-getter. I like to stay busy both in my personal and professional life, accomplishing as many goals and getting as much done as I can. But certain tasks – whether it be outside my comfort zone, time consuming, or just plain boring will go to the back of my list, rarely to be addressed. I work most effectively with a deadline but without, it tends to go to the back of the list. Jeph Maystruck read Parkinson’s Law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for completion”, at our annual retreat this summer as my to-do list started piling up, so it hit home at the time. There were many things that I had been putting off that ran through my head, all of which had loose deadlines. I needed to adjust my way of thinking about these tasks instead of procrastinating as they were starting to build up and so was the overwhelming feeling that came along with it. I knew I had to find a way to take the first step, even though I wasn’t sure what that step was, nor did I really feel like it.
So I decided to brush up on my time management skills by reading books, watching TED talks, and listening to various speakers. All of which had useful information on time management and productivity. But I quickly realized it wasn’t my time management skills that needed improvement, it’s that I was only focused on one thing – crossing the task off my to-do list. Sure there are certain times in the day where I’m most productive, having my phone on silent helps me avoid distractions (let’s be honest my phone is permanently on silent), and taking small breaks helps improve productivity, but being productive is only so useful if there’s no purpose.
When I get really busy life tends to turn into more of a task list and my main focus is generally moving from one task to the next. But when I take a step back and think about it, what’s the point if I’m not enjoying the process? Sometimes, when our task list piles up it’s hard to see the big picture around the why, instead we’re focused on deadlines and stressing until all the tasks are complete. It’s important that when I feel overwhelmed with all my ‘to do’s’ that I take a step back and ask myself ‘does this work contribute to my end goal?’, ‘will I be closer to accomplishing my goals after I complete this task list?’ and, ‘do these tasks align to my core values?’. Once I take the time to ask myself these things I feel less stressed and it becomes clearer to me which items on my list are important. I think we all fall victim to saying yes more than we should, we all inherently want to do our best and the most we can to help others. However, sometimes this comes at the cost of burning ourselves out. This past summer I committed to running my first half marathon. Initially I thought my biggest challenge would be the physical aspects of training. To my surprise it was prioritization – I no longer had time to do it all, which took a big toll on me. It takes some work, but once you are clear on your personal core values, you can let this guide your decision-making process. This helps me to determine if the things I say yes to really align with where I want to be and if they are in alignment with my values. How do you let your values guide your actions?