Stop Doing That!

Everyone knows about to-do lists.  Some of you use them effectively, and others not so much, and some hate them and refuse to use them.  Being a competitive person, and always wanting to feel accomplished, I have even from time to time on days when the list wasn’t getting shorter write down something I already did just so I could check it off.

Recently I was having a conversation with some other leaders about creating margin** in life.  One of the ways I’ve tried to do this (not much success of late…but I’m working on it) is through an idea a friend shared a while back on his blog:  a “stop doing” list.  See here:

What if this evening at home, or tomorrow with your colleagues, you sat down and created a five item stop doing list? A list of five to-dos, whether related to work, people or other commitments or activities, you decide to stop pursuing. A few items on the list may take you time to work through, but you can develop a plan. To keep the habit up, every occasion you’re confronted with a new consequential to-do, reevaluate your stop doing list. Consider what you would throw out to make room for the new. If you wouldn’t cut anything, don’t accept anything. It’s an easy way to maintain balance and avoid feeling perpetually overwhelmed.

Source: The importance of a stop doing list | It’s Worth Noting

When talking about the stop doing list I always talk about urgency vs. importance.  We tend to (because of human nature, I’d guess) focus on the things we perceive as most urgent (need to be done soonest) rather than what’s most important.  Things that are urgent, but not very important, may not need to be done at all, and the time you spend on urgent, but unimportant tasks, steals from spending time on important, but not urgent tasks.

Candidates for the stop doing list?  Two main categories:  1) something that someone else can d0 (often not quite as well as you) that can be delegated and 2) things that if they’re not done at all won’t matter all that much in the long haul.

One of the people in the conversation asked for examples of things I had put on my stop doing list in the past.  It was funny because it caught me kind of flat-footed and I didn’t have an answer for him right off.  I had to rack through my memory for things I’d taken off the list before.  Once I started listing a few I realized something important:  most of the things on your stop doing list are going to be things you like to do.  Things that, given lots of margin, you’d choose to do just because you want to.

Busy people have usually already stopped doing delegatable or unimportant tasks that they don’t like.  There’s incentive to stop doing things you hate, and so when you’re looking around for candidates for the list, there’s usually not much that you can stop doing that you desire to stop.  So the list, when done right, will be full of stuff that you can stop doing but wish you didn’t have to.  There are conferences and events that I love to attend that others go to instead of me now.  Because I have to cut something and those are valid candidates.  Do I miss attending those events?  Oh yes.  But less than I miss having even less margin in my life.

That’s what makes the stop doing list so hard:  you have to cut out things you like.  But if you’re going to focus on the most important things that only you can do, you have to find margin somewhere.  And you can only cut so much sleep.

So find those things in your life that you can stop, and do just that.  Stop doing that.  You’ll be thankful for it later, even while embracing the sadness of the loss.  Do the most important things, and the tasks that only you can do.  You’ll be better rested and your work will be better for it.

** I hope to write a whole post on margin at some point, but won’t get into it much here except to say you need it, and this (the stop doing list) is one way to get some.

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Writer Blocking

When I restarted blogging I thought it would be easy to step back into the habit of blogging regularly and posting 2-3 times per week. Obviously that didn’t happen.

The big part of the problem is that I didn’t go back through and update my 168 hours and plan time for writing and research. And so it was hard to “find time” to do it.

So this past Friday night while I was playing “soccer dad” and dropping children off at separate parties near the old ‘hood I stopped in at some of my old haunts and did some writing. I stopped by Blue and watched our local artist/activist on TV (see story here about her beautiful Mural) and grabbed a sandwich and then I was off to my favorite study haunt from when I was in school: Broken Tree Coffee.

It was nice.

I was able to focus for a while without interuptions.

And now I have some blog posts done. I needed to find a block of time where I would write and work through the topics and reading and whatnot so that my brain could get thoughts down into draft posts.

I was also able to look at the time budget for a little bit and try to figure out when I’ll be writing. I’m still working on that, of course, because my schedule is not as rigid as it had to be when I was in school.

Going back to old haunts where I was used to being creative can be really helpful. And taking time away from the normal routines to give my brain some margin to creat.

And that’s what’s needed to write. Blocking time out so my brain can create. And that’s what I’m going to try to do. And today, I’m optimistic it’ll happen.

Updates and Changes

So I’m not going to school anymore, which means I have lots of spare time now, right? Not exactly.  As you can see (or have seen) the blog has laid blank for some time now.  This is my only post for the whole month of January.

I had intended to do better.

So what have I been up to?  Mostly recouping from a really crazy 16 months.  There were Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.  There were a couple of trips for work.  But mostly I’ve been letting my brain rest…perhaps too much.  It’s time to figure out what I’m doing with the time I’m not using for school besides just letting trivial things fill it in because of nature’s hated vacuum.

My plan was (before I got behind on the capstone and was slammed at work) to spend time in December and early January rebranding this blog.  The title no longer applies to what I’m doing:  I have successfully changed horses.  I have graduated (and maintained all A’s to boot) and I have my degree.  I’m working feverishly (or maybe not) to apply what I’ve learned at work and will be spending quite a bit of time trying to pass what I’ve learned on to others.

There should be some changes here at the blog going forward, most importantly posting beginning to happen again.  I’d tell you what it would look like but, well, I’m still figuring some of it out.  This posts represents my re-entry to the interwebs and the beginning of the transition phase as the new horse takes off.

Stay tuned!

November?!

I know it’s the fourth now…and you’d think that it would be old hat by now.

But November totally snuck up on me.  October flew by (I was out of the country for a big chunk of it…so there’s that) so quickly that when I got up Saturday and realized it was November 1st I was overwhelmed.

It’s kind of amazing how quickly a month can fly by…and that happens more and more as I get older.

32 days. Just a month.  That’s how much time until the capstone is due.  Not long after the month ends.  I’ve set as a goal to have it done by Thanksgiving weekend, giving me a week to refine and relax…but I am not sure I’ll make that happen.  Things keep popping up at work and at home that are making it hard for me to concentrate on this project.  I probably need to set a day or half day aside to just look at my data, the required outline, and make a plan for sections needing to be written and figured up so that I have a timeline that I can then ignore.  Or maybe this time the timeline will look so aggressive that the pressure will keep me on it.

Blogging may be sparse over the next month.  Or I may blog about non-school stuff just when I need to reboot my brain.  You’ll know as it happens.  I know I’m tired now and not sure if I’m fighting something off or what, but this is the final push.  One class, one assignment, one focus.  That’s it.  The last 15 months come down to this one.

Time for #conquercapstone.

Time Keeps On Ticking….

Here’s another great post from Seth Godin.  Time is finite, and running out means that you’re utilizing it wrong for your goals.  Realign your goals or how you spend your time, but you can’t make more time.

Every few days, Twitter and Facebook soak up a billion hours of ‘spare’ time. Where did that time come from? What did we do before social media was here? Weren’t we busy five years ago?

Running out of time is mostly a euphemism, and the smart analyst realizes that it’s a message about something else. Time is finite, but, unlike money, time is also replenished every second.

via Seth’s Blog: “I didn’t have time”.

A Lot of Life in My Life Right Now

I got up at 2:30 this morning.  Thankfully I woke up pretty naturally, and  I wasn’t planning to get up until 4 or so.  I got up, lots on my mind, and turned the lights on in our bedroom to (hopefully) the perfect setting on the dimmer that will allow my body to think it’s time to be awake but not so much that it wakes up TC.  I considered heading out to IHOP or Steak N Shake in order to secure coffee and calories with which to help me with the lack of sleep, but ended up just getting it through at home.

It’s the third time this week I’ve gotten less than 5 hours and the fourth under 6.  And I’ll be up late tonight or early tomorrow studying for a midterm on Saturday morning.

Some of this is due to personal procrastination (which I’m good at).  Some of it is that work is extremely crazy right now (I have been in both Memphis and Houston this week and I’m in Denver next week).  And some is just that life is complicated at the moment and I’m losing sleep over stuff I can’t turn off in my brain.  Oh, and this marketing class is kicking my rear end.  Badly.  T-minus 2 weeks until the projects are due and I’m not at all happy with where I’m at with my part of the work.  And it’s hard to get my head around the process, so I’m having trouble getting that same head above water.

We have a saying with some friends and family:  there’s a lot of life in my life right now.  And that’s how it is this month for sure.  I’ve got a bunch of things that would be adding to the stress that I made a decision to push pause on them and just set them aside until after Marketing is done.  Sure that wait may make things worse, but I do not have the personal bandwidth to take them on right now.  And the extra suffering later because stuff gets worse is better than pushing myself beyond my limits right now.  And I have to stop worrying about them and just say “this is for April.  God please take care of it until then.”  And then I have to trust Him to do so.

So this week I’m back drinking more caffeine than I should.  I’m not sleeping as much as I need to.  And because I’m not sleeping enough I’m eating extra calories and I’ve put back on a bunch of weight.  And until mid-April, I’m going to be okay with that.

And with that, my faithful few readers should be unsurprised if blogging becomes sparse (though writing helps me process so it won’t be non-existent) over the next few weeks.

Holiday Procrastination —-> New Semester Stress and Craziness

I am a P, not a J in so many ways.  Especially when it comes to being able to start early on projects.  And especially when life is crazy.

I had 27 days to get a ton of homework done for two classes.  As of last Friday morning, with only 6 days to go, I had precious little done.

New Year’s Day came and went.  I didn’t work at the office, but almost no studying done.

Here’s a list of all the stuff I am supposed to have done for Friday and Saturday (all for grades, not prep):

  • Four formal business letters
  • A formal business informative Memo
  • A 2 page written proposal (these three are for Business Communication so it’s the writing that counts!)
  • A reflection on what I’ve learned in Business Communication that will improve my writing
  • A 2-3 minute presentation on any non-work-related topic
  • A complete financial analysis of a firm with a classmate doing a competitor.
  • An analysis of the comparison of the two firms.
  • A 40 minutes duo presentation on the two firms and their comparative analysis.
  • An assignment of financial calculations and problems related to time value of money

The finance ones (the ones I’m most concerned about) are all due Friday.  In four days.  I’ve only looked at the problems assignment and I’m going to need some tutoring for it.  The corporate financial analysis is harder than I was anticipating, and I already thought it was going to be hard.

So all my evenings this week are booked.  I was hoping to be on top of things enough to go to a Bible study with my family tonight and that’s probably a bust.  I was planning to start exercising again this week and that looks unlikely.  And I’ll have to take a day or more, if I can, off work to try to finish all this up.

Sigh.

If this was the way it was handed out, it would be easy for me to handle.  A lot of work on a short deadline.  Go!

But I am kicking myself a little because I had 3 weeks that I could have chipped away at the work and I let it go to the end.

“Stop it!”

Oh yeah!  Right!  Spending time kicking myself around makes even less time for homework!  Duh!

I made a significant dent on Saturday and I think I have some momentum.  But this will be a week of above average craziness but even at this point, with so much left, I’m confident I’ll get all the work I need to done and come into class on Friday (possibly bleary-eyed) with everything ready to go.  Because I have to.