Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Simplifying Life - Part 1

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost

As I embarked on another school year this fall, I reflected on the past and considered how I wanted to go forward. And I wanted to travel a different road. I think my reflections were based on 2 realizations: 1) We fill our time no matter how much or how little we have; 2) We want to and have the opportunity to do more things than time allows. These 2 concepts are coupled together and I have known them, but I have not changed my actions to adjust -- until now.

Priorities are critical. When we have more than we can do, what do we choose to do? If we just let life happen, odds are good we'll work on trivial things but are we working on what is most important? Sure, I get stuff done, but is it the right stuff?

I've made a decision--I am not going to just let life happen. I'm going to do what I can to prioritize. Please note: I did not say control. That's God's job. But I can prioritize what does come my way. Prioritizing starts with knowing what we are doing and what we need to do. And it means some stuff may not get done today. And it may mean some stuff never gets done because it should not be a priority.

So, how am I doing this? First, I am working with a task list. My previous task list was my post-it note on my desk or my email inbox. If life was good, I had 25-30 messages in my inbox in each of my 2 work inboxes so a total of 50-60 messages. When life got hectic, I would double that. That is a pretty poor way to manage tasks yet I have a strong suspicion that I'm not the only one that does this. Anyone need to confess?

Now, I read my emails. I leave them there if they will be responded to later in the day. If they aren't a priority for the day, I copy and paste the relevant part of the email to my task list and schedule it when it fits as a priority. And it may get rescheduled multiple times as I adapt to changing tasks. Responding is important, but it may not be important immediately. Of all the emails I get, a small part is actionable. The actionable part goes on my to-do list. The rest can be saved or deleted. My goal is to get my inbox at 0 messages each night before I go home. The exception is something I plan to respond to first thing the next morning. However, never more than 1 or 2 messages remain. In an effort of full disclosure, I have been doing this for 2+ weeks--so far, so good. All tasks don't come through email but it is just one example of what I am talking about. Using a task list also keeps you focused on the priorities you have set...not new distractions coming into your inbox or across your desk.

Getting organized is just one step I have taken. I use Things to accomplish this. It allows me to schedule tasks and even drag shortcuts of files into my to do list. Whether you use Things or something else, get organized and prioritize.

1 comment:

  1. Darren; SO TRUE! I so often get lost in the fog of urgent vs important. Thanks for a very timely reminder well stated! and for tips to manage what I do better!