How does having lots of to-dos make you feel? The answer might vary depending on many different circumstances. There is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when we have lots of things pressing on our time and still manage to get it all done. It can certainly make you feel alive, your heart is racing, and you can look around and see all that you accomplished. There is a time and a place for using this energy.
Unfortunately, if this is how you primarily function, your super productive moments might be far and few between. If you do not have that external pressure to get it all done, it is easy to struggle when you have lots of to-dos on your list. And truthfully how many of us actually have a little to-do list? There is always more to do, even if it’s not critical or important to accomplish in a certain time frame.
Too often when we race around getting things done, we might end up looking around and see how much is left to be done. We might have even created more of a mess in the process. Sometimes we even wear ourselves out doing this.
For me, often what I need to do, after I slow down enough to recognize that I am spinning my wheels, is to choose one area, a small area, and focus on dealing with that space. Maybe you noticed, or maybe not, that I prefaced my previous statement with a “for me” – this is one of many ways to focus our energy. You might need to approach it differently – and begin with one focus rather than an area.
Area focus: I will focus on each thing that needs to be done in that specific area and I will remain there until I am finished or until I want to stop working for the time being.
Focus area: I will go through various spaces dealing with a specific focus, this can be everything that belongs in a specific room or other people might focus on picking up all the papers that need to be recycled.
Neither is any better than the other, it varies on your situation and what works best for you. Again, for me, when I focus on an area, I can then look at the area and clearly see what I accomplished – however minor it might have been. Then again, if you have many things around that belong in another room, you can see what you’ve gathered.
Another key to focusing your attention and working on something is that you are mindful. It’s important to be mindful of what you are doing and how you are using your time and energy. When we race around sometimes, we’re not really paying attention to what we are doing. Too often I see people so desperate to get all these things done, they wear themselves out.
I’ve talked before about there being times when you just need to stop for a while. It might be that you need to decide where you want to focus yourself or it might be that you’re overwhelmed or stumped about the things you’re dealing with. Whatever it might be, taking time off, time to think and process is a good thing. It can be hard to feel like it’s a good thing, but I cannot think of a time when it’s served the person well to barrel through. It’s too easy to make rash decisions that inadvertently cause more work and stress.
Our time is spent most effectively when we make decisions about what we want to focus on and avoid distractions from other tasks. This is another area where a timer can help keep us where we want to be – deciding to work on x for y amount of time. There’s no need to try to do it all tomorrow. Everything takes time and energy and divvying it up into manageable focused chunks will help you make the progress you want and save yourself the time and energy in the long run.