Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 5, no. 15
Begin with These Five Simple Steps (even if you’re not a “planner”)
Are you Carrying Too Much?
Seventy percent of school children carry a school bag that is more that 10% of their body weight. Doing this on a daily basis causes problems. Excess physical stress. Backache. Sore shoulders. Problems that get worse as the week progresses.
Like students with heavy backpacks, you may be carrying too much.
Personal projects. Work-related projects that were shelved. Things you started but didn’t have time to complete. Almost finished projects. Incomplete tasks that drain your energy. All the things that have accumulated during the year that are causing unnecessary stress.
Before jumping in to planning the coming year, take some time to think about how to lighten the load.
Why is this important?
Because incomplete tasks take up attention.
They can drain your energy.
Sometimes it may be a combination of small things. Someone you’ve met that you intend to follow-up with, but haven’t done so yet. A medical appointment that you know you need to make. All the things that are lurking at the back of your mind and/or on your to-do list.
Sometimes they are big things.
Making a decision about whether or not to change jobs.
Decisions that are important but not urgent. So they get put off.
Just as the impact of heavy school bags gets worse as the week progresses, your “unfinished” list can accumulate during the year.
So how can you address this backlog, without getting overwhelmed?
Here is a simple 5-step process that you can follow to lighten the load.
Step 1: List this Year’s Main Events and Work Projects
Even if your year feels like it’s been relatively uneventful, a lot happens. Use this list to remind yourself of what you experienced during the year.
Be sure to include significant non-work events and projects. Changes in your family. Social activities. Community activities. Include anything that is important to you personally. The focus is on your subjective experience.
Step 2: Review your Calendar
Next, take an objective look by reviewing your calendar for the year. This can be done quickly. The purpose is to jog your memory, not analyze all the different activities that you were involved in. You can return to do that later.
The exact process will vary according to how you record your meetings and other activities. Often it’s a matter of scrolling through your electronic calendar. Add any missing information to the list you created in the first step. Now that you have a summary of your year, you’re ready for the next step.
Step 3: Identify Incomplete Activities and Tasks
Review your list and mark those things that you intended to do, but did not complete. At this point you are still gathering information. Resist evaluating yourself at this point. Analysis can come later.
Step 4: Make at Least One Quick Decision
Now that you have identified things that are incomplete, you’re ready to make some decisions.
Use these three questions:
*What do you want to let go?
*What do you want to keep?
*What are you still undecided about?
If you feel stuck, here’s how to make one quick decision.
Set a timer for 1-2 minutes. Choose at least incomplete project that is no longer important or engaging. Make a definite decision not to do it. Remove it from your list.
Now that you have removed one project, what else can you let go of?
It’s time to move to step 5. Time to select the small tasks that are easiest to complete.
Step 5: Leverage Small Tasks
Look back at your list. Where can you take action?
Choose small things. Begin with things you can do in say 20 minutes or less. Can you batch similar tasks and take 15 minutes to get them completed?
Choose three to do this week. Make them a priority by allocating a specific time in your schedule.
Completing some of these small things creates momentum. This is not the time to create a whole new ‘to-do” list. Limit yourself to three things that you’re confident that you can do this week.
Maybe it’s calling to make an appointment with your dentist. Sending an email that you’ve been meaning to do. Recycling that reading material under your desk that you intended to read when you had time.
You may think that these small things don’t make a difference.
But each time you say to yourself “I must do that”, you get distracted. Instead, use the coming week to take action by completing three small tasks that are easy to do and under your control.
By the end of the week, you will taken steps to lighten the load. You will be are in a better position to focus on what you want for your career in the upcoming year.
Let’s Review the Five Steps.
1. Identify this year’s significant experiences
2. List this year’s projects (review your calendar)
3. Identify incomplete activities and tasks
4. Make one quick decision about what to let go
5. Create momentum by taking action to complete three small tasks
Complete Step 1 today. Take 10 minutes to write your list of this year’s significant personal and professional experiences.
|Jennifer Bradley helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition. If you’re new to the Career & Work Life Matters Blog, and would like to discover more about your personal career management skills, request a Free copy of the Career Scorecard.|