Just One Thing

I confess to being something of a time management junkie. If someone has a system, I want to know about it because I cling to belief in a magic bullet. You know, the secret journal/app/diary that will magically enable me to do everything at once without once mussing my hair. Dream on!

It’s hardly news that most adults are too busy. Authors, while arguably worthy of being committed, are more overcommitted than most. Not only do most of us have day jobs and families, we have a creative life. On top of that, we have all the duties associated with being entrepreneurs. That fills up a timetable pretty fast—hence my interest in scheduling miracles.

I haven’t found one yet. What I have found is that trying too hard can cause paralysis. The longer the list, the less gets done because of overwhelm.

I came nose-to-nose with this phenomenon a few years ago when I was changing jobs, taking classes, and meeting writing deadlines. I froze up, unable to do much more than stare like a deer in the headlights. Needless to say, the longer I dithered, the worse I fell behind.

Out of self-defense, I created my one task system. Beyond going through the basic motions of the day, I had to accomplish one thing. Read one chapter of the text. Complete one exercise. Finish editing a certain number of pages. If I had just one job to focus on, there was a goal post I could realistically reach. If I made it, I could let myself off the hook and sleep well that night.

It was a simple but lifesaving discovery. Did that one thing accomplish enough? No, because my to-do list was endless. Yet it moved me forward and, as long as I inched along, I was no longer stuck. Somehow, that small amount of momentum got me through that rough patch with all deadlines met and assignments complete.

Why? The truth is, things happen one at a time. Workaholics like me don’t want to hear that, but it’s true.

So here’s the miracle cure: Focus on one thing. Just one. And then the next. And then the one after that. Quality of energy, rather than quantity of action, frequently wins the day.

NB: there is no app for that.

 

The Gift of Getting Comfy

I was having one of those disturbing discussions about maturity. “Mature” means different things to different people. If you’re a cheese, it means you’re just getting good. If you’re a human, it means people are trying to sell you expensive face creams.

Or, if you’re me, it’s an aspirational term referencing my behavior. Someday, I shall be mature and behave like a sophisticated adult. Or not.

At any rate, a mature individual (or cheese) has gone beyond a certain point of anxiety. Those first few years on the work force, in social situations, and battling life expectations were stressful. Now they are a fait accompli. Been there, done that, don’t care what others think. That’s a huge relief.

The signs of this enviable state are clear. One knows enough to purchase fashions that actually look good instead of just trendy. Fear of missing out is replaced by gratitude for a good night’s sleep. One eats vegetables voluntarily and half one’s childhood possessions are now worth something on collectible sites.

However, the part I like the most is the superpower of a cool head. Problems arise, upheavals strike, and the natural response of the newbies is to run away screaming. Those of us who’ve seen this show before are more likely to ask, “Is that all you’ve got?” Experience enough to stave off panic? Priceless.

The truth is, most things are survivable. If we’ve been paying attention, we know what to do. At the very least, we know enough to take care of business and fall apart afterward. That’s the real gift maturity brings: the knowledge of when to fight, when to surrender, and when to call for take-out.

So I don’t worry about growing up or growing old. I celebrate growing smarter.