There are times of the year when the demands of work and life can become overwhelming. As we transition from one season, holiday, life event, or even school term to the next, we often find our TO DO lists becoming increasingly long and daunting. I’ve always been a list maker. It has helped me enormously in shifting the burden from my working memory to a surrogate memory holder (post its, bullet journal, scrap paper, etc.) and has alleviated a great deal of stress. Trying to remember everything that needs to be done, is only one of the challenges that needs attention, however.
Once we transfer our intended tasks to paper, how do we tackle the enormity of what we hope to accomplish? Rarely do we go down a list and systematically check off an entire task before initiating the next. We tend to multi-task and look for ways to combine activities to accomplish more. How many of you are like me and jot a few items on the list you have already completed, just so you can feel some sense of satisfaction and avoid a sense of defeat?
How do you prioritize your To-Dos? Do you try to pick the “low hanging fruit” and get the simple tasks out of the way? That can help you feel like you are making a dent, but then you are left with the more difficult tasks when you are often more tired and frazzled. Do you try to take on the big tasks and then see nothing checked off as completed at the day’s end? I don’t believe there is ONE right way to prioritize, it really depends upon the personality of the person creating the list.
However, there is one thing I have done this past year that has helped me immensely. TINY GOALS. I realized I was often procrastinating on complex tasks because I knew I couldn’t finish them. But now I look at the task and set tiny goals to break it down into more manageable chunks. For example, I was working on my National Boards and many of the component pieces were time consuming and complicated and I would need to work on them after a long day of teaching or on my weekends. In the past I would have put them off and done some other things that took less mental energy. But by setting a tiny goal: I’m just going to write one paragraph for this section, I didn’t feel so overwhelmed and I got it done. I felt accomplished, and after several days the section was done. In the past I would have stressed for several days about getting the section done, with no work to show for it.
Sometimes I set a timer. I’m only going to work on this for 15 minutes. At the end of that time I usually stop, without guilt. Sometimes however, I find the energy and motivation to keep going a bit longer. Either way, I have done more in 15 minutes than I would have done procrastinating because the task was emotionally exhausting.
Think about some task that you have been putting off or stressing out over. What could you reasonable tackle in 10 or 15 minutes today? Create a tiny goal that is achievable and take a bite out of that task. Celebrate your success. Remind yourself that you have moved closer to completion and alleviated a bit of stress. Realize just how doable this is. Don’t push yourself past your tiny goal unless you are enthusiastically motivated-otherwise you are defeating the purpose for setting them.
Though I hate the thought of eating an elephant, the saying rings so true! Turn those bites into tiny goals and reframe your idea of success and you might alleviate a lot of stress in your life the way I did!
What’s On My Book Radar?
Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Cassie Arroyo is an American student who is studying in Rome with her father, an art history professor. One day her life is turned upside down when her father pulls her from school unexpectedly and they are chased by gunmen. Her father is wounded but gives Cassie mysterious directions and scant information before she leaves him at the hospital. She flees to her friends home and together, with the help of a secret organization they try to decipher the clues to help her find her now missing father, and find out why she is the target of assassination. Lots of twists and turns in this fast-paced middle grade novel. I loved it even more because I had just visited many of the sites in Rome that are settings for this mystery and I always love strong female protagonists. A Maine Student Book Award nominee that is worth a read!