Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the number of things you feel you need to do at a given point in time? Sometimes when I’m reviewing deadlines or task lists, I find myself briefly paralyzed by the sheer volume of stuff. I look at the lists, and my brain completely freezes, because some part of me thinks that somehow all of these things need to happen now. “DO EVERYTHING NOW!” my thoughts seem to be screaming. After a brief period of mild catatonia, my better sensibilities prevail, and I remember that I can only do what I can do, and I can only do it when I can do it. So I pick an item and just do it! Soon I’m able to move on and tackle another item, and before I know it, everything’s done, and I wonder why I was freaking out so much. There are plenty of tools to help you at times like this; one of the best basic systems I’ve run across is the Getting Things Done material by David Allen. You don’t have to adopt his method wholesale, but his tips for simple ways to prioritize can really free up your present. And lead you to a state where you really CAN “do everything now”.
By that I don’t mean to suggest that it’s a good idea to try to perpetually multi-task your way through life. The phrase “do everything now” can have two distinctly different meanings. On the one hand, we have that sense of a desperate need to accomplish a bajillion simultaneous tasks, as just referenced. But on the other hand, you could utilize this simple phrase as a reminder of a path to a more productive and stress-free existence. Many of us spend way too much time simply not being present with what we’re doing, a very simple act that can lead to a very rewarding existence in which our next task is evident simply because we’re so invested in what we’re doing that we don’t have time to think about what we “should” be doing. So there’s an idea to Kick Your Ass. For just one day, try to be completely present with whatever you’re doing. Shut off your cell phone for a period. Focus. If you find your thoughts drifting to some uncompleted thing that’s not the thing you’re doing, jot it down if you must, and when you do, give it its OWN time. And then BE WHERE YOU ARE, DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING. Sounds almost trite, but almost no-one actually lives this way. I’m going to try it RIGHT NOW. Next tasks: click “Publish”, and take a coffee break.