I read an amazing testimonial from one of our STEPpers named Nancy the other day. (And if you’re new, STEP stands for Steps to Everyday Productivity, and it’s our signature program here at LearnDoBecome that will help you get totally out of the overwhelm. Links are at the bottom of this post!) As she shared her success story, she also pointed out one of the most common stumbling blocks–that I struggle with, as well, and I thought it deserved its own podcast.
Here’s what she said:
There are so many things I love about this….
First, she recognized that there was a problem–more home responsibilities, a new job, a general feeling of “frittering her days away,” and an acute awareness of how precious our time really is.
Second, she took the leap into STEP. I know it’s an investment, and I know that “starting a program” can sound scary, especially when you’ve “tried things before,” and nothing seems to work, but she gave it a go. 🙂
Third, she changed her environment and moved her workspace. I’m sure there were really good reasons why she originally set her office up in a space that she hated. We all do things like this. We sub-optimize our experiences because maybe we feel like other people need the resources/room/time/etc. more than we do, or we think we’re going to take one for the team and simply get by–because we’re strong and we don’t need any special treatment. I don’t know the details behind Nancy’s experience, but I love that she is honoring her need for mental clarity and a healthy environment.
And finally, I love that she identified her biggest stumbling block–that she was treating projects as tasks. THAT is what so many of us (myself included) tend to do, and today I want to focus on why we do this and how to get out of the habit.
Why do we treat projects as tasks?
- It initially feels easier. Writing down one phrase is simpler than taking time to do a full planning session, where we identify the purpose, principles, and outcome vision, sketch a complete brainstorm, and then organize all the next actions by priority.
- It gives us the sense that we can do more. Because if we just have 2 things written on our list, we’ll probably be able to get a whole lot of other things done, as well. That visual simplicity sometimes feels like an abundance of time, but it’s actually just hiding all the work we’re committing ourselves to completing.
- It speaks to the part of our ego that wants to believe that we’re so capable and quick that we’ll be able to do superhuman things if we just have enough strength and willpower. This one is a little hard to write because I am speaking directly to myself. Sometimes, when I’m feeling depleted and spread thin, I take a hard look at what is actually on my physical (or hidden) list of expectations, and I am ASTOUNDED at how delusional I am. It’s human nature to believe that we are above average. Wikipedia says, “In the field of social psychology, illusory superiority is a condition of cognitive bias wherein a person overestimates their own qualities and abilities, in relation to the same qualities and abilities of other people.” Ouch.
But it’s okay! We can change. 🙂
How do we change?
- Remember that we’re human, and that’s not a bad thing. Dr. David Burns (one of my favorite authors) refers to this as radical acceptance. If our internal voice says something like, “You are so slow,” we can respond, internally, with something like, “You know, you are so right. I am a human, and I need time to complete things–especially complex projects. But that’s really normal, and it’s healthy for me to only take on responsibilities that I have the energy to carry.”
- Create a solid, simple Current Projects List. We talk about this in the STEP program all the time, but the idea is to have a very, very simple list of which projects you’re committed to doing that month. The way you know it’s “just right” is if you feel a lift when you look at it. I know it sounds too easy, but it works. When we’re focused on what matters most and we’re deliberate about which projects we choose to put on our lists, we can move through life with a light, happy feeling, and we’ll actually get things done.
- Evaluate each task you write down–as you write it down. Tasks belong on our calendar (typically as flexible things we want to get done that day), and they also can go on our Next Actions List (which holds tasks to be done sometime that week, organized by where we are when we’re getting them done). As you add things to your list, learn to ask yourself, “Is this truly a task?” If it can be done in about 10 minutes, or if it is one distinct errand, or if it is totally independent from any other tasks, and you can absolutely see that it can be checked off with relatively little effort, then it’s a task. If it has multiple parts or will take several hours or requires a lot of brain power over time, it’s a project.
I hope these ideas have been helpful to you today! There is so much peace and mental clarity available for us–if we can just learn how to navigate our projects and tasks with the right mindset.
Sending lots and lots of love!
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