In this day and age, everyone’s busy. Between work, family, and personal lives, many of us are swamped with a to-do list that seems never-ending. Everything on the list seems urgent and important, and it’s hard to know where to start. With so many things to do, we find ourselves running from task to task, stressed out and short on rest.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, which can lead to loss of motivation, burn out, and (most often) procrastination. We know that working at this frantic pace isn’t sustainable, or healthy, but what choice do we have? We have to get things done, right?
Today I want to share two “tools” that have helped me to reduce overwhelm and workload while simultaneously increasing my productivity. Not only are these tools extremely simple to use with virtually no learning curve, they’re absolutely free.
It sounds like I’m trying to sell you something, but I have nothing to sell. You literally can’t buy anything from me right now. But, I believe in these tools. They have worked for me and I hope that you will give them a try.
Tool 1 – Cutting through the BS
“If you try to do everything, you’ll accomplish nothing”
Ask yourself this question.
“What is the ONE THING that I can do, such that by doing it everything else is easier or unnecessary?”
This is a drastically different approach to productivity than the traditional to-do lists where we check off task after task. By asking this question, we cut through all of the less important and pressing tasks and get right to the heart whatever we need to get done that day.
Parkinson’s Law states that: a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.
This is why we can spend hours cleaning the house or checking email when we actually have to dial it in on a project or study for an exam. When we find our one thing for the day, we avoid falling victim to Parkinson’s Law and spending our time and energy on nonessential tasks.
Of course, once you get your one thing done, you can proceed to your tertiary tasks and do those as well. By focusing the bulk of your time and energy on the “one thing” first, you are guiding yourself through the shortest and simplest path to your desired end result. Do the one thing.
Credit for this question goes to Gary Keller and his book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. His book goes deep into this concept and dispels many of the commonly believed myths around productivity
Tool 2 – Finding True North
Remember this rule:
“The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
If you’ve ever procrastinated before, you know that you are able to get an astounding number of unimportant things done while avoiding the thing that needs to be done.
But why do we procrastinate? What are the tangible feelings in our bodies and minds that cause us to avoid important and pressing tasks?
Stephen Pressfield, the author of The War of Art says that we procrastinate because we are afraid, and that we are afraid because we deem the task as important.
Pressfield writes about an internal force, an “enemy within” that he calls Resistance. By definition, Resistance is “self-sabotage, usually manifest[ing] as avoidance, procrastination, or inaction caused by fear paralysis.”
Resistance is not a form of personal weakness, it is more like an impersonal force that is always working against you. As such, it does not diminish with increased willpower or discipline or practice. You will always have to battle Resistance, but we can use the nature of Resistance to our advantage.
“Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North – meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing [emphasis added].” – Stephen Pressfield
Because Resistance wants solely to stop you from doing the tasks that will stimulate the most personal growth, you can always count on Resistance to tell you exactly which task is best for your soul. So whenever you feel Resistance towards a task, you know that it is precisely the thing that you must do.
I often use this rule in conjunction with the question about the one thing when I find it difficult to determine my one thing for the day.
You can start using these tools today, and if you don’t like them, you can stop at any time. That said, I encourage you to try them out for a minimum of 14 days before you stop. Results seldom come immediately, but I hope that by using these tools, you are able to simplify your life and get more done in less time!
Thank you for reading.
Til’ Next Time!