Got 1001 Things To Do, Goals To Kick, Shit To Manage? Maybe these guidelines will help.
Do you have a husband, wife, family, housemates, others you are answerable to? Are important conversations relegated to car trips, over meals, during tv time, in bed, in passing in the hallway, or confined to surprise text messages? Any of these methods are like ambushes for some people, and lead to nagging, frustration, defensiveness, and Not Getting Stuff Done Because Everyone Forgets.
Schedule a business meeting fortnightly.
Bill and I have fortnightly business meetings. Anything that needs to be tabled is tabled, from finances, through to household maintainence, through to ‘what movie to see next’ to ‘honey, I’m worried about that constant cough’. We both bring our notebooks, pens, and our calendars.
That way, doctor’s appointments are noted to be made, emails gets sent, phone calls are made, and stuff generally gets scheduled in.
We meet in a café, after my weekly gym session. It’s neutral ground, and we can reward ourselves for our one hour business meeting by having lunch afterwards. Coffee and tea can be ordered during the meeting, but not food. Food distracts.
If you are not answerable to anyone, schedule a business meeting for yourself anyway. Sit down with your notebook, pen, and calendar and work out what you’d like to have happen in the next fortnight, and find out where to put those things in your calendar. Reward yourself with a meal afterwards, or whatever is a reward for you.
Every six months, I do a brain dump. Everything that’s been fizzing around in my head as a ‘must do’, ‘should do’, ‘fuck I forgot’ gets dumped onto paper in a big messy vomit. A big pad of kiddie colouring paper, and textas are my tools.
I give myself an hour, and yes, I schedule this in, so that my brain knows it’s coming. If I just sit down out of the blue and say ‘okay brain, what’s going on?’ my brain will say ‘nothing’ and refuse to cough up. But if it knows the brain dump is coming, it will sometimes secrete items for a couple of weeks beforehand.
This is where pads of post-it notes come in handy. I suffer anxiety, but when I say to my anxiety ‘what’s bothering you’ it acts like the information is top secret. It likes to trot out stressors while I’m at yoga, the gym, walking the dog, on the toilet, trying to watch a movie. Thus, I have small pads of sticky notes in jacket pockets, my handbag, in the car, and beside my yoga mat. That way, if a thought comes up, rather than stress about remembering it afterwards, I simply write it down, and my anxiety settles, and I can get on, knowing that whatever it thought was So Darned Important can be sticky-noted into my brain dump later.
After you’ve brain dumped, it’s time to categorise.
My personal categories are: Finances; Health; Writing; Spiritual; Family; Travel; Bucket List; Rest and Play.
Most of your brain dump items will come under the usual categories, with a couple of other personalized ones. Money, health, family of origin, created family, friends, spiritual life, travel, bucket list, love, and down time are the usual ones. You might have others. Your individual categories will depend on your passions, hobbies, and interests.
This is crucial to take dreams into reality.
I’ll give examples from my own life to let you get a feel for how I go about creating small steps from a big leap.
Financial: Through the One Million Women movement, I became aware of ethical banking and investments. I wanted to walk my talk more in terms of ‘saving the planet’. Last year, I wanted to move my banking, term deposit, and superannuation over to ethical companies that didn’t invest in non-renewable energy, animal exploitation, or eco-system destruction. My steps were:
-read the One Million Women website and note their advice.
-do some online research.
-read up on what my current companies were doing.
From here, I made dates in my diary to act on my findings. By April 20, I had to have moved my superannuation over to the new company, and written to my old one, explaining why. By August 20, I had to have moved my term deposit to an ethical bank, and told ING why I was moving. By November 20, I had to have moved my banking over to a new bank, which necessitated a list of its own (all the places that had my old bank account as a go to, including Centrelink, the Australian Tax Office, and the regular debits that came out.
All those dates were in my diary, along with monthly reminders that this stuff needed to happen. Each item on the ‘change banks’ list had a date in the diary. They all happened, because they were in there, and spaced well enough apart that I didn’t feel panicky.
Spiritual: I wanted to return to a daily meditation practice. Habit is the thing here. I could put a reminder in my diary all I liked, but it’s easy to ignore that. So, a notice went up in the toilet where I’d be bound to see it at least 6 times a day. I put an alarm into my phone, and into my ipad. I downloaded a couple of meditation apps. Each day I meditated, I got to eat a chocolate. (When a child is first introduced to the Talmud, in Judaism, they are given a taste of honey, so that they associate learning with sweetness.)
Now, I can’t say I have a daily practice, but when I do make time for it, I’m a much better, less anxious person, and I do meditate more often than I used to. This one is a work in progress.
Family: my daughter got married in November 2018. I have a son who has autism, a mild intellectual impairment, a hearing impairment, and is non-verbal. Getting him prepared for the wedding was a year-long series of things. My list was:
– Create a poster of what the wedding would vaguely resemble, with faces pasted over a pic of a wedding party.
– Prepare my son for wearing a suit, and good shoes.
– Shop for the suit, and shoes.
– Prepare him for spending time with his father.
– Organise a support worker from his day programme to accompany him on the day, as my focus would be on my daughter.
– Draw a map of where the wedding would be.
– Give him the choice of staying overnight on Phillip Island with the rest of us, or staying overnight at the support worker’s house.
– Tee him up that there would be lots of photos.
– Contact the venue and explain his narrow food choices, and have a special meal set aside for him.
– Dvds and other things to occupy him in the hours before the wedding, and in the time everyone spends waiting for the bridal party photos to be done.
I’m sure there were loads of other things, but those are the ones that came to mind, a year later as I write this.
Summary: brain dumps, chunk big items down to a number of small steps so you don’t overwhelm yourself, spread those steps out in your diary so there’s maximum 3 in a week, business meetings, definite dates for stuff in your diary, give yourself rewards, follow through.
Optional: make a big poster of your categorized brain dump, so that you have the pleasure of crossing off an item once it’s achieved. Renew the poster every six months, because some things you thought were vital turn out not to be, and other things come up.
Keep reminding yourself that you’re building your life, one small step at a time, and that it takes time, doesn’t need to be an overwhelming freak-out thing, and that even those distasteful phone calls, boundaries you have to set, and awkward conversations are investments in a life you love more than the one you have now.