“I don’t think your lazy. I think a lot of what you call laziness is you feeling overwhelmed.”
This week, I made some phone calls that I’ve been putting off – literally – for years and others that I’ve been putting off for months. I estimate that had I made some of these phone calls sooner, we could have saved over $200 over the last few months. But day after day went by, and I never made the phone calls. Why? It’s because I’d either think of it when I was in the middle of doing something else, or because when I did have the time I was so overwhelmed with everything else that needed to be done, that I didn’t want to take the time to make the calls. Not that I was doing the other things that needed to be done. Most of the time, I was just thinking of all the things that needed to be done and feeling so overwhelmed that I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. When my friend Patrick made the statement about me being overwhelmed rather than lazy, I knew it to be 100% true (well, okay, 85% true), although I’d never thought of it that way before. I told him that I always felt I was trying to juggle twenty balls in the air at once. One of them would fall, and I’d go on with 19. Then another would fall, and I’d keep going. Then another, then another, until finally I’d get so overwhelmed that I’d just throw them all across the room, close my eyes, hide my head in my hands, and try not to think about all those balls still waiting for me to pick them up again.
For years, I’ve escaped in books or movies or even photography. I’d hide out behind the pages of a book and do the minimum amount required just to keep the house going and forget the rest of it. I didn’t have any idea how stressed (and, to be honest, somewhat miserable,) I was until the stress was gone… until I found a way to get all the daily, constant thoughts about what needed to be done out of my head and into a manageable system.
Enter the book I’ve bee raving about to all my friend’s lately: Getting Things Done, the Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I’ve tried other time/household management systems (flylady, for instance) but where I think they’ve all fallen short for me is that they only deal with one aspect of my life and don’t address others. Furthermore, I used them in such a way that it made me feel as if things had to get done on a certain day and when they didn’t get done on that day, I felt like a failure. I don’t do failure well, so it wasn’t long before I’d chuck the system altogether.
Where the strength of the system outlined in this book shines for me is that it deals with everything – literally everything – in my life. Every single thought that I have about something that needs to be done, or something I want to buy, or something I want to do, etc. gets processed in an external system that ensures it will get done eventually, or stays fresh in my mind until I decide it isn’t important enough to get done, or until circumstances prevent it from being done (i.e. we may never save up enough to buy that shiny red corvette. ;)) It’s all out of my head and I don’t have to think about it anymore.
Another great thing is that the system outlined in this book ensures that only things that must be done on certain days are processed as things that must be done on certain days. So although I want to make a fresh loaf of bread every day, and do a certain school project with the kids each Monday, if I don’t get around to it, I just file it for another day and it’s off my mind again – no feelings of failure attached!
That isn’t to say there isn’t work involved in getting the system in place – there is quite a bit of work in the beginning and when I was first reading the book I really thought it was going to make things more stressful, not less. I decided to try it out, anyway, and for a few days, I thought my head would explode if I had ONE MORE THOUGHT about something that I needed to/wanted to get done. But when you figure I was writing down over ten years worth of thoughts I’ve accumulated since my marriage, it’s no wonder my hand was cramping by the end of each night! And all that stuff has been in my head!!! For years! It’s no wonder I did anything I could to turn my brain off and escape from the world! Setting the system up also required tools that were non-negotiable. I had to purchase a good (i.e. heavy duty, easy to open and close) filing cabinet and an electronic labeler, for instance. Having set everything up, I now see why things as seemingly insignificant as these make all the difference in the world.
I’m almost a week into things now, and it’s becoming ridiculously easy to maintain this system. All it requires now is that I keep a piece of paper and a pen with me at all times (I ordered a notebook necklace from etsy and plan to wear it around the house, along with a pen clipped to it so I don’t have to worry about keeping track of it) and write everything down! Two or three times a day, I’ll go through the list and file everything away into one of six categories in my files (explained in the book.) As I get the time during the day, I’ll check out those files and, depending on how much time I have (and how much energy I have), I’ll grab a file and get working on the things it contains (i.e. phone calls to make, computer work that needs to be done, cleaning/cooking I need to do, etc.)
It’s hard to convey what a difference this has made in my life, already. After just a week, I feel that a huge HUGE burden I’ve been carrying around for years has been lifted. Just to have all those thoughts out of my head has been worth every single penny I spent on that filing cabinet – a hundred times over. I told my husband yesterday that the house feels cleaner to me. It’s not actually cleaner, but just knowing that I have something in place that is going to help me keep up with and get everything done makes the things that are not yet done seem… (I’m searching for the right word here… not insignificant, because I still want to get them done, but they don’t have the same level of importance or stress attached to them as they did. Because I know I have a plan in place to ensure that they will get done, I don’t have to worry about the fact that they’re not yet done.)
I really can’t recommend this book highly enough to anyone. Even my husband, who has no desire whatsoever to implement this system as a whole, has gleaned some things from it and will be setting up a small-scale version of one of the filing systems (and I think he’ll eventually want to implement the whole thing, once he sees how helpful implementing part of it is!)
Oh – and for those of you who are waiting for me to get things done for you, or bring things to you (that book I borrowed several months ago and just recently found in a drawer and realized I never returned!!!)… I can now confidently say that I’m working on it and I should have it to you soon!!!
(For more great tips on just about every subject, visit Works for me Wednesday)