When your to-do list starts vicious rumors about you.

That thing you don’t want to do?

I don’t mean the low-priority stuff you’ve been putting off because it doesn’t matter all that much, but that important Thing you really need to do now that makes you a little sick to your stomach when you think about having to do it? That thing that keeps staring at you from your to-do list while everything around it keeps getting crossed off?

You probably want to do 90% of it. You could easily scoot right through it if you could just get past the 10% that’s giving you a case of the icks.

So how do you do that?

Here’s what my 10% is usually made up of and how I deal with it.

#1 – I don’t know what to do.

I don’t mean that I lack a necessary bit of knowledge or a skill set.  I don’t know what to do in the sense that I’m very conflicted about the Thing and can’t reach a decision about how to go about doing it. Which explains the emotional gross out and brings us to #2.

#2 – I don’t like what I think this Thing says about me.

I’ve allowed myself to be judged by a task on my to-do list. Perfectly normal. Common. Happens all the time.  But seriously not helpful in the productivity department.

If I’m thinking, “This thing wouldn’t even be on my to-do list if I hadn’t screwed that other thing up three weeks ago,” it’s gonna be really tricky to figure out how to do the Thing until I make some peace with why I think it needs doing.

So here’s what I do to make my peace:

Step 1: What is this Thing saying about me?

I listen to what this Thing and my crazy brain hamster are gossiping about behind my mental back as they go round and round and round together on the wheel of my mind. I pay attention to what they are really saying, I bring it from the background to the foreground – even though I don’t really want to hear it. I listen until it’s clear enough that I can put it into a sentence.

Step 2: Is it true?

I then look at that sentence and ask myself it if is really true. (I like the The Work for this.) Like most gossip, it’s probably completely untrue, or at worst only partially true. So I ask myself how this vicious rumor that I’m a total screw-up (or whatever) got started anyway. And then I tell my side of the story. I issue a press release correcting my mental tabloids.

Step 3: Work from this “new” truth.

Working from that press release, I then decide how I want to do the Thing. Step 2 usually generates enough clarity for me to be able to set aside enough ick to get the Thing done. If it doesn’t eliminate the ick, at least it’s taken the 10% down to 2%. Which I can handle.

And it often also conveniently results in the task turning out better than it would have if I had just pushed through still feeling the full force of the ick. Which is a nice bit of further evidence that I really can do a thing properly and allows me to check off that to-do with gusto and satisfaction.

Thing done and pride in thing done. Win-win. Yay.

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1 Response to “When your to-do list starts vicious rumors about you.”


  1. 1 JoVE May 8, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I have something lurking on my list that might need this treatment. Thanks,


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