It’s faster to slow down.

I hate telling students and clients they’ve probably taken on too much at once, that they are being overly ambitious. Hate it. Who wants to ask people to give up their ambitions?

Which is not what I’m really asking them to do. It just feels like it. What I’m really asking is that they spread what they want to do over a longer time frame, do fewer things at once, stop cramming their schedules as though they were super human.

I also don’t like asking this of myself. But I dislike it a lot less than I used to. Because I’m learning what happens every single time I try to avoid it.

You know how when you are feeling just a little bit lazy (and, let’s face it, a little bit overconfident) and rather than making multiple trips, you try to carry all the grocery bags from the car to the house? A teetering stack of dishes from table to the kitchen? An armful of boxes so tall you can’t see over them?

It seems easier, more efficient. One trip instead of several. But how often does it end well? Broken eggs. Broken china. Broken, well, whatever was in those boxes.

Now you have a mess to clean up and a loss to absorb.

Not feeling so clever now, are you?

An overfull schedule or too-long to-do list is much the same thing – and the impulse to take on so much at once comes from much the same place. A little bit lazy, a little bit overconfident, and – dare I say it? – a little bit greedy. Or maybe just impatient. And fearful.

LAZY: because we can’t be bothered to choose what to do in what order, or figure out how to pace ourselves in ways appropriate to our abilities and the task at hand.

OVERCONFIDENT: because somehow this time we will have the focus and stamina the to pull it off (even though we’ve done nothing in particular to build those skills).

GREEDY/IMPATIENT: because we want it all right now. It’s not just that we can’t be bothered to choose, we don’t really want to.

and AFRAID: because sometimes we get the notion into our heads that one trip is all we get. As though hyenas are chasing us from from the car to the door, snapping at our groceries.

Thing is, you can’t outrun hyenas loaded down like that.

So it’s better to make more than one trip.

Every time I try to move forward with more than I can comfortably carry in my business, I end up dropping something. Might be a project, a relationship, or my health. Something will break. When I can least afford it, I end up with a mess to clean up and something that needs repairing or replacing. Which makes it harder to fend off the hyenas (real and imaginary). Plus there’s recovering from the startling surprise of it all. Even though I know better, I never seem to anticipate what it is that will get dropped.

It’s frustrating and exhausting. It feeds feelings of guilt and doubt in my abilities. And in hindsight, it always seems such a foolish waste. Just like looking down at a busted sack of groceries.

We can choose to slow down, or we can be slowed down.

Either way, the work is going to get done within our capacity. There’s no getting around it. So we might as well choose how we want that to happen. In the end, it’s the faster, more efficient, productive, profitable – and more enjoyable – way to work.

• • • • •

If this newsletter sounds a lot like the last one, it’s because the work of choosing is at the heart of a business and a life you enjoy. It keeps coming up for me and my clients and students, so I keep talking about it. Streamlining and efficiency come after making choices. They improve those choices. But there is no magic system that will somehow make you a rock star of productivity and Doing It All effortless.

But if you’ve made some of those hard choices and are ready for the streamlining and efficiency – my upcoming Organic Business Manual course might be for you. It’s all about smoothing your work with systems. Not magic systems. Down-to-earth, just-right-for-you systems that make what you have chosen to do a whole lot better. Registration closes this Wednesday, May 27.


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Third Hand Works

from overwhelmed to ready for anything | organization and time management for people in their "right" minds | administrative guidance for independent creative professionals [more info]



© 2008 Cairene MacDonald, Third Hand Works. All Rights Reserved.

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