This morning I did a podcast interview with a woman who lives in Jerusalem. If you’re reading this blog post in real-time (November of 2023) There is a war going on there. Life is not pretty. And yet this mother of 7.5 is there, raising her family, recording her podcasts, coaching her clients, and running her business.
I did the interview from my new home-away-from-home, my brother’s guest room in Chicago. Mom isn’t doing well, so I flew here to see her and help manage things while my brother isolates with Covid. We’re in the middle of our rehearsals and preparations for the Fall Bermuda Philharmonic concerts happening in 2 weeks, and I’ve got some book deadlines I’m trying to meet.
There are moments in life when we can and should take a hiatus. Taking time off, sabbaticals, and taking care of ourselves is an absolute necessity. An exhausted and burnt-out person is not helping anyone.
But what about those gray areas? Somewhere between that blissful groove of routine and total. firehose, there are many (MANY) moments in life that are just “very full on” but not quite max capacity. When we look at our to-do list and want to hide under a rock, but deep down, we know it’s temporary, and more importantly, we know it’s completely doable.
The only question is….when? When do I write the blog post, check in with that friend, upload the video, and do the grocery shopping?
I could say a few things here:
Hire a VA!
Enlist your partner and kids to help!
Scratch off what isn’t absolutely essential!
Yes to all of that. But we’re all adults here, and let’s be real. Sometimes “hire a VA” is just one more thing to add to the list. And even when we have a VA, I can’t exactly ask her to call my mother’s oncologist for me. Chances are, either you don’t have a partner and kids, or they are already helping. And hello, if it wasn’t absolutely necessary, we wouldn’t be talking about it right now.
So this is for those times when you just need to get a lot of shit done, and you don’t have a lot of wide open spaces in your day.
In other words, how to get an extraordinary amount of work done in very little time.
There might be a lot of those very little bits of time. They will probably add up to a lot of time. But if you wait until you have an extraordinary amount of time all at once, you will get very little done.
You can do this. I promise. It’s all in 3 easy steps.
I don’t know about you, but my to-do list often has tiny little random things that need to be done.
Anything that won’t take more than a couple of minutes goes on a list that I keep near me (can be on a notes app, or on a post-it stuck to your computer.) Whenever I’m waiting for a Zoom meeting to start, or when one ends a couple of minutes earlier than expected, I look at that list and do one of them. I never fail to cross off all of those lists in one day. We all have those little cracks of times when it seems like there’s not enough time to get something done.
Trust me. There is.
You might have several things on your plate that require multiple hours to complete, and the danger in these situations is waiting for those hours to appear in your life. For instance (and quite a Meta one, too) I usually keep Sundays pretty clear, and I spend a part of every Sunday afternoon sitting in my sunroom with a cat curled up next to me, writing Monday’s blog post.
I have now gotten about 2/3 of the way through this post. It has been done in about 4 10-minute increments. I’m in Chicago. I started it on the plane, and then I did another part of it this morning before I had to start my podcast interview, and then I did a bit more in my mom’s room while she slept, and now, after giving her some soup and getting her re-settled, but before my brother arrives, I might just finish it. (Editor’s note: I did not. I got interrupted, so I left it, and came back to finish it while I was waiting for dinner.)
It’s okay. Blog posts don’t need to be written all at once, it’s just that that’s my routine. For a while, if I didn’t have that lazy Sunday afternoon free, you wouldn’t see a blog post. Silly Kate.
We all resist it. It’s so much easier to ease into our days doing the things that are easy, and simple. The things that we know will go well. But trust me. We spend more time thinking about and dreading those hard, unpleasant tasks than it actually takes to do them. So if you count all of the mental time and energy it takes to complete a task, you’re wasting SO MUCH TIME on these.
How do I get around the resistance? I have a reward in mind for when I finish it. Knowing that I will waste at least 20 minutes of mental time worrying about the fact that I need to do this unpleasant task, I tell myself that if I just do it (thus, saving myself the 20 minutes of mental gymnastics) I can relax and watch a 20-minute YouTube video of my choice. Or listen to a podcast. Or sit on my veranda and drink a coffee and not do anything productive for 20 minutes.
If the choice is spending 20 minutes stressing about something annoying or 20 minutes relaxing, it’s easier to get going. Bonus: You might find that you have more time to get some of those medium-length items taken care of as well.
In the midst of life’s chaos and busy moments, finding ways to get a remarkable amount of work done in very little time is a valuable skill. Whether you’re juggling family responsibilities, a demanding schedule, or unexpected challenges, these three simple steps can help you make the most of those precious pockets of time. By identifying the tiny tasks, embracing the idea of unfinished work, and tackling the things you’d rather put off, you can accomplish more than you might think.
So, the next time your to-do list seems daunting, remember these strategies and make the most of every available moment to achieve your goals. With determination and a bit of creativity, you can turn chaos into productivity.
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