If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I live by taking small steps and finding non-threatening approaches to digging into organizing projects. I often set a timer as a means of getting started and/or devoting some time to a project that needs to be done, or I choose a certain number of items to pick up and put away in an effort to make a small difference (take small steps!) when time is limited.
Last weekend, as I was trying to balance too many projects in too little time, I felt a constant cloud of stress engulfing me. I’m listening to a great book, The Upside of Stress, in which author Kelly McGonigal takes a new look at stress and how we can manage it instead of vice versa.
It occurred to me that the cloud that was enveloping me had to do with all of the things I was leaving undone as I zoomed in on the “get ready for the semester” tasks. I’d already promised myself that after fulfilling one morning (school-related) obligation, I was going to devote the rest of Saturday to tasks that would leave me at my family’s beck and call. My daughter was leaving to go back to school on Sunday, and I did not want to spend her last day home with my eyes glued to a computer screen and my nose buried in textbooks. This meant that any tasks I took on needed to be of the “drop it and attend to someone else” variety.
Enter Ten Small Things.
Often, when we’re feeling stressed out, it’s the little things that get to us. The dishes that need to be washed, the checkbook that needs to be balanced, the laundry that needs to be folded. These small things pile up to create a mountain that is perfectly surmountable if only we have nothing else we’re supposed to be working on. (HA!)
So what if I chipped away at the mountain?
After an impromptu lunch with my daughter and her friend (delighted to be invited!), I ran a couple of errands with the girls. When I got home, I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote “10 Small Things” at the top before throwing in a load of laundry.
And then I wrote “1. Towels (laundry)” on my list.
Finding things to fill the list wasn’t difficult (but getting them all done took longer than I expected). Everything was necessary, but nothing was the kind of task that made me crabby if someone interrupted me because they needed something. And, at the end of the afternoon, I could probably find ten more things that still needed to be done.
But I had my list to prove that I’d been busy. I’d made progress. I’d accomplished something.
If you’re thinking that this is a lot like my backwards to-do list, you’re right. The difference? I (randomly) chose a set number of things I wanted to accomplish. I could choose any ten things that crossed my path, but the object was to tackle nagging tasks that contributed to that cloud of stress swirling around me like Pig Pen’s dust in a Peanuts cartoon.
The combination of actually accomplishing ten things and having written proof was a powerful one. Despite the fact that more back-to-school prep loomed and my daughter was still leaving in less than 24 hours, I felt less stressed at the end of the afternoon.
Often, it’s the little things that drag us down. Getting them out of the way frees us to concentrate more fully on the bigger things, which means they get done more quickly and efficiently.
Every little bit helps.
Copyright 2018 Lisa Hess