:: The Good Coach ::
Stuck Like Glue — The 10-Step Action Plan
by Lesley Riley
In Parts 1 and 2 [please link the words Part 1 and 2 to the webpage with the first article] of this article, I discussed the importance and problems of keeping a written To-Do list. In Part 3, I am going to provide you with a 10-step action plan designed to dissolve the glue of the to-do.
The glue of having a To-Do list that never sees any action is that it keeps you stuck right where you are. The whole point of a To-Do list is to outline the steps you need to take each day to move you forward and propel you closer and closer to your goals. But for many, the only To-Dos that get crossed off the list are the mundane day-to-day tasks. Don’t be fooled – the act of doing your laundry is just as important as writing your next blog post, which in turn is equally as important as submitting your work for publication. I know that doesn’t make sense, but bear with me.
The things you put on your to-do list are all important things that you want and need to accomplish: pick up your daughter at 4 PM; write your book proposal; do the laundry. Let’s look at doing the laundry vs. writing the book proposal.
If you don’t get the laundry done you and/or your family will end up wearing stinky, dirty clothes. It’s important to you that having nothing clean to wear does not happen. Therefore doing the laundry is an important task. Writing your book proposal is something that can wait, but is ultimately extremely important in advancing your career and your personal dreams and goals. When time is limited, which one wins out? Yep – the laundry. Do you see where I am going with this?
If you think of each incomplete task, no matter how small and time-bound or how big and “whenever”, as a spot of glue that keeps your head and your dreams stuck in your current situation, then you can see how not having a system for conquering the To-Dos can hold you back from living a life of freedom and accomplishment.
There are many ways to tackle a To-Do list and dissolve that glue. The more steps you can take, the more you will master and conquer your To-Do list. Try any or all of the 10 steps in my action plan and see what works for you. I suggest you put this action plan at the top of your To-Do list and DO the steps. It’s one more To-Do, yes, but just for now. Once these things become secondhand, the To-Do glue will dissolve and you will soar.
10 Steps to Conquering Your To-Do List
1. Read my Good Coach article on time and do the block exercise. We artists are visual and there’s nothing like seeing your day in 20-minute blocks.
2. Get a day-planner or At-a-Glance calendar with, at a minimum, a block for each hour. I prefer the one with15 minute intervals. The more you micro-manage your day, the more you can get done.
3. Schedule your to-dos on the calendar so that you can see the big picture of your day and week. Just like a child thrives on a schedule and routine, so will you.
4. Learn to prioritize. One of my favorite tools is to create a To-Do grid using Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix from his book, First Things First. Some things can just wait. Knowing which ones will make your day easier and your to-do list shorter.
5. Don’t confuse want-to with have to. May days are wasted because we choose the easy or fun option instead of the more time consuming or complicated better-for-me option. The best example of this is sticking to your diet….not. We are vey good at doing what we want to do and even better at finding 100 ways to justify it.
6. Figure out how you work best. One school of thought on tackling a to-do list is to do the biggest/hardest/most time consuming task first and get it out of the way. On the contrary, others say to get all the little nagging tasks out of the way first and tackle the big one with a sense of accomplishment. I work in the middle, completing all the quick and easy tasks I can do before 10 AM and then settling in for the big one and doing the less important or urgent small tasks late in the afternoon after the big one(s) is complete.
7. What about things that take more than a day or afternoon to complete? Make an appointment with yourself (on you day planner) to work on these tasks and keep the appointment. Even 15 minutes every day brings you closer to the goal than always leaving it for later when you have more time. You know why. “More time” never comes. You used the appointment system in high school to learn algebra. You can certainly use it now to achieve your bigger and better goals.
8. Speaking of time – get a timer! Using a timer prevents you from wasting time, whether it’s online or on task. Checking your email or writing a blog post is part of life. Spending all morning reading blogs or Facebook is not going to get you any closer to your dreams. Set a timer. 10 minutes. When time is up, get back to work.
9. And speaking of getting back to work…practice discipline. Those who achieve the most, the ones you admire (or envy!), are very disciplined artists. While it may seem like a lot of work, or counter-intuitive to your creative free-spirit, discipline and organization actually allows for more freedom, peace of mind and…success!
10. Schedule free-time into your day. Breaks are important, especially for the larger to-dos that take more concentration. The more you push yourself to finish something the more stress you will be. Stop for 10-15 minutes each hour to stretch, take a walk, paint a background or do a sketch. Or maybe you opt to do one of those quick and easy to-dos on the list like throw a load of laundry in the dryer. In an average day, five or six 10 minute breaks add up to an hour of personal time. Would you rather spend it looking at what others are doing, or doing something for yourself? Choose wisely.
PS. If motivation is a problem, revisit my Good Coach article Don’t Just Think – Do!.
Lesley Riley is an internationally known artist, workshop instructor and author with a passion for spreading the magic of art. Though her company, Artist Success, Lesley provides resources, coaching and mentoring for artists, guiding them from where they are now, to where they want to be. For more information and resources, visit ArtistSuccess.com.