I'd like to say, "Great minds think alike," but in reality, I couldn't fully explain my recent intuition and resulting success until I read a blog post from David Allen (the Getting Things Done guy). Then ... EPIPHANY!
I realized a long time back that all the day planners and to-do lists in the world weren't helping me get things done every day. In fact, some days, looking at tasks to check off was seriously de-motivational. (Which reminds me, if you haven't yet seen it, you've got to check out despair.com. Huge LOLs!)
If anything, it seemed like I did less, even on my best days. I'm not talking just at work, but through the course of a day - work, home, family - the whole enchilada grande with rice and beans.
David Allen pointed out that time management wasn't the problem. And I believe he was (and is) correct. If you can't get things done that you'd like to in a day, the time management theory says it's because you are wasting time and not working efficiently. That may be true, but let's be honest - sometimes I don't do things because, well, I just don't feel like it!
You too, right?
I was crafting a short presentation for tweens based on Proverbs 31 - the part about the virtuous wife. My point for the kids was that everybody has responsibilities, but all those jobs are done for different reasons. The woman in the example is valued above rubies, but not because she works her butt off. She has a balance in all areas. She takes care of her family, she takes care of herself, she has a job, and she's able to provide a little for those in need.
It was then that I altered my own day-planner pages. I've been producing my own for years anyway, so it was no great challenge. I went back and carefully read P31, noting every actual task the woman did. Then I looked at my list. What motivated her to do those things every day? Every task fell into one of four categories: she did things for the home, for the heart, from the home, and from the heart.
That's pretty much how I set up my planner. I have a narrow schedule column for appointments, but the other wider column is divided into sections (top to bottom) in order of importance.
First up is the "For the Heart" category. That's my personal category for exercise, sunscreen, supplements, prayer, and so on. Yes, I will forget if I don't remind myself to do it. And yes, in this context, I am the most important thing in my day - if I don't take care of myself, I won't be able to take care of anything else as well.
Next comes my family - the "For the Home" section. Domestic tasks, which I prefer to have done before I start anything else. I don't know about you, but I don't like sitting down to blog or read a journal article or (heaven forbid) actually bring a client into my home when there's a pile of dishes in the sink. (Before anyone starts on gender roles or anything, let me just remind you that if you want something done right, do it yourself. Anyway, I'm at home to do them, so why not?)
When that stuff is done, I start my own work - "From the Home", if you will. Specifically, any tasks related to Unchained, whether it's clients or just clearing my desk off.
Last, "From the Heart", which includes anything from mailing a birthday card to sewing baby quilts for the hospital.
When I read David Allen's blog, I realized why it worked. Just organizing things in terms of priorities created its own motivation. That's not exactly what he said, but if you gotta have a list, doesn't it makes sense that it should actually help you do what you want to do? Sustainability, baby!