Today’s post is based on Mind Organization for Moms, a GTD®-based system developed by April Perry at Power of Moms.
The fact is that there are more things to do in life than time to do them, and whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s generally because I’m trying to put too much on my plate.
I understand that life is incredibly demanding for most people. Society (and the economy) today seems to require that we squeeze more into a 24-hour period than ever before, but no matter how organized we are, how disciplined we are, or how badly we need to be in three places at once, each of us only has one plate.
Living with intention means that we take the time to assess our lives and figure out what we’re actually doing with our time and energy. My husband describes living his ideal life as being “in the zone.” When he’s “in the zone,” he’s taking care of his physical, spiritual, mental, social, and emotional self. It’s a positive cycle that leaves him feeling satisfied and optimistic at the end of each day–in spite of the challenges he might face.
Lately, I haven’t felt anywhere near “the zone,” so I decided to spend an hour this week applying the Natural Planning Model from the book Getting Things Done® to my overall life plan. I consider myself a very productive person, but I don’t want to spend my life simply “doing a lot of things.” I want to do the right things–and that takes some serious decision making.
I figured that as long as I was doing this exercise, I might as well document the process and share it with others who also might have too much on their plates.
Step 1: Defining Purpose and Principles
This was a fun one. I got out a blank sheet of paper and wrote at the top: “If I were to feel thrilled about my life each day, what would it look like?” I know this list could go on and on, but I tried to keep it simple, basically entailing things like having a healthy, clean environment, building strong relationships, spending my time on meaningful projects (that can only be done by me–delegating everything else), nurturing my mind, body, and spirit, and living a life filled with purpose.
Step 2: Outcome Visioning
As I looked over the list from Step 1, I started envisioning how this “new life” would be (and how it would not be). For example, I pictured our closets and cupboards containing half as many things as they currently do. I pictured my children happily completing their responsibility charts. I pictured our family going on more walks together, cooking new recipes in the kitchen, and snuggling together for story time and bedtime. I imagined myself responding to emails twice a day, when I could actually sit down and process them calmly (instead of rushing through them whenever I had a free second in the kitchen). I also pictured myself breathing more, smiling more often, and feeling more deliberate about my daily routines.
Really seeing these things is empowering.
Step 3: Brainstorming
With this vision fresh on my mind, I started seven small mind maps–encapsulating all the actions and characteristics I want to translate into habits.
As I did this, an interesting thing happened. I started to see how a few basic changes would transform my entire life.
- I need firm boundaries. As a mother who is working on lots of projects from home, it’s enticing to squeeze work into every open minute. I need more space in my day, and that means keeping “extra” work separate from “family” work.
- I need to be deliberate about making time to read good books and think. That’s what fuels me, and when I stop doing those things, the person inside starts to die.
- I need to delegate or defer as many projects as possible. There are some things that can only be done right now–like making podcasts with my children, photographing their childhood, recording what I’m learning about motherhood, and building a family that I adore. A lot of the “urgent” things can wait.
Step 4: Organizing
Here’s where I took all those principles, dreams, and brainstorms and translated them into a very doable list. I first identified eight components of my “ideal” life. As I prioritized them, I realized that half could wait awhile, so I put them onto next month’s trigger list. I also realized that the four remaining items were the essence of my stress. (Kind of fun to figure that out.)
Step 5: Identifying Next Actions
Before placing these four items onto my “Current Projects” List, I identified my Next Actions and put them on my context-based list (phone calls, computer work, errands, agendas, and home tasks). It is one of the most liberating things in the world to see a broad, theoretical plan become something doable and focused.
This week, I don’t have to think about every little thing I’ve ever wanted to accomplish. I simply need to keep my work hours within predetermined slots of time, spend 30 minutes moving those “I’ll-sort-someday-but-these-really-belong-in-the-office” boxes out of my bedroom, take 15 minutes to research a landscaping company, and invest one hour evaluating my Routines and Responsibilities List. That can be done.
Not everything in life can be controlled, and there’s no way I can plan for every single distraction or opportunity. However, when I take the time to seriously plan, I can create the life I’ve always wanted–even if I DO only have one plate.
QUESTION: How do you decide what to take off your plate?
CHALLENGE: Spend 30-60 minutes this week seriously evaluating your life using the Natural Planning Model described above, and then enjoy your deliberate life.