Thursday, November 15, 2012

How to Get Stuff Done

Meet Kyle!

This week I sewed my very first sock monkey ever. I'm giving myself a high five because making a sock monkey has been on my mental list of things I've wanted to do for twelve friggin' years! Eeee! Can you believe it? I can.

I'm a total dreamer. I have always had long lists of things I've wanted to do someday. Nothing big like become a lawyer or anything. (Sorry Mom!) Just "totally important, unimportant things" (to quote Joy the Baker) like plant a garden, frame some prints, and preserve my summer CSA surplus.

I haven't done everything on this list, but in the last year or so I've been seriously dedicating time to working my way through it. After years of abandoning my path to get lost in the current of other people's momentum, social and work obligations, and (embarrassingly) CSI Miami, the following idea presented itself to me:

If doing something is important to you, giving yourself the proper space, time, and tools is absolutely necessary for making it happen. Your to-do list isn't going to do itself. You've got to do it!

This isn't groundbreaking. I'd always know it to be true for work or school projects. Still, it never occurred to me to apply it to my personal life until I recognized how doing so allowed me to start a legitimate small business, something I knew nothing about. I figured maybe I could do the same thing for my totally important, unimportant things.

A huge step toward living out this idea was keeping a To-Do List Book. (Thanks Leonie Dawson!) How would I describe a To-Do List Book? Oh my god... Imagine how good it feels to strike something like "Take down the recycling" from your list and multiply it by ten.

My To-Do List Book helped me prepare for my move without going insane.
Basically you take a notebook and write down one goal that makes your spirit glow on the top of each page. Be sure to make pages for the goals that seem ridiculously overwhelming and those that seem just ridiculous. If it will make you happy to accomplish it, put it down!

Once you've done that, go back and write down the little to-dos that will help you reach each goal on the page below it. Mark the ones that are actionable. Then add them to your daily to-do list or agenda. Plugging in actionable tasks a week in advance (or month ahead, if you're a good planner) is the easiest way to make sure stuff makes it there. As you go along living, you can strike the little todos and eventually you'll be able to strike your big todos too. Yippee!!!

One great thing about my To-Do List Book is it has the ability to grow and I can easily flip through it to remind myself of ideas and dreams. It wipes away those moments of boredom or listlessness. I'm either doing something or inspired and adding something new.

My To-Do List Book also keeps me open to awesome opportunities. For example, one of my goals is to grow my circle of female friends here in Providence. As dorky as it may seem, this made me remember to look out for the next PVD Lady Project Event. (It's tonight and I can't wait!)

Kyle dreams too.

The best thing about my To-Do List Book is it puts my dreams out there in the Universe. It makes me acknowledge my desires. It recognizes their importance and symbolizes my commitment to them. If nothing more, it's a wish. And really, wishes can't even begin to come true unless we make them. My To-Do List gives the Universe something to work with. I can't help but think if I had known to put the sock monkey on my to-do list 12 years ago, he might have been made sooner.

Obviously, to-do lists are only good if you stick to them. That's why I've perched Kyle on the fireplace mantel in my office. He is my mascot for doing things that make my soul shine, hopefully before a decade passes. (If you need ideas for overcoming procrastination, check out my five tips.)

What's on your to-do list? What do you dream about getting around to one day? How will you do it?

Olivia Lane is a Blogger, Green Living Educator, and Health Coach trained at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She's also author of Baking Soda & Bliss: The Healthy & Happy Guide to Green Cleaning 

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  1. This article was awesome and came at the right time. I definitely are going to make a to-do list journal. I have a lot of personal goals that are very lofty and in my day to day rush they seem too complicated to think about in the moment (so I never do!) Its easier to remember and do things I can easily figure out the steps to like laundry, watching tv, and goofing around with friends. No that any of these things are bad, but the don't constitute all the things I want to do with my time. I need to have the patience to make broad strokes on the things that inspire me, like writing that play or learning how to cook. I'm probably going to have to make a to do list about breaking down all my goals today. Thanks s a lot Olivia for breaking it down. I'm going to start one today...wish me luck!

    1. Aw Pumpkin! Thanks for your comment. I'm really glad it was helpful. Keep me posted on how the To-Do List Book works out for you.

      I'm a big fan of "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. He talks about how the stuff that's urgent is where we tend to spend most of our time, but distinguishes between unimportant urgent and important urgent. Laundry probably falls into important. (At least since I'm a cleaning blogger I think so. LOL!) He says there are also things that aren't urgent, some of which are unimportant (TV) and others that are totally important. The magic happens in this space-- doing totally important, not urgent things. Goofing with friends seems like it might fall into that category (no awesome woman is an island), so don't beat yourself up about that! Just aim to balance it with other important, not urgent stuff like writing your play.




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