Getting back on track

getting back on track with good habits by setting priorities

Old habits die hard. New habits fade quickly.

Have you ever noticed that? You put a lot of energy toward building up a new good habit, and as soon as you turn your head, that new habit is gone – poof!

Well, I’ve been noticing that all the new habits I’m trying to build all at once are stretching my will power beyond its limits (did you know that we have a limited supply of will power? It’s true!). I’ve been trying to exercise more, eat better, take better care of my home, be more productive at work, tend this blog, be nicer to myself… And, in the past, I would have trundled along, just feeling like a failure; saying to myself, “why can’t I just DO these things? What’s the matter with me!?”

However, after going through the savoring experiment and learning how to look inward, I have been able to actually see what I’m doing to myself. I’m simply expecting too much. It’s no wonder I’ve been feeling like a tornado in the middle of a hurricane – I’ve been spreading myself far too thin.

Here’s how I’m getting back on track

I need to prioritize the areas that I want to focus on, so that I can apply the appropriate amount of effort and determination (i.e. will power) toward each one. So here is the order in which I have decided to give a shit about things.

  1. Prepare for the Spartan This damn race is happening on June 1 whether I’m ready for it or not, and I’ve already booked my flights, my hotel room and my place in the race, so I’m IN THE RACE. And pardon me when I say I’m fucking terrified, since I’m so far behind schedule on training. I am going to need all my will power to keep myself on track with a six-day-a-week training schedule.
  2. Eat healthier This goes hand-in-hand with my #1 priority, but it doesn’t come naturally to me, so it takes will power to choose broccoli over french fries as a side, or fruit over Goldfish crackers for a snack. I will never choose anything over bacon, so don’t even go there. In any case, I’m not going to beat myself up over my food choices.
  3. Do my daily chores I started my new routine last week, and my reminders have been working pretty well. But, when I haven’t been able to empty the dishwasher because I didn’t start it the night before, I’ve been chastising myself. That stops today. I’m doing the best I can with the energy I have to put towards this. I’m not going to stop the reminders, but I AM going to cut myself some slack when I choose not to do something because it’s a lower priority than #1 and #2.
  4. Be more productive at work Screw this and the horse it rode in on. Kidding. Sort of. I’m actually doing much better at this lately, after spending some time reviewing my priorities and partnering with my boss to determine what she believes is really important. As for doing better, well, we’ll worry about that if I live through the Spartan. For now, I’m just going to make sure that I’m getting my job done well.

So there you have it folks. The top four things I’m going to put all my energy into. If it ain’t on this list, I ain’t got time for it.

making time for top priorities

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Keeping track of tasks when you’re overwhelmed

Charlie Gilkey may just be my favorite person on the Internet. Among many other wonderful things he has done, Charlie created a set of task management tools that actually makes sense to me.

PF PlannerI have tried so many things to keep track of all the projects, requests, random tasks and various things-to-do that are on my plate. I’ve made lists, created spreadsheets, added tasks to Outlook, just given up, and then tried them all again.

What I like about Charlie’s tools (including the original, revised, and newly revised versions) is that they guide me from the big picture to the minutia, in a logical, step by step manner, and they can be used independent of one another, in case I don’t know the big picture, or can’t face the minutia.

Let’s pause a moment to properly introduce Charlie. He runs a business, website and blog called Productive Flourishing. I found it a couple years ago, and have been a loyal follower ever since. I enjoy reading his blog, and find his advice easy to understand, though hard to follow (mostly because change is hard). My favorite thing about Charlie has to be the fact that he’s his own BS meter, and he calls himself out on occasion. I appreciate that in anyone doling out advice.

Anyway, Charlie has said that he initially developed these task management tools – he calls them planners – to help himself, and he tested them and refined them before putting them out there for others to use. He’s continued to refine them over the years, and the latest iteration is quite nice.

There are a number of versions of the planners – action planners, freelancer workweek planners, and blog post planners. There are also supporting documents like the individual project planner, the productivity jumpstarter, and the heatmap (this is an interesting tool that I tried to use, but I’m really not self-aware enough to get much out of it yet).

I’ve used both the action planners and the freelancer workweek planners, and now that I’m blogging again, I’m using the blog post planners. At work, I find that the monthly action planner coupled with the freelancer workweek planners are the best fit for me. I can give myself a plan for each week using the monthly view, and then flesh that plan out a bit more in the weekly view. I don’t get down to the daily view much anymore, as my days are not really my own (that’s just not the culture where I work).

I used to try to get to the daily level, but I was driving myself crazy with having to re-write half (or more than half) of my tasks onto the next day’s list. I was giving myself too many things to do each day, and it was only when I backed out to the weekly view that I started to give myself a bit of grace for things left undone on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, since I could see at a glance that I could get them done on Thursday or Friday…

In any case, I love these planners, and if you’re struggling with overwhelm, these are a really nice way to start to manage it. Plus, if you poke around on Productive Flourishing, there’s some great advice there, too.

How do you track all of your tasks, projects and various to-dos?