You likely have some sort of productivity system in order. Your to dos are in line (however you prefer to arrange them). You know your peak productivity hours, and you’ve learned how to hone your focus for better efficiency. But if you’re also a big dreamer with tons of exciting side projects on your to do list, chances are that life often gets in the way of your plans. And you’re probably getting sick of it.
No one can plan their day out perfectly, and no one can avoid all sidetracks and distractions. There will be some days when you have to scramble just to make it through. But if you constantly find yourself beating yourself up over the to dos you never manage to get to-done, you may be committing a cardinal big dreamer error:
Forgetting the obvious.
“Have Tos” Are To Dos, Too
For the average GTD practitioner, this might not be an issue. If you know enough to schedule everyday chores like picking up the dry cleaning or taking the kids to the dentist into your daily schedule, then a) I am envious of your practicality, and b) you may now stop reading, as none of this will apply to you.
But for those of us who tend to get our heads stuck in the clouds of all our grand personal plans (be it starting a business, running a blog, preparing for a marathon, or what have you), we can find ourselves so motivated to get working on our big goals that we forget to consider everyday chores when we’re making our schedules. Which means our big plans are constantly being thwarted by them.
As a GTD junkie and grand master plan-maker extraordinaire, I did manage to come so far as to recognize recently that I can usually get 2-3 “action items” done each day. So that’s all I held myself to. But even then, it still felt like I never managed to get around to them. Was I really that bad at keeping on top of my plans? Or were none of the systems I was trying any good?
Nope. I was just missing the obvious.
My action items were all inspiring, personal project to dos. I wasn’t allowing any room on my list for the humdrum, “unimportant” tasks that I still had to take care of.
It was a forehead slapping moment of the most embarrassing variety. But having that realization radically changed the way I get things done now.
Don’t Hate on the Have Tos (They Can’t Help It)
My biggest obstacle in shifting my focus to include everyday chores was getting over my resentment of them. It’s frustrating to have big plans and all the motivation in the world to do them, and yet be stuck doing dishes or getting your oil changed.
But you know what? It’s unavoidable. We all have 24 hours in a day, and we all have chores, and even our grandest of grand plans can’t change those two facts. The quicker I learn to accept that, the quicker I can get them done and be happy with whatever progress I’m able to make on the other stuff.
If I have to go grocery shopping today, then guess what? That’s one action item on the day’s list. It has to be, because it takes up a chunk of my time, even though it’s not glamorous or personally meaningful and it doesn’t do anything to advance my exciting plans for my life.
If I need to pay the bills because they’re due this week (even though I’d much rather be working on my writing), then that takes priority. Because it’s hard to write if you have no electricity because you think bill paying is mundane.
The bottom line is that leaving these items out of your goals for the day only leads to frustration, because you’ll constantly find your to dos getting derailed by your have tos. By including your have tos on your list, you avoid all that guilt and annoyance by creating a plan that’s more realistic and realizing you’re doing the best that you can.
And if the humdrum still frustrates you, at least you can take pleasure in having checked off more items on your day’s list than you used to. GTD junkies get a thrill out of things like that, right?
(Photo credit: Error via Shutterstock)