Summer is here and hopefully you are thinking about a vacation in the coming months. It’s surprising, however, how many people don’t take vacations because they say they have too much to do. And even if you do take vacations, are you really able to let go of your work? Does work continue to haunt you when you are away from it?
You’ll Never Get it All Done
There is a lesson here that we all need to learn, and it may be time for you to consider it: You’ll never get it all done. This is absolutely true! We all get just too many requests, and we think up just too many things to do these days that you can never do them all—you’ll never get it all done! If you feel like you can’t relax until it’s all done, well, you’ll never relax. So you need to learn and internalize that lesson, and then start to let go.
To Let Go, Prioritize and Shorten Your To-Do List
One way to let go is to prioritize well, and then focus on only a small subset at any given time. Then let go of the rest until you are ready to promote them to your list. Get them off your list for now.
So after you prioritize your daily to-do list, cull it down and only show a small and reasonable number of items—only show a count that does not overwhelm you. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will throw away all the other items. The 1MTD and MYN to-do list systems show you how to hide or deprioritize them.
How to Decrease your To-Do List Size
But, even with these excellent to-do list systems in place, if you slip and let their main lists get too big, their utility starts to fall apart. I have lots of tips for how to decrease the size of your to-do list:
- One seemingly drastic one is to completely empty your to-do list and start over. It’s actually not so drastic; in those steps you still save the items, you just put them back on your main list a few at a time, picking only the most important. It’s a good way to force yourself to clear the fog of overwhelm for a day or two and reset your priorities. Again, see this article about doing that.
- Some of you may be so far behind on processing your 1MTD or MYN list that you forgot how to use the system. If that’s you, read this short article about how 1MTD works. Or read this article that reviews points for both 1MTD and MYN.
- Or maybe you understand the systems but need more advice on shortening the list; this article covers that.
Working the Things that Are Right for You
My more fundamental lesson today though is this: are you working on things that are really right for you? Many of the things you are doing perhaps you should delegate to others. And more importantly, are you focusing on work that fits who you are, on what you want out of life? Do your activities match what you know in your heart you should be doing? Are they the best things to commit your limited time and personal gifts to? In other words, perhaps you should let go of some of your work commitments because you are misallocating your precious time.
This summer might be a good time to think about that—about how appropriately you’ve focused your work life. I’ll be writing more about this important topic in articles this summer and beyond, so keep watching my newsletters. In the meantime, take a look at my Workday Mastery Pyramid and study the Connect layer there. It provides a way to start thinking about that.