Today I am having an email correspondence with a client about how best to organise your time.
She’s telling me that she’s gone from “bonkers busy to now, scarily, having a little time”. She doesn’t know what to do first. There’s loads to do and she’s started by making a list, of course, as I would.
She’s losing herself in some busy admin tasks and doing paperwork as it comes in. She’s hoping that she’ll get round to sorting what needs to be done and mostly/hopefully within the timescales that need to be met.
She says she always hopes she’ll have time to organise things later and so she leaves them open, and she has a sense that’s adding to her stress. And she adds that either she needs to do things as they arise, or admit that the task is not important enough to make happen in that timescale and not important enough either to stress about later.
She ends by asking me a philosophical question and one I don’t know the answer to: “what’s it all about?” I said if I knew the answer to that one, I feel that life would be quite dull!
I told her I would write a blog about the practical issues. And here it is.
Firstly, when you are “bonkers busy” all you can do is what’s in front of you. All you can do is firefight and get done what needs to be done in your business and your life, and those essentials generally have a way of getting done.
The conundrum here is what to do when a little bit of time opens up. Now’s your chance to take care of all those things that got neglected in the busy times. But you are knackered from the busy times and you don’t relish any of the tasks.
What would I do?
I would start with a list, and I would order that list according to what is important to me. Here’s a couple of ways you might do that, from an earlier blog post on this topic.
One of the things on my client’s To Do list is organising her photographs. I have several clients who are often bogged down by this task. It is not a problem I have as I am not a photographer but it seems to be both time-consuming and to take up endless amounts of hungry space on your various phones and laptops so there comes an urgent point when it needs doing or you can’t do anything else, or take any more photos.
Two of my clients once both each took a year to organise their photos before they could get cracking with any other area of their lives. So far as I know, they are still working on that project, from which I conclude that this task, though possibly desirable, isn’t do-able.
This organising of photos was something that engaged women I know in the pre-digital age too. Then they used to worry about putting them all in albums. That was in the days when you used to get 36 prints made at Boots! And most of those were rubbish. I guess the same thing applies to digital photos too. Most of them are rubbish. This is a delete opportunity.
Today’s client takes good photographs and shares them on Facebook but I query with her whether they all need saving. I wonder whether – as so often – judicial use of the delete button would reduce this task considerably, although you’d have to develop the skill of deciding which photos make the cut. And decision-making can also be stressful. It takes brain power. Er no, it probably takes brain training.
Instead of making tha decision I think we err on the side of keeping everything “just in case” and that makes the photo task stressful, time-consuming and space-hungry.
And so it is with paperwork too. I wonder why in 2016 we have paperwork at all? So little needs to be printed out and filed. Some things do, by all means print and file those but ask for everything else to be sent to you digitally and file it on your computer/in the cloud on the day it comes in and filing is a task which largely disappears from your life. I know. I’ve achieved this one. I’ve been filing digitally since 2012.
I have noticed how much goes into filing and how little ever comes out again. I would hazard a guess that we are wasting 90% of our time and the energy we put into filing. Except for the fact, again, that it makes us feel safe and the satisfaction we derive from knowing we could put our finger on it if anyone ever asked. My experience is that they mainly don’t ask!
When it comes to the rest of my To Do list it is a question of urgent -v- important. And I would strike off everything which didn’t need doing and take quite a firm line there, developing better deleting and decision-making habits in order to liberate myself from today onwards. And deliberately continuing to train myself in this way forever. As you do that life simplifies day by day and these things stop coming back. You’ve found the solution.
I would do the things which are important to me and to the people I care about in the order of priority and deadline. If something absolutely positively has to get done on time, it falls into the bonkers busy category and it gets done.
I really don’t like to live right up against a deadline so I favour doing everything now, today, and have organised my life accordingly. I do have a small filing pile and when it comes to doing it, several of the items will go in the circular file (dustbin!) instead of in a lever arch one. And I will notice what could have been sent to me digitally and request that it is in future. I am a devil for checking the post and reducing that via an email request to the sender. Stop sending stuff.
I get a wonderful warm glow and sense of achievement from ticking things off my list which makes me feel good about myself, unreasonably so. I find that this and the filing both liberate a huge surge of energy with which I can then go on to tackle even harder tasks I might have been putting off, should there be any. Or I can just go out and enjoy my life, feeling saintly.
But given that my client has been “bonkers busy”, I wouldn’t recommend that she spend all her free time on work and admin stuff which may or may not need doing. I want her to reward herself with at least 50% of her free time to top up on self-care and have a life, it not more than 50%. A lot more than 50% actually. She deserves that very much indeed, she’s a grafter.
When it came to the “what’s it all about” question, we both agreed we were not put on this earth to organise our photographs and our filing. Get out of the office and have some fun!