By Christie Perkins
I read a book by Stephen R. Covey many years ago that changed the way I spend my week. Since I’m a textbook nerd I’ll skip the high tech definitions and get right to the point. You’ll appreciate the shortcut version, I’m sure.
But first you must know I’m a huge list maker. I thrive off lists. It’s not so much the list that I like but it’s the check marks that complete me. I like to feel productive. It’s my twisted sugar rush.
So you must know that list making can be a bit of a problem. On one particular unproductive day I couldn’t stand the fact that I wasn’t getting anything done so I actually created a list that I could check off the things I had already done that day. Oh, what a pitiful list. When you have to actually write down brush your teeth and get dressed as a “to do” item you can assume my noon to moon list was doomed to other menial tasks.
So, yep, it was lame.
But, it was so… me. Those little check marks were an indicator that I was making indentations somewhere, even if it was just on paper.
I used to be a great micromanager of my own time. I spent time on my self, on self-education, on my house, on my kids, with my husband, improving my talents, serving others, etc. I even mastered getting ready from shower to finishing touches to under 30 minutes. Yep, from wet head to artificial curls in under 30 mins. I was a powerhouse on time management. Was.
My life was a mecca of little checks.
Then right before I discovered cancer my lists were incredibly small. Irritatingly small. I physically couldn’t do what I did before. I didn’t understand it. But, I’d shoot for the stars and my road flare would just blare half lit at my feet.
Life Forces You to Step Down
Flash forward: I’m 15 months out of cancer treatments but I’m still adjusting. I expect too much from myself and the doctors keep telling me to be patient and that I need more sleep. Not because I’m grumpy but because my eye is doing this spectacular twitching show. No wonder my kids haven’t been taking me very seriously, I wink after every demand. Wow. Aha moment here. Anyway. I have to be patient, sleep, and cut back my to do list. Fabulous. (No worries, I won’t cut brushing teeth from the list.) Then a ray of hope strikes me when I remember good ole Stephen R. Covey.
I can get more out of less.
Getting More Out of Less
I realize that it’s all going to be okay because of one simple idea from his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. He suggests that instead of making daily lists (which you still can do) that you make a weekly list. What are the things you want to accomplish this week that are lined up with your roles (mother, writer, homemaker, yard keeper, etc.)? List these things.
What’s the difference between a weekly and a daily list? There’s a big difference. The daily list shuts out opportunities for connections. Yep, the people go missing. Bonding moments get missed when we focus only on the things on our list. A weekly list allows for flexibility. It lets you prioritize relationships. And relationships should be the number one focus of our lives. Things get dropped for people. I like it. I love working off this weekly list.
I get more out of my relationships with less check marks. And I still manage to get the most important things done. I’m actually spending less time on hundreds of little things that don’t matter. It really works. Why? Here’s what Stephen R. Covey has to say:
“…weekly organizing gives you the freedom and the flexibility to handle unanticipated events, to shift appointments if you need to, to savor relationships and interactions with others, to deeply enjoy spontaneous experiences…” (Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Simon and Schuster, 1989)
Don’t you just love that? I do.
Rewards For a Prioritized List
I find myself playing games with the kids, visiting family or friends more, doing spontaneous weed pulling (because my husband is out pulling weeds and it looks more fun with him to look at) and polishing that inner smile more. If these things were on my list they would come off as simply a check mark. Check. Check. Instead, it comes in as a check in on the heart. Ah, much better.
And that’s why when I tuck myself into bed at night, I can actually smile about my day and not be frustrated at what wasn’t done but realize that I took time for what needed to be done. I did the things that mattered today because I followed the simple principle of weekly planning in conjunction with my roles.
So, if you are at all like me… a list maker, then do more in your life and for others by putting less on that list. Try it this week. See how much more you feel enriched. See the magic of a satisfied life take a new twist on your day.
When I need to wind down I simply take out a paper and list the 7 most important things I need to accomplish this week. I only choose seven. (I believe that he had 19 things listed in the example in the book). For me, seven is a magical number I’m happy with.
It’s what I do when I just have to take life down a notch. I believe all can benefit from this simple rule of downsizing our lists and sifting out much of the unnecessary “to do” items. Try it. Love it.
Live by it.
…And yes, this was the shortcut version.
What are your top 7 things you want to do this week?
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