It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except when it isn’t. We’re in the final throes of GetStuffDone time before year end. I’m calling this GettingStuffDone instead of just “Meh, getting stuff done,” because the stuff to be done now is big, and the time left to do it is small. This isn’t just normal day-to-day grocery shopping, meal prep, laundry, work obligations, friendship maintenance, etc. These are the biggies: holiday shopping, holiday meal prep, tooth-brushing your grout from the windows to the walls (just me?), and still pulling it together with a sparkly statement necklace for three-to-five holiday parties per week. We’re not just getting stuff done, we’re getting big stuff done an in a big way. Got stuff you’re getting done out there, hash tag it: #GetStuffDone. To the fellow members of Procrastination Nation I say: Let’s do this.
“To the fellow members of Procrastination Nation I say:
Let’s do this.”
Astrologically, it’s the darkest before the dawn. We’re in the final week before the winter solstice, at which point daylight will steadily increase. Until then, darkness. Everywhere. Fitting since astrological winter darkness is ideal for introspection and clearing out, while physical darkness (and dankness, and cold) is ideal for GettingStuffDone. Once the solstice comes we’ll have time to shine on into the new year setting new goals and generally renewing all around. We’re close. We’re smell it, taste it, maybe even pencil-it-in close, but we’re not there yet. We’re still in the darkness.
Everywhere you look are passing references to being overwhelmed and bogged down at this time of year, but precious little about how to handle it (other than #justbreathe or #countyourblessings). Personally, I’m finding myself at the eye of holiday storm made up of procrastinated annual goals (high stakes, since failure to knock those out in the next two weeks leaves an unchecked box on the YEAR!) and an out-of-my-control acceleration of my existing timeline. Cue freak out.
“I kept winding up in mid-afternoon anxiety-fueled attacks of swirling priorities.”
Once the freak out subsides, it’s time to plan and plan like I’ve never planned before. In the past, when I’ve had major planning to do, the priorities were clear. Sure, there’s a lot to get done, but there are usually only one or two TOP PRIORITIES. That’s let me drop everything non-essential to ensure the Top Priorities got knocked out. Now, though, there are six (Six!?!?!) priorities, each with attendant to-do lists. How did I let this happen? It’s pretty clear that something is going to have to fall to back burner, and I realized that I should make damn sure I’m in control of what that it.
I kept winding up in mid-afternoon anxiety-fueled attacks of swirling priorities:
- (It starts when I realize I’m behind at work . . . ) I’ve got to get everything buttoned-up at work before I’m out on maternity.
- But I don’t know when my maternity will start since, well, that’s up to Li’l Blob, right?
- Well, it WAS, until she wouldn’t flip and now the process to flip her could cause her to come early. Which means . . .
- (It quickly escalates when I realize I’ve stopped thinking about the implications of being a new mom for 5 whole seconds . . . ) Holy crap I don’t have the car seat installed. What if I get trapped at the hospital giving birth to her after the flip procedure an then have no way to get her home because I didn’t get the car seat installed?
- Which reminds me (for no reason whatsoever) that we have no time at all to paint that bookshelf for her nursery. It will have to stay in the garage.
- But it CAN’T stay in the garage because that’s where I need to set up Christmas surprises.
- (Anxiety gains steam when I realize there are fewer than seven remaining shopping days . . . ) Christmas surprises? Who are you kidding? Nothing has been bought, arranged-for, or delivered. And even if it had been, things still need to be assembled and since Wed. last week you can hardly even tie your shoes. Just how are you going to assemble Christmas surprises?
- One of the reason you can’t tie your shoes is because you haven’t burned off the calories in a stick of sugar free gum since before Thanksgiving.
- (Slowing the speed of the attack is accomplished by settling back on an old favorite recurring thought: You are a BLOB.) These anxiety attacks don’t count for work-outs? Maybe I can squeeze something in pre-dawn before work?
- But sleep is important to a pregnant mom.
- But I don’t sleep anyway. I’m a bad pregnant mom, terrible blobby fitness failure, wayward off-track Christmas Elf, and verging on being a terminable lackluster employee.
- (You get the idea.)
So, how do I fix this? Grab a Post-It note.
Yes, a Post-It note. A small piece of paper. I’m serious; put the spiral notebook aside (for now). On the small piece of paper write down the top priorities and think big-picture. (So, no fair writing “pick up Chex Mix” on the Post-It.) Write down these things down as they come to you, then worry about putting them in priority order.
Next, take a piece of blank paper and fold it into as many sections as you have priorities on your post it. In each section, put a priority, then below it fill in all the to-dos you have pending for the priority. Here’s mine:
Next, whip out your trusty calendar. In any available time space, put one of the to-dos from the folded paper. Start with the priority-1 to-dos. If you’re conflicted about which to-do to put on your calendar, defer to your prior prioritization, and stay strong. I had to keep repeating the idea that if something wasn’t going to get done, I wanted to be damn sure it was something from Priority 6, not Priority 1.
Finally, all that’s left is to just GetStuffDone. At the end of the process you should have a daily calendars full of to-dos that are already sorted and prioritized. You don’t have to wonder if the thing on your calendar, the thing you are doing, is the right thing to be doing in that moment — you’ve already thought through that.
All that’s left to do is to do.