About 6 months ago I had a dream. It wasn’t a dream about having a song to sing, or rising up. It was about catching up.
Catching up with life.
Catching up with all the jobs.
Catching up with myself.
I’m a list guy. I have lists for everything. I use lists partly because I love structure and order but also partly because I have crap short term memory. Sometimes I can’t even remember a thought I’ve literally just had. So, I use lists, partly because I love structure and order but also partly because I have crap short term memory. :p
There are lists of practical jobs that need to be done around the house, like the ‘paint the cupboard’ type. There are lists for all the little projects I’ve started, like that million pound app idea. There are lists of things that need to be bought. And I won’t start on the work lists, they
are were vast.
I should also mention that, for as long as I can remember, all my lists have been digital. From a Palm Pilot back when I was at school (yep, I was one of those kids) to my current online apps.
My wife is a paper list writer but I like the idea of keeping lists digital because I can access them whenever I want, as long as I have the internet or my phone. Keeping them digital means they’re all synced across devices and locations. So if I happen to find myself in B&Q, I’ll know which size screw it was that I needed.
So back to my dream. I was flicking through my lists and thinking how on earth would I ever catch up? Would there ever be a point where there was nothing on them? Would I ever not have anything that needed to be done yesterday? Especially with all the other things that we do to keep life going.
Over the last couple of years, one of my growing pet hates has been giving an answer of ‘busy’ to ‘How are you?’. It’s very easy to do and I hear it a lot. Being busy seems to be a disease of my generation; more so than younger Millennials.
I don’t think we necessarily strive to be busy, but there is just so much that we want to do, are able to do or feel we need to do. And the more I notice it, the more I’m convinced it’s our own fault. We choose to do all these things to keep us busy.
Louise is a big believer in making sure Sebastian has processing time; time where he can veg out. It mostly happens after school but some weekends we spend a whole day veg’ing at home. Sebastian’s imagination comes alive after a few hours of ‘processing’. By the end of the day he’s created his own amazing games and the house looks like the Next Boxing Day Sale.
I did a neuro-marketing course earlier in the year and read about how neurons and pathways work. It looked at how important down-time, particularly sleep, was to learning. We need time to let our brains do what they do to store information and create new pathways. If we’re constantly stimulating our brains with our busyness, then they don’t have time to do this.
The problem with always being busy is that we don’t allow ourselves the time to sit back and just take time out. The older I get, the more I see this time as being vital for health; not just physical health but also mental health. It gives our bodies and minds time to process and recuperate.
Having spent most of my career in the creative industries, I found my best ideas came when I didn’t expect them or when I did something completely unrelated. My brain was making new pathways and connections that resulted in ideas I hadn’t consciously made.
To help solve a life of busyness and constant stimulation, here are my two suggestions to start with…
The first is to stop doing things that don’t need to be done.
That’s tough. And probably a whole other blog post.
You need to decide where your priorities are and what’s going to make you happy. Unfortunately doing that can lead to us feeling like we’ve let someone down. Or worse FOMO!
Once you’ve got an idea of what you’re dropping, or what you’re prioritising you need to make a list (or two). For each item that’s on the list you should have an idea of it’s priority and how long it will take, honestly. When is anything ever a 5 minute job? This is then the bit that takes commitment. You’ve got to write it in your calendar and stick to it. Don’t stick everything in for next weekend, be realistic and put it in for 2 month’s time if that’s when you think you can do it.
I find that just knowing that I’ve listed a job, prioritised it and written it in the calendar stops it from constantly popping up in the back of my mind.
And don’t forget to schedule in downtime.
I’m by no means saying that I’ve got my lists under control but, with some small changes, I can hopefully better manage the 1,440 minutes I have today.
Being in the fortunate position of not currently working means I can tackle my lists without having to work them around a full-time job. But, to answer my earlier question, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll never really clear them.
Tools to help keep on top of life
Over the years I’ve used a load of different tools to track what I need ‘To Do’. So I thought I’d share a list of the ones I’ve found useful:
This has become my default life list. I can access this on my phone and on a computer.
I’ve been tempted to switch over to this app from Wunderlist as I like the interface and the functionality it has.
Trello uses a card layout to display things that need to be done and what stage they’re at. When we renovated our kitchen and bathroom everything was in Trello. I could see which step everything was at, what had been ordered, delivered, completed etc.
When I ran Copper we all lived in Podio. We stored everything in it. Podio is a little heavy-handed for basic to do lists but, if your life is a bit more complicated, it’s great.