Get started

Time to get to work. No excuses.

When I think I have good reasons for not getting stuff done it’s sometimes hard for me to admit I’m really just making excuses.

But no more. Time to get to work. 

No more excuses. 

I’m working on a new book. Non-fiction. It’s part commentary about aging and part memoir about my journey to menopause. 

The thing is, I wrote the first draft 3 years ago. 

I wrote it in hopes that my experience would help other women better navigate what can be a very confusing time. 

But then I put the manuscript on a shelf and left it there. 

For 3 years. (Did I already mention that?)

There are a few reasons I chose to get back to it:

  • I still think my story might help other women or at least give them something to think about. 
  • There’s value in the message. 
  • Re-writing/editing the manuscript is do-able, even if it may be difficult.

So I decided to get back to it and have given myself until April 2021 to publish. 

I made that commitment this past April, thinking, Oh yeah. That’s plenty of time. 

And just like that, 2 months have passed.

I have been working on it, but it’s pretty slow going. Even when I was stuck at home in COVID quarantine with no place to go, no people to see, and not much else going on, I chipped away at it very slowly. 

This has all helped me realize a few things about what I need to do to improve my results and meet my goals.

These realizations may help you, too.

Decide whether you really want to do it.

Projects kept on the “back burner” don’t get done. Of course it’s important to prioritize and you may have to shift things around now and then.

But if you really want to do that thing you’ve left on the back burner, you’re going to have to move it to the front burner eventually. 

I left my manuscript on a shelf in my office without looking at it. For 3 years! If it was ever going to be finished I had to pull it off the shelf, read it, and decide, Yes, I still want to do this. 

But this goes for anything you say you want to do. If you’re waiting for the perfect time to do X, and are just waiting for “someday,” it won’t happen because “Someday never comes.” 

It’s okay to change your mind about stuff you thought you wanted to do. But if there’s truly something you want to do, you have to decide to do it, then get to work.

Which leads me to my next point.

Make a plan. 

Time races by. It’s important to have a plan to do the things you really want to do. Even a loose plan is better than no plan. 

I find I work a lot better when I have a clear idea of what I’m going to be doing and when I’ll be doing it. And I have to write it down in a calendar, planner, journal. Something. 

I came across a journal in which I’d written my New Year’s goals several years ago. In 2015, I wrote that my physical fitness goal was to do 100 double-unders unbroken (double-unders are fast–you jump rope with 2 turns of a rope instead of 1).

That goal is funny to me now because I said I wanted it, even wrote it down. 

But I didn’t make a plan to meet my goal. 

Had I really wanted it, I would have practiced several times a week, gotten coached on the skill, set intermittent milestones throughout the year, so that on December 31, 2015, I had a good shot at setting up and knocking out a hundred double-unders with no problem. 

Didn’t happen. Not even close.

No plan, no good.

Give it time. 

If there’s something you really want to do that you’ve put on the back burner, take a peek at it now and then. Maybe you can’t be all in at the moment, but are there little things you can do here and there to prepare for when you can?

Most things take time and preparation. You may have to take a class, read up on the subject, do some research, start with trial and error. Expect it to take time.  

No more excuses.

Anytime I come up with “reasons” I don’t do what I say I want to do, even though some of those reasons may be pretty significant obstacles, I have to see them for what they are…excuses. 

Jim Rohn said, If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. 

When I make excuses for not sticking to my plan or continuing to put things on the back burner, I have to ask myself, if I really want to do this, then what’s keeping me from doing it?

At that point I can begin to discover what obstacles are keeping me from reaching my goal. Often, it’s some internal obstacle stemming from self-doubt or fear. Or maybe I don’t really want it that bad. 

And that’s okay, too, because it frees me up to do the things I really want to do.

And…begin.

Now it’s time for me to plan my work and then work my plan. No more excuses. 

How about you? Is there something you really want to do but have put it on the back burner for someday? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Read more about setting goals on the blogpost: Create your vision and dare to dream big

Feeling trapped

What you can do to help stop Coronavirus spread

I’ve had Coronavirus on the brain for a while. Ever since the news of the virus hitting Northern Italy hard, I scour the news sources, sometimes bleary-eyed for some new bit of informtion.

By now we all know we should:

  • Practice social distancing
  • Not gather in large groups
  • Wash hands with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Cough and sneeze in your elbow or a tissue.

With that in mind, the news is bleak.

But here are a few stories that have stayed with me and are a great reminder about what we’re dealing with.

The first is from Dr. Emily Landon from the University of Chicago Medicine.

Her message hits to the heart of our current situation and the frustrating reality that the best most of us can do is to do nothing.

She says healthcare workers around the world are doing their part to help us through the pandemic. Now, we need to do our part.

If you haven’t seen it, you can watch Dr. Landon’s March 21 speech or read the transcript at:

Chicago’s Doctor’s Blunt Speech About COVID-19 Hits Home

And this message from Craig Spencer, MD in New York who (via Twitter) implores people to stay home. He says, “You might hear people say it isn’t bad. It is….I survivied Ebola. I fear COVID-19.”

Read the full account at Doctor Gives Harrowing Account of Life on the Frontline for Clinicians Treating COVID-19 in New York

Get the facts

For information about COVID-19, what it is, and how to protect you and your family go to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to help this crisis pass any faster except follow your state and local guidelines.

And be patient.

Take advantage of the downtime to:

Exercise.

Even if it’s a walk around the block, a short workout, or a dance party in your living room.

Get stuff done.

Pick up those projects you’ve been putting off. It can be hard to get motivated, but start small and keep at it. Little by little you can do a lot.

Get outside.

It’s a sunny 88 degrees as I write this. Outside in the shade would be good. And even when outdoors, keep your recommended 6-feet social distance.

Waste nothing.

Freeze food before it goes bad. Be creative with your meals.

Meet virtually.

We’ve resorted to live-video, group workouts and virtual coffee meetings using What’s App. It’s not the same as being there, but it’s better than going it alone.

Donate time and/or money

If you have the time or money, check with your local Red Cross to find your local chapter about how you can help. They may even have ways to volunteer virtually.

As always, a little gratitude goes a long way.

Reach out to others if you need a word of encouragement, a videochat, a roll of toilet paper, an egg…whatever.

Wishing you patience and health through this crisis.

Need some motivation to kick start your new project? Read What are you waiting for? on the blog.

Stay focused

4 Strategies to keep you focused and get stuff done

I’ve been struggling to stay focused lately, or more to the point, struggling to not want to be distracted when I have stuff to do.

Squirrel.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about listening better. And, yeah, I’m working on it.

But focusing on being a better listener has made me realize my very self-sabatoging tendency to allow distractions to shift my focus.

I allow myself to be distracted by things, people, stuff, and, here’s the biggee, I tend to actually look for things to distract myself — stuff that sucks me in and keeps me from work/tasks/commitments that matter to me. 

Distractions abound. And when I’m bored, tired, out of my groove, or wanting to do anything other than what I’m doing, I look for a distraction. 

Squirrel.

Especially when the task is difficult, tedious, boring, or otherwise unappealing. That’s when I most want to look at/think about/read about something else, which keeps me from doing what’s most important to me.

Must stay focused, but….squirrel!

Recently, I’d been working on a blogpost when, for no good reason, I logged on to Facebook. I had no business there, no real purpose for going there other than to distract myself. All I wanted was a little diversion, just a quick glance at something else.

Well don’t you know, I got sucked into the Facebook vortex.

20 minutes later!…I finally pulled myself away and logged off.

And it isn’t just FB. I might pick up my phone to check the weather, but I end up reading news headlines and checking Instagram and maybe looking to see what’s showing at the movies. Or maybe I’ll just have some Valentines’ Day chocolate.

So, with a conservative estimate on a regular day, I can easily spend about an hour on stuff not in line with my priorities. 

7 hours a week. 30 hours a month. 360 hours a year. That’s 15 days. Of my life!

Time well-spent? 

Almost certainly not.

Someone once said: Time is our most valuable non-renewable resource. 

(I looked it up and according to Goodreads.com, it was Albert-Laszlo Barabasi in his book, Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do)

You are so right, Albert!

The clock is ticking, man.

And if time is my most valuable non-renewable resource then what am I doing wasting so much of it? 

I had to ask myself, how can I shift my mindset to help me stay focused on what I’m doing?

Here’s what I know: I get way more long-lasting satisfaction from completing something on my “To Do” list than from scanning news headlines, checking email, or mindless snacking. 

When I complete a task from my “To Do” list I know I’ve done what I set out to do and spent my nonrenewable resource on something that’s important to me.

And that sense of accomplishment has a snowball effect. It gives me momentum.

I’ve proven to myself that I can focus and accomplish what I set out to accomplish. (Honestly, even if it’s something as “boring” as doing the laundry. Not my favorite thing to do, but necessary, and now…done. Check.)

Here are a few strategies I’m using to combat my tendency to seek distractions to avoid important but difficult/boring/challenging/mundane tasks.

Have a plan

I work well with a “To Do” list and a calendar. On the calendar I mark my deadlines, some self-imposed and arbitrary, others imposed by others and firm, like April 15 tax filing deadline. 

By Sunday night, or at the latest Monday morning, I have a plan for my week. I list what I will work on every day. That’s my “To do” list. If for some reason I don’t get to something on my “To Do” list for that day, I push it back to the following day or earliest possible day. 

What works best for me is scheduling slightly more than I think I can do. And then I prioritize my list, taking into account any factors that may affect the schedule. 

I’ve been using this strategy for a while and I’m surprised how lost I am without a plan.

The other day I had nothing on my schedule except to spend the day with a relative. She got sick and had to cancel. I was left with my blank schedule board and I had to think for a few minutes about how to best regroup.

If you want to stay more focused, try writing a daily plan.

Be flexible

Things are going to come up, which is all the more reason to seize the day when you have the chance.

When you do what’s important instead of squandering your life away on stupid stuff that doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things, you’re better prepared for the unexpected.

It’s like money in the bank for a rainy day.

Set a timer

Depending on your work environment and level of potential distractions, I’ve found it very helpful to give myself a set amount of time to work on something on my list. 

Let’s say, for example, I have an idea for a blogpost. I know what I want to say and I’m ready to write. I set my timer for 30 minutes. 

Begin.

Everything’s great, I’m rolling along, but then I hit a snag. I get into the weeds and start questioning myself, doubting the validity of my message, and dozens of other things that sidetrack me. 

That’s when I’m most likely to start looking for something else to do or think about. 

But if I’ve set my timer, I’ve committed to write until my timer goes off. I know I can stay focused and write for 30 minutes, so I keep going.

Often, pushing through that yuck phase gets me back on track so when my timer goes off, I find I can go another 30 minutes. 

If 30 minutes seems too long, start with 10 or 20 minutes until you build your stamina, your “stay focused” muscle.

Set your priorities and purpose

When I worked as an elementary school librarian, I had so much stuff to do every day. Inventory, shelving books, ordering books, researching books to order, teaching classes, etc, in addition to the incidental interruptions like fire drills, staff meetings in the library, etc. There was no way I could do everything I had to do. 

So I had to prioritize. I gave myself deadlines, did what I could, made daily lists, and tried to remember that, above all things, I was there for the students.

I tried very hard to keep my purpose in mind: Connect kids with books and foster a love of reading.

Every day was a challenge and I probably lost my cool a few times. (A few dozen times if you count lunch duty.) But I tried very hard to stay focused on what was most important.

Those strategies again

So when you want to stay focused and get stuff done

  • Have a plan
  • Be flexible
  • Set your timer
  • Set your priorities and purpose 

We can do more than we think we can, but only if we stay focused on the tasks at hand, set our priorities, and treat time as our most valuable nonrenewable resource.

Can you relate? Do you put off tasks you’ll know you’ll eventually have to do? Do you leave work that really matters to you for stuff that doesn’t matter to you much at all? What strategies do you use to get past it?