I have spent way too much time and energy worrying about how to meet my deadlines – so my goal for 2022 is to find a way to turn down the volume of that worry (and still get the work done). Here are three techniques I’ve been trialing over the past month, which have made a positive difference. If you are also a worrier, I hope you give them a try.
1. Three things you are grateful for
I’ve been writing three ‘morning pages’ a day for many years. Usually this is just anything that’s on my mind, and I have written screeds about how am I going to get stuff done. Lately, I have been kicking off my pages with things I am grateful for.
This is age-old advice, and feels kind of corny to be writing about here, but it really works. The idea is to start the day with a positive mindset, rather than jumping into a to-do list or worries.
Darius Foroux talks about the power of this approach in his Procrastinate Zero course. He recommends starting every day by thinking about three things that make you feel grateful. This starts your day on an appreciative note and stores positive thoughts in your mind – and reminds you of things you value in life. Then, if you experience setbacks during the day, you will be less likely to have ‘doomsday’ thoughts, such as ‘this is the worst thing ever’. Because usually it isn’t.
My next nut to crack is to stop looking at the news on my phone first thing in the morning …
2. Internal deadlines
A friend introduced me to the idea that things take as long as we have to do them. This is called Parkinson’s Law – that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
In January I set an internal deadline for one of my projects, a week ahead of time. This gave me a buffer zone, and created a fun, no stakes challenge to find out just what is possible within that shorter amount of time. Having that project largely in place a week ahead of time made a huge difference to my stress levels.
Here’s what Darius Foroux says about this in his Procrastinate Zero course: “Research shows that our brain views all deadlines equally. It doesn’t matter who imposed the deadline on you.”
3. Mulch for the mind
I’ve been reading Kath Irvine’s book, Edible Backyard, attracted to the promise of less weeding. Her focus is on helping plants to help themselves, with more plant diversity and mulching.
Just as in a permaculture garden, as ‘knowledge workers’ we rely on our brains to produce for us, day after day, week after week – and going back to the gardening metaphor, we need to be investing in that soil, adding a diversity of inputs so that we have plenty of nutrients to draw on when asking our brains to work their magic. This means feeding your mind with content and ideas that spark your interest, and preferably that have nothing to do with your upcoming work.
The general idea is to throw in a whole heap of different things. It’s easy enough to find good content, but it can be harder to allow yourself the time to take it in, particularly when deadlines are looming.