Chunking

run photoOverwhelm happens to the best of us. In this hyper-connected world these days, there's so much going on. There's so much information coming in and we know, to the second, what every single person we know is doing, what they're buying and where they are going. It's hard not to get competitive with all these perfect "Facebook Lives" we see and push to attain all those things ourselves. That leads to one conclusion: overwhelm.We try to do everything. We try to please everyone. We try to be perfect like those "Facebook Lives" and wonder why it's not the same. Every way I look at it, it just leads to trying to do too much and getting frustrated.Many times, it's how we're thinking that needs to change so we can get a handle on doing too much and feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes those feelings will only go away when all of the work is done. If you've already committed to the work then it just needs to get done. So what do you do when you are feeling overwhelmed but still have work to do?Chunk it.Huh? What is chunking? Chunking is just breaking things down into smaller tasks. When you've got a large task ahead of you you can always break it down into smaller parts or milestones that you can do in a shorter amount of time. If you are doing a project with 10 sections, then it's easy to split that up into 10 chunks. You do one, take a break, and then move on to the next.You can chunk your email. Next time you're overwhelmed by your email, chunk it down by date or person. Search for a specific date, complete all the email from that date and then move on to the next date. Gmail is great for this, you can filter your inbox for specific dates using filters like "in:inbox before:14/01/01 after: 13/01/01". This would search only your inbox for any email before January 1st 2014 and after January 1st 2013. Only show email from 2013. You can put in any dates there if you want. Chunk down small enough so it's doable or until you have 5 or 6 emails there, then attack. Finish those 5 and then widen the filter and let in a few more. Complete those and repeat.You can chunk running too. If you're trying to finish a big run it might be hard to imagine what each of those kilometres will feel like so don't think about them until you get there. Focus on doing each kilometre, then move on to the next. I ran the 47 km Juan de Fuca trail a few years ago and all I could think about the next kilometre. Thinking 20 kilometres ahead was too much to handle.Why use it?Reduce the overwhelm. When you're working on a part of a project or run or task, you don't need to think about the whole thing. You need to think about a small part of it to work on, just enough to get you moving and working. That's rarely a lot. Running a marathon, take it on kilometre at a time. You don't need to think about the whole thing when that's just going to overwhelm and discourage you. Just think about the one next kilometre you're doing. That's it.Minimize the time required. When working on large projects, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need a large amount of time to get anything done. "I'll need 2 hours to do anything with this." It makes it hard to fit that task into your day because it's a solid chunk of 2 hours. If you can break that up into 4 or 6 pieces though, then it's much more manageable. A 30 minute block of working is far easier to tuck into your day around other tasks than 2 hours is. Or chunk again to 15 minutes.  Everyone has 15 minutes somewhere in there day to work on something.Chunk your next projectBig projects or tasks can be hard to work on when you're looking at the whole thing. When getting to work, it's far easier to start when you have a very small amount to start with and work on. Chunk it down and start on something smaller and far easier.  

Where todo lists fail

calendar photoThe problem:There are tons of things on your to do list. You’ve written them all down. They are categorized beautifully, have clear descriptions and use verbs to describe what you need to do.But they still don’t get done.You’ve done all those things that everyone says that make todo lists magically get everything done right?Not quite.Where todo lists failTo do lists are great for dumping everything you need to do into an external brain. But that’s it.I’ve tried so many to do list apps and websites that I’ve lost count. I kept switching from app to app to app because I thought they were lacking something. I didn’t know what. I just wasn’t getting things done like I thought I would with a really good app.Turns out they were all missing a step.Thou shalt schedule everything"If it's not scheduled, it doesn't exist” ~ Marie ForleoWhen Marie Forleo says something, you listen. One of the most popular business websites on the planet right now, Marie knows a thing or 2 about getting things done. She’s worked with Richard Branson and a host of other big names.She says you have to schedule things. I would have to agree now. Cal Newport agrees as well.In Deep Habits: The Importance of Planning Every Minute Of Your Work Day, Cal says the best way to get the most out of your day is to schedule everything. You can move things around and react to changes, but open unscheduled time isn’t going to magically turn into productive work time by itself. You have to do that. By scheduling things.The missing step on all those to do list apps is the scheduling. When something exists in a list, it’s separate from reality which means it’s not going to get done. We need to bring it into reality by scheduling it on a calendar. We need to set a concrete when and where something is going to get done to make it real. We haven’t yet done it but putting into Google Calendar is as close to real as I can get before that time.That’s how many days worth of work?!?Scheduling serves another important purpose. When we look at a todo list, there’s no concept of time. That list could take 30 minutes or 8 hours. That’s a big difference. When we put things onto a calendar, we’re forced to look at how long things are going to take and when we are actually going to fit those into your life. If you have 8 hours worth of work to do, and a very busy schedule, when are you going to fit those in? That work ain’t just going to magically happen.Why schedule everything? Cal has an answer for you:"In the context of work uncontrolled time makes me uncomfortable. If you’re serious about working deeply and producing high end value, it should probably make you as well. Using your inbox to drive daily schedule might be fine for entry level or those content with a career cubicle dwelling mediocrity, but best knowledge workers view their like investors capital resource wield maximum returns.”