by Liz Proctor When you were an 8 year old, if someone had asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would you have told them? How close are you to having that thing in your life and business now? OK, so being an astronaut, professional Lego builder or the World’s…
Sometimes (perhaps always), you don’t need to see the whole road ahead.
Try something, reach out to someone, take a step without knowing the full and final story – because none of us can ever know the full and final story until we’ve lived it.
And it’s only in living our story that we create it.
Bowl in hand, I wander slowly along the hedgerow, seeking out the freshest (and cleanest!) nettle tips and a handful of the brightest Jack-by-the-hedge leaves. Cooked briefly, the nettles lose their sting and taste like spinach, and Jack-by-the-hedge certainly lives up to its other name of garlic mustard.
Never mind that my ultimate destination is the little veg patch at the bottom of the garden where I’ve planted lettuce and radish and have my eye on some juicy thinnings. Never mind that these fresh greens are destined to be mixed into a bowl of spaghetti and cheese gathered from the supermarket and not from the wild. (But if there was such a thing as a spaghetti tree I would plant it, and a cheese tree would be worth its weight in gold!)
Never mind, then, that my meal won’t be authentically prehistoric. Even with the modern additions, collecting these leaves from the hedge connects me to a way of life that feels right and stirs up echoes of a past I’d like to visit.
But I think I’d want to come back to the present too, if only for the cake!
Are there too many things to do, or is it just that we (or I, at least) have an overriding need to do ALL THE THINGS and – here’s the real problem – do them ALL AT ONCE, NOW?
Everything we do, we do in stages. Even something as simple as making a cup of tea involves a whole series of steps, from getting up off the chair to filling the kettle, switching it on, and so on.
So when we’re starting a new venture, or simply trying to get done all the things that we’re committed to doing, let’s remember that we can’t do them all at once. We can only do them one step at a time.
No prizes for guessing who this post is written for. You, my reader, of course, but mostly as a reminder to myself that I can’t do all the things all at once!
May is such a magical month. Forgive me for being terribly British and talking about the weather, but indulge me for a minute.
Glorious blue sky, bright sunshine that calls you outside, seeming almost to reach in with warm soft fingers, take your hand and draw you through the door before you realise it. Trees are beginning to wear a halo of green, though some still stand almost bare after a cold, wet start to spring. Birds are calling, even the boy is noticing the different kinds hopping in the hedgerows, and somehow the screech of two cats yowling at each other is softened and sounds like part of the liveliness of the day.
Perhaps we appreciate it more after a week of grey skies, hail and winter vests. (A week which followed months of actual winter, as opposed to a spring which couldn’t make up its mind.) Perhaps if you live where the sun always shines bright and the sky is always blue, you long for a soft, grey, even rainy, day. But here, today, nothing could be more perfect than the festival of spring that’s unfolding in my back garden.
So, you have a beautiful List of Things To Do. Or just one big Thing To Do. Everything is organised; the only thing left is to actually do the things.
So you make a cup of tea, feed the rabbit, get distracted and end up doing something which never even made it onto the list. It’s not just me, is it?
The conventional advice often seems to be to jump in and do the hard thing first – get the worst of it over with. (Rather like eating your beetroot first and saving the yummy buttery mashed potato until last. Or maybe that’s just me too?) Then everything else will seem easy.
Except it doesn’t always work. When the boy and I were discussing homework yesterday (before it escalated into a shouting match – that’s a story for another day), we agreed that we both work with a different strategy, one that works better for us.
It’s this: do the easiest thing first, or the thing that you most like the look of, or the thing that will take the shortest time. That way, you’re on a roll and are more likely to continue onto the next thing and the next, rather than heaving a huge sigh of relief after the hard thing and going and making yet another cup of tea in celebration. (You may eventually end up with a pile of ‘nasty’ things to do once you’ve picked off the best ones. But somehow they look less daunting when you’ve already proved to yourself that you can get things done.
I reckon it often doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something. Action begets action, and eventually you’ll get to the thing you’ve been putting off – and I bet it won’t seem half as bad by then.
Sometimes it’s the simplest things which have the most profound impact. Yesterday I made a chart of all the projects in my head, work or otherwise, and listed the things I knew needed to be done on each. Result: a clear head, and a sense of relief that I didn’t have to keep thinking about them all, because they were written down, all together, in an orderly fashion. I could even start to prioritise and plan.
It’s part of the drive for an integrated life, which I wrote about yesterday. Bringing everything together, acknowledging that it’s all part of the same life, can be really helpful. It doesn’t mean that everything gets mushed together in a big mess and you have to do laundry and tax returns and business planning and all the other stuff all at the same time. It’s not about juggling, and certainly not about multi-tasking. (Now that’s another thing I don’t believe in, like work/life balance.)
Bringing all the parts of your life together like this makes is much easier to see which are the most pressing things, which are the biggest things, and which are the things that you simply don’t have time or mental space to do just at the moment. (Yes, it shows jut how realistic or otherwise your plans really are!) And whether you work at home, or outside of the home, it enables you to be very clear about boundaries between tasks. Because if it’s all written down in the same place, it won’t be forgotten, so you can afford to focus on just one thing at a time, knowing that the others will be taken care of in their turn.
Of course, it’s one thing to write all the things down, and quite another to actually get them done. Procrastination comes to us all. But, in the spirit of true procrastination, I’ll post about that – tomorrow!