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Making your list and checking it twice during a busy phase

It’s that time of year, when the holidays are over and reality sets in. Back to the grind. I find myself busier than I can remember in years past, although I’m sure that is not the case. I probably made the same statement this time last year, and the year before that, and the year before that…

While there is a lot of advice I could dole out regarding a busy season (deep breaths, make time for exercise, stay organized, etc.), the most critical lesson I have learned is to make a list. Prioritize your “to do’s” in order of deadlines and time demands. Take one item at a time and literally block out everything else from your brain but the item you’re working on (to the extent possible). I call this the “Sticking My Head in the Sand” approach.

I find that I when I run through the list in my brain of all of the things I need to do, I immediately become overwhelmed, the doom and gloom sets in and I am convinced that I’ll never get through this. Yet, each time, I do get through it, thanks to making my list and focusing on one item at a time. It’s a systematic approach to the chaos that also helps keep my stress levels in check.

Start the day by attacking first the thing you want to do the least. The thing I want to do the least is usually the most burdensome and overwhelming. If I attack that thing first thing in the morning, the rest of the day or week does not seem so daunting.

Remember that your workload is going to wax and wane throughout your career. I would never say that I’m ever “not busy,” but certainly some times are more manageable than others.

It is easy to miss the forest for the trees when you’re overwhelmed with “to do’s” and to convince yourself that you’re never going to dig out. You will, one “to do” at a time.