I overestimate what I can do. Every day. You would think after nearly five decades of living with me, I would know that there is no way I am going to accomplish the 11 items on my “to do” list with the “W” circled for Wednesday. You would think I would assess the situation and rationally say, “Looking at my schedule and the limited time I have free to do anything today, this list is too long. This is not a realistic ‘to do’ list.”
But, alas, I do not make that assessment. Instead, I either:
- Stare at the list at the end of the day, feeling like a deflated failure because only two items are checked off, or
- Stay up really late getting a few more items off the list, but paying for it when my alarm goes off five hours later (I’m more of a 7.5-8.0 hour kind of gal).
Even then, I haven’t done any of the things I consider my top priorities in life. I never seem to have the time. The mundane and urgent items take over my day-to-day life. They scream at me to do them: emails that need responses, travel reservations that need to be made, phone calls that need to be answered. And so I end up living in what Stephen Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) calls the Quadrant 1 & 3 tasks: the urgent things, both important and unimportant. I don’t get to the important but non-urgent tasks that make this life worth living (Covey’s Quadrant 2). Those are the relationships and planning times that are so important to keep life on track yet can easily be pushed aside by less important, but more urgent-seeming things.
Going back to my plan from the beginning of this year, I will look at my major priorities (Love, Learn, Be Healthy, Serve, Read, and Write) and pick one small thing I can do that fits into one of these important, but often overlooked, things that don’t fit on any “to do” list.
And, over my morning coffee, I will write that one thing on an index card and make that the one “must do” of my day.
And then I’ll just chip away at emails and the rest of the list, knowing that when I die, my in box will still be full (and filling) and my “to do” list will still have unchecked items.
Today’s long “to do” list didn’t get done.
But tomorrow, I’ll do one small, important thing.
And that’s enough.
“Effective people stay out of Quadrants III and IV because, urgent or not, they aren’t important. They also shrink Quadrant I down to size by spending more time in Quadrant II…Quadrant II is the heart of effective personal management.”