STUFF-OCATED: DO YOU HAVE TOO MUCH TO DO?
Everyone has stuff to do. We have schedules, to-do lists, and responsibilities that come with each role we play. Things can really add up sometimes, and our “stuff” can quickly become overwhelming. We start to feel “stuff-ocated.”
When that’s the case, we realize we’re not invincible. We’re not superheroes who can do everything or be everywhere. We are humans who can do our best where we are.
When we have too much stuff to do, we need to step back and evaluate what the right stuff is.
How do you know if you have too much to do?
First, check in with yourself.
How do you feel—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
Are you fulfilled? Are you exhausted?
Do you feel like the Energizer Bunny—always on the go—or do you have time to pursue your deeper, big picture goals?
Next, check your time.
Do you use a task-management tool?
How long (and realistic) is your to-do list?
What do your calendar and schedule look like?
Is most of your schedule fixed or do you have some flexibility?
Finally, check your resources.
Is it the important, big picture stuff? Is it what’s evolving your career, relationships, and yourself into where you want them to be?
Or is it the small, mundane day-to-day tasks that always seem to be piling up—no matter how much time you spend on them?
If it’s the latter, you’ve got too much “stuff” to do. And it might not be the right stuff.
This stuff—the tedious, unproductive, or time-wasting tasks—keeps your engine running and wheels spinning but doesn’t actually get you anywhere.
How do you get the “right” stuff done?
Ernest Hemingway wrote first thing each morning. “When I am working on a book or a story, I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”
We often assume that checking off boxes on our to-do lists is our most impressive feat. But what’s important is getting the right things done (and getting them done consistently).
That’s why defining your Most Important Thing (MIT) for the day is key. Knowing what you want to accomplish is the first step toward accomplishing it.
How to determine your “right” stuff
Take some time to list your current roles and priorities. Also include what you’d like to prioritize.
Reflect on what’s on your list. Family relationships? Physical health? Jewelry-making? Whatever it looks like, how will you make these facets of your life a priority?
I start by setting an intention for each day of the week. Though my schedule can become scattered with both full-time and contract work, I make sure that my personal priorities don’t get caught on the back-burner.
This may vary month-to-month as life shifts and your focus changes. That’s okay.
For example, my intention for May was Mental Clarity. Here’s what each week emphasized:
Sunday: Soul-nourishment, week prep
Tuesday: Writing (again, as I was writing one book and outlining another)
Thursday: Business growth, development
Saturday: Social, relationships
Note that your daily intention isn’t the only thing on your plate for the day. Its purpose is to encourage you to act on your priorities. Setting a consistent intention (i.e. dedicating time to creativity each week) reminds you that you once said, “Hey! This is important! Don’t forget about this!”
How to do what’s “right” for you
Next, of course, is practicing your intention (i.e. doing your Most Important Thing). For Hemingway, writing first thing in the morning worked. He had no distractions and he dove into his day with his Most Important Thing.
This strategy is extremely effective. Why? If you do the most important thing first each day, then you’ll always get something important done.
With the “first things first” approach, you’re more likely to do it well. You invest your best energy and effort to what’s most important.
Bonus: Like Hemingway, doing your first thing(s) first means you’re more likely to be without distraction. Small tasks and demands often sneak into your schedule throughout the day. If you’ve already completed your MIT, you can better address the small stuff without rushing through it to work on your big picture priorities.
Remember to be flexible! If you’re unable to do the Most Important Thing first, choose a time that will work. There’s no universally-scheduled “right” time to do anything. It’s about what works for you to allow you to get your big things done (and done well).
It’s not necessarily about when it gets done but rather making sure that it gets done.
Action for today:
- Do a self check-in. What’s demanding your time and energy?
- Define big-picture priorities. Where do you want to invest your time and energy?
- Determine what specific action you’ll take to work on that priority each day/week.
- Plan your time based on your priorities. Maybe early mornings are for writing, business hours are at your day job, and evenings are for family. Or plan by day: Thursday is business development, Friday is date night, Saturday is family, etc.
Start by determining what’s important to you. Then make time for it.
Remember: stuff happens. Do your best to make sure yours is the right stuff.