Once again I fought back the anger as I stared at the mountain before me. This steep climb, which I had attempted so many times before was my mark of a repeated failure. The effort I perceived as adequate was always inevitably matched with an unwillingness of the task to yield to my determination. And so I sat, frustration boiling towards myself and the struggle. Yet, yielding to the necessity of the climb, I would always saunter on, refusing to give way to past defeat, but completely naive to the strategies of success.
Being completely candid, you should know up front that I have never actually attempted traversing a literal mountain. Yet, as I pondered how to describe my relationship that I so often used to feel towards my monstrous task list, I could find no better analogy that so perfectly encapsulated my feelings. For years in business I struggled to get things done. I would stare at my ever-increasing pile of responsibility, and instead of surmounting the mountaintop of my obligations, I would so often find myself resting angrily near the base, staring towards the top, too angry to quit, but also far from fit for the journey. Thankfully, as people constantly do, I changed, and today I would like to offer four tips on how we can all overcome our proverbial mountains and find freedom in finally “getting ahead.”
1. Embrace possibility
As any athletic trainer will tell you, before you can reach any sort of physical goal, you must first believe it is possible. You must picture in your mind you doing what must be done, and understand that what you envision can be reality. When I sat sulking at my desk, I did so because I was living in the false perception that my situation was impossible. I truly believed that no matter how much effort I put in, I would never be able to escape my predicament. New tasks would always come in, and old tasks would forever stay undone on my desk. There was simply nothing I could do about it! And it wasn’t until I changed that ONE thought pattern that I truly found myself escaping. So, start there. Right now, Tell yourself that getting ahead of your to-do list is not only possible for “other people,” but also for you!
2. Adequate preparation is key
Now, once you believe that your goal is possible, the next step is see that organization is unbelievably necessary. You will never be able to stay on top of what you have to get done if you don’t have an organizational system designed to help you accomplish it. To create your system, I recommend David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done.” This INCREDIBLY helpful book goes into great depth about how to take control of things you need to get done by organizing everything into a workflow system that works. Further, I recommend you go ahead and get Trello, a free program that makes it so easy to list out everything you need to get done! In fact, here is a blog post I wrote specifically on how I use Trello: LINK.
3. Turn your mountain into hills
Next, although I am no expert runner (in fact it’s probably on my list of LEAST favorite activities), I have found that running a series of small hills requires FAR less energy than running up one large one. So, don’t try! All tasks, no matter how huge, can be broken down into their parts. For instance, I used to become paralyzed when it was time to start a big project like editing a wedding. I mean, when I would get home, I would have around 4,000 images which needed to be backed up, culled through, and sorted. Then, within the next week, I needed to organize a sneak peak, write a blog post, edit the images, create an online gallery, build a wedding album, complete a hand-drawn portrait, deliver all the images, post on FB about all these different things, and make sure that they were all done perfectly. A mountain of tasks.
But, when broken down properly into the individual components, it becomes manageable and far less frightening. Thus, each individual task on my Trello board is broken down into its individual components, completely independent on one another, and completely manageable in their own forms.
4. Start climbing with the sunrise
The biggest thing I’ve learned however is that everything takes time, and without putting in the time, you’ll never be able to finish everything you need to do. Which means getting out of bed when the alarm clock rings! I know friend. It’s hard! So, if you struggle with discipline like I do, look into reading “The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal. It has a TON of practical techniques on how you can become a more disciplined person and is definitely worth the read.
We can overcome our to-do’s, and to truly enjoy life, we must. So, take it one step at a time. Read some great books on how to do it all, and then dive in!