I am constantly amazed when I go into meetings and am the only person taking notes, and then converting these into actions on to-do lists. It’s how I get things done. If you don’t write things down, you will have forgotten them before you leave the room. We could never have achieved a tenth of what we’ve achieved without systematic lists and actions. R.Branson
These days on most days, I have two recurring words in mind to describe how I feel. Happy. Exhausted. Some evenings once the kids are in bed, the priority items on to do lists are ticked off, the house looks decent and everything is ready for the next day, we sit there and wonder how on earth were we able to achieve and get so much done in one day. Normally this feeling lasts 3 minutes, because some memory, normally from the working day, will hit and we will immediately think “Gosh I have so much work to do!”
Only now, some memories of my childhood come back. I recall my mother in the evenings after work while my brother and I were still running around or demanding something, often saying “It never ends, days should have 48 hours”. I hear you now, mum, I do. Even with house help and childcare, even with our families often sharing the load, days are loaded and at the end of the day we are left with zero energy.
At the same time, we have never had more enthusiasm for all the projects we are running, at work and in our private life, energy to play like kids with our children, interest for more, better and new things. And, we realize every day, we have never in our life been more productive. If in the past I needed a week to recover from a nasty flu, in the past three years, since becoming a parent, I have had to learn to recover in no time and normally while looking after a demanding little person. We have learnt to cope with little sleep which means we have learnt to make a 10 minutes break a real battery charger.
There are pros and cons about life under pressure for sure, but one big advantage is productivity.
I have learnt, and many like me who are living the same adventure on the same lane, to maximize every minute of my day. I have long moved away from “Outlook slots”, not every meeting needs to take one hour or activity needs to last multiple of 15 minutes. At work I often set up meetings of 45 minutes if I can choose. I use any 10-15 minutes commute to listen to podcasts about topics I want to hear about. I have a list of people, TED talks, blogs, sites and online papers that I run through every day and plan for the week what to read or listen to.
Over Easter while in Germany my mother-in-law asked how I have been doing and how I am coping with the current pace and load, given I seem “relaxed” (perhaps she meant “aged”...?? I said I think am actually fairly relaxed indeed…and thinking back I probably can give three reasons for that, the children are a daily exercise for improving patience and prioritizing, I have now for 4 years practiced regularly shiatsu and meditation (and I cannot recommend both enough) and last year I had a big reality check when one of my closest childhood friends suddenly died of cancer at 35, leaving her husband and 18 months old behind. Of course I also have days when I would like to climb the Himalaya or any hill nearby and just sit there in peace and silence…
While I plan, have multiple to do lists, use pockets of time to check items off or to relax. I also block hours, half days or days sometimes where I block the world out and exist only for family, or for myself, trying to keep it flexible when possible as I have learnt the hard way that viruses from nursery school have not yet heard of my to do lists…
About to do lists.
“Writer Kevin Kruse recently claimed that to-do lists are a ‘waste of time’. He suggested that they make people more stressed, and only 41 per cent of items on to-do lists are completed.
The crucial part of a to-do list is in the name – you need to actually DO the things on your list. The act of writing your tasks and thoughts down is useful in and of itself, as it helps to organise your thoughts and give you focus. However, if you then ignore your own advice and don’t follow up, the lists will lose most of their power. Quite often you will only do 50 per cent of things on to-do lists because, on reflection, only 50 per cent are worth doing. But by putting things on lists it will help clarify what’s worth doing and what’s worth dropping.” Read more about to do lists in this post.
What is your experience for a balanced life? When have you been at your most productive? What has helped to make you a better person and to live well with yourself?