Previously I wrote about how I floundered for a bit after being laid off, lacking an externally-defined structure to the day. It took quite a while to get some routines down that would keep me on track and help me accomplish everything I needed to on a regular basis and in a timely manner.
One of those systems was to start using a bullet journal. Now I’d been using various productivity apps for a while, most recently Wunderlist to manage my To Do List. But it began to not work for me more and more, not from a technical point of view but from a workflow perspective. It just wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. And while I love Evernote and use it for almost all my note-taking and some drafting, the action item functionality never really did it for me. The structure just wasn’t right.
So I researched bullet journals and started giving that a try. Eight months later I’m still at it, finding it to be flexible and powerful enough to keep me paying attention and working on the items I need to be working on. The fact that it’s *not* an app or site is actually a component in its favor since the action of turning away from the screen actually helps to reorient me and make me focus on what’s next. I don’t use every single recommended component of the bullet journal system but it’s flexible enough that I’ve found my own system that uses the basic idea and best practices without feeling bogged down in needing to find my yellow marker because it’s a writing project on a Tuesday or whatnot.
The other change is less demonstrable and more one that just involves getting over my own damn self. I’m a notorious procrastinator, putting off until three days from now everything I should be doing now and then panicking to get it all done in a single day. That usually turns out alright, but it’s something I’ve worked for years to get over. I’ll sit here and fret over only having half-an-hour to do something and what if it takes longer than that and so nah, I’ll just go over and watch some YouTube clips of “Fawlty Towers” and leave that until “a better time” is available.
My new mindset is this: I can accomplish anything in 10 minutes. If I can cross a phone call off my list, great, let’s do it. If I can squeeze all three places I need to run to into the hour I have available, let’s give it a try. I can always call and audible if time gets tight, but if I get two of three things done in that time, or maybe just move the ball down the field 10 more yards, then so much the better.
10 minutes is a powerful thing. If I can spend that time on something productive – chatting with a friend and offering to help them with a project, writing about something that’s important to me, responding to a few emails or whatever is in front of me – then the day will be better than if I didn’t. Eventually, those 10-minute chunks turn into some serious blocks of time that have been well spent and the potential for good things to come from those efforts increases exponentially. A few more items are Xd off from my bullet journal today, meaning I have more time tomorrow to take care of something else, something that might require an hour or two of time dedicated solely to that task. Essentially, if I can move the small pebbles out of the way in 10 minutes, it means I can more easily reach and get a good grip on the big boulders that need to be moved.
Even this post is an example of that. I knew I wanted to write about this but realized Thursday wasn’t going to work. So while the muse is with me I’m writing it Wednesday night and queuing it up for Friday because I know I’ll feel better about the 30 minutes spent doing so than I will if I let it go and *maybe* get to it later. I can anticipate the guilt I’ll feel if I don’t get to it and want to avoid that feeling, so am just doing it.
This isn’t me saying I’m perfect. I’m not and still find myself falling victim to the old procrastination habits that have dominated my life for the last 40+ years. But it’s something I’m actively working on and am making progress on. Taking time off is still important, of course. If I’ve gotten most of what I need to done in the morning, I won’t feel guilty when I take a lunch break and watch an episode of “Newsradio” on Crackle or whatever is convenient. Those sorts of breaks are still important to reset my mind and take me out of one mode and put me in another. They are transitional moments that are necessary to mental and emotional well-being. But they’re breaks, not work avoidance tactics.
10 minutes may not seem like a lot of time, but the positive impact of being productive with that time is almost limitless. See what you can do with that time to make a difference for yourself and others.