The Everything List

Today’s post is for you beautiful people who are feeling really overwhelmed right now.

The people who are finding that every time you turn around there’s yet another thing that you have to do.

The people who feel like they have so much in their head that if they add another thing then something will fall out. In fact, things might already be falling out, might be being missed, and you have no way of knowing what it is that you have already forgotten.

I have an excellent tool for just this situation. A tool that will work, just for you.

It’s an old fashioned tool. You might be so into apps and computer programs, smart phones and smart watches that you may have forgotten that this tool exists. But it’s a very good tool.

Excellent, in fact.

And for the situation of total overwhelm, I believe there is nothing better that you can use.

It’s a pen and a piece of paper.

Or, you know, a pencil, if you want to go even older school.

But make sure the piece of paper is a big one.

And this is what I want you to do:

Write down everything that you have to do on the piece of paper. Transfer everything on your mental list to the paper list.

No job is too big or too small. 

Just write it all down.

  • Clean the car
  • Finish the report
  • Make tomorrow’s lunches
  • Sort the sock drawer
  • Paint the house
  • Visit Great Aunt Mary
  • Buy Christmas cards
  • Write to the teacher about Billy’s homework

No job is too insignificant for this list. No job is too far off in the future. Every single thing that you can think of that you need to do, or to organise, every phone call or email you need to make, anything at all that requires an action or thought from you belongs on this list.

And another thing, resist the urge to sort the contents of this list right now. That comes later. At the moment your job is to dump on the piece of paper all the things you’ve been carrying around in your head.

You might even take a couple of days or a week to complete the list. You might think of new things to put on there. That’s good, just write them down.

Once you’ve got everything on your piece of paper you might find that you feel better already. There is a big difference between keeping it all in your head, and knowing that it’s safely written down somewhere.

So enjoy that feeling. Take a few deep breaths. 

Then look at the list again.

Now is the time to sort.

Now, there are a few ways that you can sort the list. And each of these could have it’s own blog post. But I’ll briefly outline them here.

1) You can make a big timeline. Give the jobs a due date. Put them on your calendar on that date. Now you don’t have to worry about the jobs until their due date comes around. You know your calendar will remind you then. So you can give yourself some brain space.

You don’t need to ring Great Aunt Mary until her birthday next month. Put it on the calendar.

Painting the house will be an autumn job, maybe next year. Put it on the calendar.

On the other hand, writing to the teacher about Billy’s homework needs to be done tomorrow. So put it on your calendar for tomorrow. There will only be a (comparatively) few jobs on tomorrow’s list and you can do them then.

2) Another way is to use the urgent/important quadrant method.

Divide another sheet of paper into four quadrants. Along the top write Urgent on one and Not Urgent on the other, down the side in the same way write Important and Not Important.

Now you divide your jobs among the quadrants. Are the jobs urgent and important (quadrant A)? Important but not urgent (quadrant B)? Not important but urgent (quadrant C)? Or neither important nor urgent (quadrant D)?

Once the jobs are sorted into the quadrants then you have four methods of dealing with them. 

For the A jobs, you really need to do those now. The B jobs need to be planned for in the future. The C jobs can be delegated to someone else. And the final quadrant? Those things should be dropped. You shouldn’t be wasting your time even thinking about them.

3) Another way to sort the jobs is using a mind map. I have created a map with me in the centre and from centre come categories such as home, work, school, church. Then looking at my large list, I divide the jobs among the categories. This helps me see which part of my life is the most overwhelming right now and helps me make decisions that might change that. 

4) A fourth way is to batch your jobs. Make a list of phone calls you need to make. Things you need to do in the car. Things you need to do on the computer. Things you need to do around the house. Or batch them under the headings of Do, Write, Call and Buy. 

Then when you’re in the car, do as many of those things as you can. When you’re ready to make phone calls, make them all. When you are able to get into email, write as many of those pesky emails as you have time for.

There are probably other ways to sort the big list of jobs. If you have a good method, I’d love for you to write to me and let me know about it.

One last thing I need to say on this topic is, make sure you keep the master list!

You might want to transfer it to a spreadsheet, or some notes software like Evernote or even to a task management app (I’m using the Moleskine app right now), but you really need to keep it so that your brain stays content that all of the jobs it was trying to remember are listed somewhere safe and sound.

I guarantee that this method will lead to clearer thinking, and much less overwhelm.

I’d love to hear how it goes for you. Please use the Contact Me form at ruthamos.com.au or find me on Facebook or on twitter @amos_rj. 

A (very late) New Year Post

This blog post was written in early January. If you go to http://www.ruthamos.com.au/podcast you can hear the chat I had with Scott on Ultra106.5 about it at the time. I know I’m posting it on here a little late, I guess it is just another of those things that I’m slowly getting into order.

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It’s that time again. Time for new year’s resolutions. Time for new year plans. Time to think ‘new year, new you’ or some such thing. 

We do it each year, and as John Dickson says, it’s not really a bad thing. Resolutions are built on hope, he says. And hope is better than the alternative. Living hopefully is a good thing.

So I’m not pooh-poohing resolutions. But I am going about things slightly differently this year. 

I’m going with a Year Theme.

I got this idea from the podcast, Cortex, hosted by CGP Grey and Myke Hurley. They have been doing themes each year since 2016 (I think). And Grey has done it for a lot longer.

OK, what is a Year Theme?

It’s an idea, a thought, a direction that you want the year to go. It’s a bit like having a word for the year, which is another idea I have seen around the place. But with a theme you are not limited to one word, so you don’t have to do the extreme hyphenation I did in 2019 when it was the year of  give-it-a-go.

It is not a goal, or something that you cross off. So in that way it’s not like a resolution. It’s not ‘lose 5 kg’ or even ‘exercise more’ or anything like that. It’s an overarching idea that you can use to measure your activities against and see whether they fit, whether they are something you should be doing.

Your year theme could be something like, the year of adventure, or the year of diversification, the year of stabilisation, the year of less, the year of fun, or the year of prayer or worship.

What is my theme for this year?

My theme is ‘The Year of Order’.

Last year was quite chaotic for me. Both my children got married, for one thing. And for another, we renovated our house to make a little home for our son Caleb and his new wife. And there were other things as well (of course) that added to the chaos. 

I decided back in November that I wanted 2021 to be much more ordered. Calm. Peaceful. 

I am using this theme to help me decide what to do and how to do the things I do.

OK, we’re two weeks in to the year, so there’s not a big sample yet. But here are some things I have done so far because of the theme I have put in place:

I have taken control of what I do on the church roster. Up until now, Moz and I have just gone with what we were given on the roster, unless we had some big prior engagement that meant we couldn’t serve in some way. This year, we looked at the months in advance and blocked out some Sundays when neither of us are on any jobs, so that we can just sit in church and enjoy each other’s company.

I have sorted out some cupboards and given things to the Salvos. Part of this is due to not having as much storage space now that we’ve renovated. But partly this is due to my year theme and trying each day to do something that adds order.

I have organised my calendar so that I have one day a week to work on my creative projects. A day with no coffee dates and no day-job work. And I’m trying to batch the other things I do each week so that my focus isn’t continually changing.

Daily I am asking myself in my intention questions (more on this later), ‘Have I done my best to create order today?’ And I’m keeping track to see how I’m doing. I hope to keep you updated as the year goes on.

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It’s never too late to put together a year theme. Unlike new year’s resolutions, you can come up with one at any time and apply it to any block of time that you like. It can be a year theme, but a quarterly theme is a really great idea too.

We’re heading into the second quarter of 2021 as I write this, and I’d like to let you know that I’m still following the theme. One of the things Moz and I have done as part of this is to plan out each quarter in advance, booking in times to work on our house, times to go away on adventures, and occasional Sundays when neither of us is on a church roster so that we can actually sit together. And I sorted out my filing cabinet yesterday. So this year’s theme is really working for me.

Do you have a year theme? Or has this post made you think of one? I’d love to hear what yours is. Let me know in the comments, or email me at ruth@ruthamos.com.au or visit me at https://www.facebook.com/RuthAmosAuthor