How to Succeed in life (and elsewhere) Using Junk Mail and Your Mind
Feeling stressed? Feeling like you have no time, that the world is closing in around you, and most importantly, that you can never get anything done? Want to have more time to chase your dreams? Want to be able to cram your schedule all together, clear time for what you want and need to do, and sit back with a margarita and grin while you give the rat race the bird?
It's possible, and you don't even need a time machine to do it! You can reduce the stress in your life, get things done faster and easier, and have more time for YOU with little more than a pen, a handful of today's junk mail and a little dash of good old-fashioned willpower.
So what's the key?
Believe it or not, a "to-do" list. (Read on.)
Look for blank space on your junk mail. Business reply envelopes from credit card offers work fabulously, so why not do the "green" thing and use it once for something before tossing it out with the trash (or recycling it)? Got your piece of mostly blank paper ready? Good! You've already taken the first (and therefore most crucial step!) Hang on to that piece of paper! For this week, it will be your guide, your memory, and the tool that will allow you to track down and secure the free time you need to be happy and free!
Start by picking a side to use for weekly goals and use a pen to divide it into sections, one for each day (or however suits you best - mine usually goes Monday through Thursday with a single large box for Friday and the weekend, but that's just personal preference.) Then label the days, and start plugging in things you know you have to do by or on each day (like laundry or homework). Once you've got your whole week of things laid out in front of you, start thinking about things you want to get done on or by certain days, like playing baseball with the kid or spending some time in the gym. A good mix of things you want to do and things you have to do is always essential. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. If you don't give yourself a chance to enjoy life and relax a little, how can you expect to be on top of your game?
Now it's time for the other side. This will be where you list your long term projects and your extra goals. They're things you can break down and bring to the weekly side later if you want to, as well as things that might not be so "important," but that you don't want to forget about, and want to set aside time to do. Think of that book a friend lent you that you promised you'd read and give back, or that musician you wanted to look up, or that movie you wanted to go and see with your special someone before it goes out of the theater. You'll find it's incredibly useful, because everything you might otherwise forget to do is right there!
Here comes the most important part. The key to making your junkmail checklist work is to use a pen to completely obliterate each task once you've finished it. Why? Because there's nothing quite so satisfying as scribbling out all those annoying tasks and looking back at the envelope to realize that you've really gotten a lot of stuff done. Try to cultivate that sense of satisfaction, because if you can do everything you have set aside for Monday before the day comes to a close, what's to keep you from making Tuesday a little easier by getting a head start on it?
Here are some other things to keep in mind:
Break Things Down. Don't put a huge project like "Write Great American Novel" in your Monday slot for next week. It's not going to happen, and it's going to nag at you every time you look at that list. So start small. Break things down. If it's something that might take a while or that you really don't want to do (Like go to work) break it into several goals for the day. As a student, I use this a lot- I don't put "College" on my list for the day, I break it down into individual classes, and even write down related tasks independently (like bringing in forms, spending time in the language lab, etc.) "Great American Novel" would probably fit best with your long term goals, and when you're ready to start, stick something related into a weekly slot to work on. (Like "Write Prologue" or "Start novel outline") Ease yourself into the big tasks. Rome wasn't built in a day, and unless you've got a lot of help and/or very little acreage, your dream garden probably won't be either. Stick with "Till Soil" and move on to "Plant Tomatoes."
Put Large Projects Near The End of The Week. I know it sounds weird, but I've found that if you put all the little things in their respective days, and then stick a bunch of larger projects that need to be done that week at the end of it (like "Write Essay for English") you can work on them and then feel good about yourself when you're crossing off Friday's work on Tuesday. Now that's freedom. Breaking these larger projects down also works, but it all depends on what you know you can sit down and do in one sitting.
Don't Give Up! Remember- the to-do list is just a tool. A powerful tool, but like any other tool, it won't be able to do it's job unless you give it your all. It takes 5-10 minutes to fill out the list, so you can do it during breakfast or while you're having your morning constitutional. Heck, I put mine together on Sunday night, usually while watching a movie!
So what are you waiting for? Put that list together, and start doing the stuff you need to do to free up the time you need to be you!