This is a guest post by Shannon D. Roddy. Shannon is an entrepreneur, writer and filmmaker who has worked in several industry fields in various positions including music, entertainment and online marketing over the past decade. Shannon and his wife Liz recently returned from East Africa after volunteering with a non-profit NGO. His favorite past-times include watching movies, reading books on leadership development, and spending time with his German Shepherd/Siberian Husky, Sequoia. They reside in Los Angeles, California.
It goes without saying that doing the important things first is an established principle that can help pave the way to success in both our personal and professional lives. But what about the un-important things, isn’t it also important at some point to get those things done too?
We all have projects we’ve been ‘meaning to get around to’ but never seem to be able to accomplish. In this post I’ll discuss one way to get those things done, and make way for what matters most.
Do or do not; There is no try.
Just as writing things down can relieve tasks from our conscious memory, doing things can relieve them from our subconscious memory. Any task left undone leaves an emotional burden, regardless of the task’s level of importance. This weight is lifted when we are able to free up emotional energy by completing such tasks because they no longer cloud the overarching picture of things we need to get done.
My father once told me, “If you have something on your list to get done, do it, or abandon it altogether.” This principle helped convince me to complete a short film project several years ago. After the director and I faced some difficulty and delay in getting it finished, the project got temporarily shelved. Nonetheless, it still hung on my conscience, and I felt I needed to get it done. After hearing my father’s words, I considered the cost of abandoning the project, and finally put forth the effort to complete it.
You vs. ‘To do’
So how do we make sure tasks get done so they don’t sit on our ‘to do’ list and drain our emotional energy, while still accounting for their relative importance?
Most of us are familiar with Stephen Covey’s time management matrix or the concept of “putting the big rocks in first,” but frankly I find that I get equally stressed by minor things that sit for lengths of time at the bottom of my list. I feel a subconscious burden that they may never actually get done, and after a while these little things can actually create as much anxiety as some of the bigger things.
This interesting dilemma has led me to set aside time for what I call ‘the little things.’ They may be seemingly unimportant, minor, or merely cosmetic, but these are things that still need to get done. The secret to preventing the pressure they can create is to be intentional with your time to make sure they get the necessary attention.
How it works.
So here’s how it works: One or two Saturdays a month, I set aside an entire morning just to take care of all of these little insignificant things.
Profound… I know!
But stay with me.
If I were only to prioritize and do the most important things, these little things would never actually get done. The goal is to set aside time I would normally be doing other unimportant things (e.g., surfing the net, watching TV, etc.) and put that energy to good use.
My monthly ‘little things’ Saturday generally provides more than enough time to tackle my little things list. I might be fixing cupboards and doorknobs, touching up marks on the walls, hanging curtains, running errands, or calling a friend I’ve been meaning to get together with. I’ve grown to enjoy this insignificant task tending, and find that I am usually able to get quite a few of these minor headaches out of the way in a very short amount of time.
No matter the tasks, my ‘little things’ Saturday allows me to ignore the little things as they pile up, knowing that I’ve already got time set aside for them. Thus, I’m able to give all my attention to the big things for the rest of the month.
Keep priorities in their place!
Of course, if our new found focus on doing unimportant things starts to detract from our priorities, life will start to slope downhill. But we’re not talking about prioritizing unimportant things over important things – we’re focused on creating a separate and specific space to get the unimportant things done, as well. The intended result is a synergistic balance in which the big things retain priority, but both big and little things ultimately get accomplished.
An example we can all relate to.
Personal finance provides another illustration of the ‘little things’ principle in action.
Suppose you have several debts: three of them rather small, under $1000, and two rather large ones, above $10,000. The smaller loans seem insignificant and bear little or no interest. The larger loans carry a hefty interest rate and a penalty for missed payments. These larger loans are significant and command a certain priority for repayment.
But even so, many financial advisors will encourage you to create margin to pay off the smaller loans first. Why? Because taking care of the little things creates momentum and a sense of empowerment, and frees up emotional energy so it can be focused elsewhere – like on the larger loans. Emotional relief results because there are fewer loans to consider repaying, and repayment momentum makes it easier to tackle the bigger loans.
Thus, making space for the ‘little things’ up front can serve as a step in the right direction moving us closer to our goals.
The wrap up.
This is what it means to take care of the little things – to be intentional about creating space for doing things near the bottom of your ‘to do’ list so that they don’t result in emotional drag or discouragement.
Establish your own ‘little things’ Saturday this month.
Keep track of your ‘little things’ by first taking note as each comes to mind, This will keep the little things off of your conscious memory plate. Then, set aside a specific timeframe to take care of them so they will not create a subconscious burden either.
If my experience is any indication, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can take care of the things you’ve been ‘meaning to do’ when you’ve made time to focus on them, and how readily this practice can clear anxiety from your life.
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