Do you return to work after a holiday with good intentions to work fewer hours, keep your inbox empty, your meetings short and your stress levels low? Maybe you manage this for a few days, then before you know it, you find you have slipped back into old habits.
This happens to me every year. I recently returned from a 3 week break travelling around Scotland, where we walked, cycled, watched wildlife and ate lots of good food. I decided that this time it must be different. And I found something that will help turn my intentions into reality.
While away, I finished reading Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks – yes, our average life on this planet really is that short. His core message is that “Life is Now” – there will never be enough time to finish everything you want to, so you have to let some things go and not fret about them. This time, returning from holiday, I have adapted some of his practical tips and advice into the following approach:
• Break down projects into manageable chunks.
• Have three lists:
- one for things you “will-do”, that you intend to work on;
- one for the manageable chunks of “work in progress” that you “are-doing” now (see below);
- and one for things you “might-do” one day.
You may never get to the third list, but at least you won’t worry about it.
• Limit your work in progress – the things you are-doing, to three items at a time ie use a personal Kanban approach. Only add an item from your “will-do” list to your work in progress list when you finish one.
• Have only one important task to do in a day and do it in the morning – if you achieve anything more, that’s a bonus.
• If an activity is really important to you, start it and do some of it every day.
• Expect things to take twice as long as you think, leave time for the unexpected, and keep chunks of time free.
Ultimately, as Oliver Burkeman says, it’s about making “better choices with your brief allotment of life”.
I only have one thousand weeks left, so this time I really do need to make my good intentions happen!