My Thoughts on a Formula for Success

I tend to be a bit obsessive compulsive. I like things to be neat and orderly (you’d probably be a bit confused if you could see my desk right now) but really struggle to get things and keep things that way. I’m sure a lot of people struggle with this problem. I also have great ambitions and keep a very long list of projects that I *should* do or *want* to do. But there never seems to be quite enough time in the day to get everything done that needs to be done. Once in a while my perfectionism rears its head and I start to get anxious and stressed out over my lack of progress.

In the past, my stress would push me to try and complete a project. I’d rush in and spend some time desperately trying to complete it or get a chunk of it done. Often, before I would get finished, a different project would catch my eye and my stress would push me to tackle that one. Working at that kind of pace, I would find that I wouldn’t make very fast progress on anything.

This year, I decided to approach things a little bit differently. One of the most important 2007 experiences I had was that I participated in NaNoWriMo. The whole focus of the project was to do just a little bit of work every day and by the end of the month you’d have written a novel. I was really impressed in the volume of productivity I was capable of when focusing on just one project for a whole month. So, I decided to try to apply that template to 2008 and see what success I could find.

The funny thing is that I’ve known that this formula works for years. In fact, I’ve read about it several times before here and here. In fact, the FlyLady cleaning system also uses it to work on getting your house in order. While I’d tried working on that basic idea to get my house clean, I’d never really thought about assigning other projects to a particular month as well.

I’m only one month into the new year and here are the reasons why I’m enjoying it so far.

I don’t have to deal with decision anxiety.  I’m a bit of perfectionist and I think that this tends to give me some decision anxiety.  Whenever I need to decide something, there’s that nagging thought – ‘what if it’s the wrong choice?’  Even for simple things like, what should I do with my free time or where I should put this or that nick knack.   For all my different projects on my to-do list I have the same problem picking what I should work on right now and I worry if I’m spending time on the wrong thing.  Picking projects out for each month means that if I get free time, I can just work on that project.  It’s already been decided on, so I don’t need to worry if it was right or wrong.

But, I still do have to pick out which project gets worked on when.  However, when thinking ahead of time, it’s easier to decide than when deciding for right this moment.  Plus, certain things make sense during certain times of the year.  For example, we are more likely to have a power outage or emergency during the winter months (i.e. right now) than during July or August, so getting an emergency kit started should be done right away, along with the insulating projects.  Also, for this months picture-a-day project, I want to get more familiar with my camera settings before going to Japan, so that the quality of pictures can be maximized (plus, it makes it a shorter project to take a picture a day for only 29 days).  The other thing I did was consult with my husband so that our priorities aligned.  I also didn’t plan the whole year ahead of time, so that I do have flexibility if I want to shuffle things around.

I don’t worry about something not being done.  Since I assign a project to each month, I know that I’m taking actions to get things crossed off my list.  Plus, since I know I’m dedicating a month to it, it’s much more likely to get done, or mostly done, than not really started.  Plus, if I get in the habit of working on one or two projects each month, I know that if something isn’t getting done now, I can schedule it in for later.  I also know that if something never gets done that it wasn’t really that important after all.

My time isn’t all eaten up with just the daily grind.  Part of what I worry about is that I won’t have time to do things that I like to do and enjoy doing because of all the daily chores and things that have to get done.  Having picked a project for the month gives me permission to work on it and makes it a priority along with all the other things that have to get done.

I can leave a project undone.  Sometimes when I know I’m not going to be able to finish a project, it makes me not even want to start it.  Since I know I’m going to have a month I’ll hopefully be able to finish some of my projects and goals.  However, I also have permission to leave things undone at the end of that month.  If it’s something important (like the emergency kit) I know I’ll come back to it during another month.  But, I can switch my attention to a different project and give something else my attention for a while.

I don’t get bored.  If I tried to finish all my scrap booking projects and photo organizing and decided to continue working on it until I was done, I would likely get extremely bored after a while and end up not finishing anyway.  Having that set time frame though, means that I can pour my creativity into the project and not worry about burning out.  Plus, for my different creative endeavors, switching gears around keeps my creative juices freshly flowing so that I don’t start to feel stale.

These are just my impressions from starting things for one month.  I’m sure that this won’t stop me from feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that I want to do, but at least I feel a bit more control over the process.  We’ll see how I feel about it after trying it for a whole year.

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