Take everything I'm about to say with a grain of salt. I'm talking artisanal, hand-foraged, very expensive salt. A huge, visible flake. Maybe even one of those incredible miniature pyramids, or a glowing pink Himalayan lamp, emanating negative ions. I'd like to share some of my tips for getting shit done.
Now, I'm writing this on the very last day of what feels like the very longest month of the year. You don't know it, but I'm already failing at my New Year's resolution to blog once a week. Whoops. I've failed a lot in my life, and I freely cop to it when I realize I have. One thing I've learned is that there isn't a lot to be gained by fretting over past failures. My father, paraphrasing Wayne Dyer, would always tell me: "worry is wasted energy." It was a refrain, and while it annoyed me to bits as a teenager, I've carried it forward all these years, repeating it to any friend who will listen and more often, myself.
These days, I divert that energy into (potentially obsessive) planning. After years of feeling overwhelmed by an amorphous cluster of ambitions, I've given into the very square, very Virgo habit of listing. I've always been a lister, but in the last few years it became clear that what I list gives form to my life. Here are some loose notes on what has been working for me:
1) Future List
To borrow a term from our local arts magazine, I've embraced technology to create what I call (as of, uh, right now) my Future List. Rather than keeping track of my goals and wishes in notebooks that are invariably abandoned (more on that later), I started a Google doc with everything I hope to accomplish in a year. It sounds hopelessly nerdy because it is. I can't help it though, it's genetic. My grandfather and father use Post-Its, usually the slim rectangular ones, pale yellow and neatly etched with the calmest, most orderly handwriting. My jaw just unclenched thinking of these slips of weekend chores, dinner ingredients and errand routes.
As much as I love paper, I need to justify the cost of a smartphone with more than just broadcasting Instagram stories of my nightly skin care routine (do tune in though). I have some broad categories (Physical, Personal, Professional, etc), and I drill down to create a few actionable steps for each goal. I keep it relatively tame, knowing that if I overwhelm myself with to-dos, I'll burrow into a hole, stultified and exhausted before I even begin. The next step is the most important...
This list lives with me. Blessed Google Drive is accessible anywhere (what I would give to have had this tool in college...), which means I can check my list whenever I have a spare moment. One of my items this year was "Find a side hustle." That's a fairly huge topic that people have taken full books to address. For me, it involved doing a bit of research and replying to a long-moldering email. A phone call later and I had secured a side hustle. It took all of two hours from start to finish, and I would have never gotten started if I hadn't broken it into those smaller, no-big-deal steps. "Read more." I resurrected a dormant Goodreads account, bought myself a Kindle, downloaded a library book and started reading. Actionable steps are everything (this is me, citing Joss Whedon citing David Allen).
Important: I won't check it off the list, even though it's technically done. I like to track progress, adding key dates and developments so I can see what I might want to change going forward. Plus, my memory leaves a lot to be desired. I like looking back later in the year and seeing what I've gotten done, and how I got there.
The Google doc is the master plan, but two bonus tools keep me honest: the Clear app + my highly watered-down version of BUJO. The first is super simple, flexible and just enough organization for daily to-dos and daydream wish lists alike. It has a lot of color themes but I stick to the classic Heat Map so that the bright red items at the top of my list seem to literally be on fire. When you start a new list a black screen flashes an inspirational quote. My favorite?
The second is great for the execution phase of a lot of the Google doc schemes. Within the loose parameters of the bullet journal system, I can doodle during a phone call, sketch a design idea or do some quick budgeting math. It's whatever I need it to be in the moment, and it's delightfully tactile.
3) Tell Someone
This is the easiest and the scariest. If you want something? Tell someone. This little trick goes under many guises—squeaky wheel gets the grease, The Secret, manifestation, intention-setting—whatever you call it, I'm here to tell you, it works. It's worked for me countless times, so ratchet up your courage and let someone know what you're after. Be strategic with who you tell, and make sure you're still doing the work to get there because the only thing that consistently surprises me about this trick is how quickly it works.
OH MY GOODNESS, we did it. There are about 20 odd minutes left of January, the cruelest month (I know that's actually April, let me have this). You made it through a real steel-cut oatmeal post! I promise there is fun and frivolity ahead. Studio visits. Lopi knit-alongs. SOUTH X SOUTHWEST. 2018 is mine, and yours. Get to listing.