Physician, Heal Thyself!

You know that expression, right? It implies that doctors are the worst patients and that they should take their own medicine without lecturing others.

How many times have you felt that way about your own profession and applying its principles in your personal life?

Well, this week it happened to me.

Say It Isn’t So!

No, it’s true. Even a process geek like me can have moments of utter chaos which induce that scary blank stare. You know the one – you have so much to do that you just stare at your calendar/inbox/voicemail and do nothing. Just stare. Hoping it will go away.

Well last Saturday I had everything under control. My to-do lists were all in order, and I planned on getting a bit of work done in advance of a very busy week. And then there was a thunderstorm and a subsequent rainy afternoon and I thought it would be better to take the afternoon off and read on the porch and listen to the rain. And the next day I got an offer to visit with a friend and thought that would be more fun than getting a jump on work. After all, I had all the tasks planned out for the week and it would be fine. Busy, but fine.

Sunday evening I found out about a business opportunity that had to be responded to within 48 hours. The response required (and I counted afterwards to verify) 48 person-hours of work.

That’s when the blank stare hit me.

Monday morning was awful. My morning routine was a disaster as I hadn’t slept well. I wasn’t prepared for the day ahead and was lucky that I’m pretty good at winging it. Instead of getting to work I ended up procrastinating and making things worse!

A digital slap upside the head

Like many people, I procrastinate by checking Facebook, and I posted that my ability for procrastination would win an Olympic gold medal! A friend commented “Ruth, you need to take your own course!” And by that, he meant that if I’m able to teach Process Improvement 101, I ought to be able apply the tools and tricks to get myself through this crisis.

That was just what I needed to hear, and he was exactly right.

Prioritizing tasks is nothing more than a process, and all good processes should make you more efficient, not less. My process for prioritizing tasks is so simple, and actually quite calming – I just make a list. (or two or three)

When faced with an overwhelming feeling that you’ll never get it all done, make a list. Click to tweet. Just write it all down, in no particular order. When every single thing you need to do is listed, make three sub-lists: Urgent, Priority, and Later.

Now look at the Urgent list. Add due dates and times. Grab a paper calendar (use a ruler and make one if you don’t have one) and plot the things you need to do urgently into each day. Cancel or move meetings or social engagements that are in the way.

Do the same thing with the Priority list, and finally the Later list. The tasks from these two lists may stretch into two or three (or more) weeks, giving you some breathing room to focus on the urgent items.

Once you see things on paper and have the time mapped out, I guarantee you’ll feel better and the blank stare will go away. It worked for me! I had a heck of a busy week, but it all got done.

Now go get your paper and pencil and get started!

Until next week,

PS – Make sure to follow us on Twitter @whiteboardcons to stay up to date on what we’re up to this week. Have thoughts or ideas? Use #betterfastercheaper to join the conversation!