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Get That “Sh****” Outta Here!

Two Steps to Lower Stress and Higher Productivity

How’s your to-do list looking right now?

How about your email inbox?

Your project list?

Your web browser?

Are any or all of them more cluttered than you’d like them to be?

If so, try this:

Step One: Look at all of the places you collect “stuff” to attend to and identify what is an absolute must and what is merely a should or a want to.

I should post some videos on YouTube…

I should clean out the garage…

I want to update my blog design…

I want to read all of those pages I have open in my browser…

Most of our shoulds and want tos would be good to do but if we don’t see them as absolute musts, then they’re going to fall to the bottom of our list every day… day after day…

The problem isn’t that they’re not getting done (we’re apparently surviving without them). The problem is that they will occupy space in the back of our mind until we dismiss them. They’ll still be calling to us.

And all that does is bog us down. It truly fatigues us, stresses us out, and hinders productivity — to the point that we may not even take care of our essentials.

So, let’s be honest with ourselves and admit that we’re just not going to be able to attend to those “should” items right now — not without making some changes, anyway.

Then:

Step Two: Get those shoulds out of here!

As you look at each “should” and “want to” item on your list, you have three choices:

  1. Delete it. Decide that as beneficial as the task may be, it’s just not a necessity and let it go.
  2. Complete it. Elevate it to a must do and put it on your official agenda (or delegate it to someone else) and get it done.
  3. Move it. Set up a “future consideration” file (could be a tag in Evernote, a Google Doc, or an old-fashioned idea box) and list the “should” item there so you can tackle it when you have the available resources. Until then, forget it about it.

Does that make sense?

This is the system I’ve developed and implemented for myself.

One day I realized that the should dos and want tos were stacking up on me and overwhelming me. Something had to give.

My must do list was full enough, so I made the decision to kick the “shoulds” out of here.

One reason I mentioned the web browser example is because I found that to be one of the biggest culprits for me. Thanks to the wonderful invention (curse?) of the “right click, open in a new tab” function, I would find myself with as many as 20 tabs open at the end of a day — things I wanted to review, videos I wanted to watch, pages I wanted to read, etc. But at the end of the day they would still be sitting there, and with the best of intentions I would leave them for the next day… meaning I start the next day already in the hole.

So I’m getting better at deciding on the fly: Is this really a page I need to read? If so, I set aside time to read it and focus on it, or otherwise I skip it or bookmark it for future reference.

You’d be surprised at what a big difference a small change like that can make.

I’ve also dedicated a section of my whiteboard for my big picture “must” list — the projects and initiatives that I must focus on — and that helps me filter through other ideas and opportunities that come up. When there’s something new that I feel I should do or want to do, I just look at my whiteboard and I have to decide: Can I make this new thing a must and get it done? Otherwise, I have to skip it or file it for the future.

Just those small steps alone have me feeling more refreshed… with more space to think… and breathe… and work.

I’m sharing it because I wonder, could this be the solution for you, too? Or at least a small help?

I’m betting you’ve got some “shoulds” hanging over your head, too.

Get ’em out of your life and feel the freedom.