What is a Thing?

 

It took me a bit of trial and error to figure out what makes up a thing to put on the 6 things list. What it really comes down to is an estimated amount of time. So think of things on your list as things you can do in a time block of roughly 1-2 hours. You get 6 time blocks each day. Use them wisely. Each block is one thing.

Most appointments use up 1 block – if they are like the average visit to a doctor, hair stylist, chiropractor, and the like. When planning out craft projects or exercise regimens or whatever, think of them as blocks of approximately 1-2 hours each. For instance, when I exercise I have to factor in time to change in to work out clothes, gather up my headphones and listening gear, do the actual exercise, cool down, and then shower. This takes up a time block.

If I have several little things I need to do that take only minutes per item, I try to lump them together into one single thing for the list. An example of this would be making phone calls. I could put “call Mary” and “call CVS to order RX refill” on my list as single items but the reality is they won’t take up a whole time block. So instead I write “make phone calls” and make several to fill up a time block. If I’m painting my master bedroom and redoing the throw pillows I would add to the list “work on master bedroom redecorating” and then work on it for about 2 hours that day to use up that particular block. If finishing the master bedroom is top priority, then it might make up more than one thing on my list, and hence allow me more hours that day to work on it.

The image below shows two of my actual lists.

 

You’ll notice that on Thursday’s list it shows “office” as taking up 3 time blocks (3 things). That’s because I am usually at my office from about 8:30-2ish on a normal work day. That uses up roughly 3 time blocks of my day. There are 3 blocks left to fill with other items, which I don’t particularly want to be work-related when I’ve used half my day for work already. I do this in a concerted effort to bring more balance to my days and eliminate some stress. I’m purposefully and methodically creating time for work and time for other non-work items.

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Notice the yellow sticky note next to the 3-block “office” item. That is my breakdown of the 3 general things I will work on at the office during those time blocks. So my list to start my day is very general and then, when at the office, I break it down further to help me stay focused on the job while still maintaining my 6 things day. This helps me greatly in my endeavor to keep work at work and not bring it all home with me. For anyone with a functioning business, this can be a real struggle. I have multiple businesses. It gets out of hand quickly with my health and well-being taking the toll when there’s mostly work and none of the other stuff. My lists help me see the balance or imbalance and work to maintain it. Prior to using the 6 things lists, my days would come to an end and I’d find I had crammed as much as I could possibly fit and most of it was work related or household chore related. Imbalance of this kind creates stress.

Things that don’t count as things are normal, everyday chores or routines that we do as part of daily life. Things like brushing the teeth, throwing a load of clothes in the washer, or taking out the trash do not constitute things for the list (unless, of course, you’d like to make them part of your 6 things list). Go ahead and think of those types of responsibilities as standard chores that are done regardless of a planned 6 things list. The blocks of time are reserved for tactics to make your goals a reality, major responsibilities, and rejuvenation time to keep you balanced and healthy.

It is very satisfying to get to the end of a day and realize I have crossed off 6 items, all completed, and one of them was actually something I really enjoyed or needed to do just for me 🙂
I hope this has been helpful to you. I’m happy to answer any questions you have and would love to read any comments.

My 6 Things Lists

How do you eat an elephant? My husband asks me this all the time, because all the time I am overwhelmed with overly long “to do” lists created by enormous projects that are part of my business growth plans (and often personal goals as well). The answer: one bite at a time. And even though I know this answer, Mike asks me this question frequently because I forget that the best way, the only way, to eat an elephant, is one bite at a time. Projects are a lot like elephants.

I’d say one of the most common questions I am asked (besides “how do you groom an aggressive cat?”) is “how do you do all that you do and keep up with everything?” In fact, just today, in an email someone asked me how I keep up with so many projects going on and not let things fall through the cracks. To be honest, I do let things fall through the cracks. I do try, however, to make sure they aren’t really big, important things.

In 2015, in the midst of a chaotic frenzy of too much to do and not enough time to do it all, I had a breakdown moment. You know the kind where you cry a lot and say you’re going to crawl into a hole and give up even though you really don’t mean it? In the middle of my tears and angst, my dear sweet husband (again coming to the rescue) told me about a podcast he listened to not long ago whereby the speaker told of Ben Franklin saying something to the effect of “you can only do 6 things a day.”  That may not be the actual quote, but it’s what I heard, and it’s what stuck in my brain. At first I dismissed this. “Ha!” I exclaimed, “Ben Franklin didn’t have my life, that’s for sure! There’s NO way I could get very far by doing only 6 things a day!” Well, I was wrong. My 6-things-a-day days have truly changed my life. I’m less stressed because of 6 things. I’m more productive because of 6 things. I’m more organized and more FREED UP with 6 things. (Thank you, Ben Franklin!)  So how does this work exactly?

I have no idea how this worked for Ben back in the day, back before we had cell phones and apps and iclouds and such. But I can tell you how this works for me.

 

Step #1 – Write down goals
This may be goals for the year, goals beyond 1 year or goals for the coming month. I typically chart out my main goals for a year before the end of the previous year is complete. The goals list always grows along the way because I come up with new ideas, or an employee shares a fabulous idea, or things change. But the idea here is to come up with some general goals (not super specific at this point.)

An important part of goal charting is to also include a “due date” of sorts. In other words, when would you like to accomplish said goal? By the end of the year? By July 15? By next week? Whatever. You decide. Make it realistic though. Don’t set a goal to lose 20 lbs by the end of February. That probably won’t happen, which means you are setting yourself up for failure right from the start.  Instead, set yourself up for SUCCESS!

My example goal on 2016 list:
Transition workload from cat grooming instruction to full-time photography

Sub goals (or tactics to help facilitate primary goal):
Transition blog from NCGIA to 4DP Photography
Transition travel from cat-related to photography related

Step #2 – Plot out goals on calendar
You can do this on paper or do this on a computer. The main thing is to write it down. I’m going to say that again…..WRITE IT DOWN!

I prefer to use iCal to print out blank calendars 2-3 months ahead. If I print my filled-in iCal months they are too full of appointments and things so for the goal charting I print blank monthly calendars that are free of clutter.

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Using my example goal above, I made a list of blog topics that are fitting for my transition period and charted them out over the next 4-6 weeks. I will add more to keep up with the pace, but for now I don’t want to get ahead of myself and eat more than a bite of elephant at one time. I also have a calendar for travel, which is pretty much mapped out and slam full for the cat grooming thing through the rest of this year, but I can begin to focus on adding in the photography shoots as time allows. The visual of what my travel time looks like helps me stay focused on the objective. This makes it easier to say “no” when I need to say “no” and “yes” when it fits my objectives.

Step #3 Make a “6 Things” list
This is where Ben Franklin comes in. I used some 8 1/2 x 11 laminated sheets from our homeschooling years and used a dry erase marker to write headings, one for each day of the week. This means I have a total of 7 laminated sheets. On each sheet, I wrote out numbers 1 through 6 so I can list each of my 6 things for any given day. These sheets change week-by-week to fit the needs of the day and the goals I have set for that specific date.

Now it’s time to go back and reference my calendar with the goal mapping on it. If, for instance (going back to my example goal given earlier), I have a blog post due on Monday, it will be one of my things on the 6 things list. If I have nothing on a given calendar day for that week, then I do not transfer any calendar “to do” item. Instead I still have 6 openings for things that day.

Next I add in other things from my daily calendar that MUST be done on a given day (i.e. appointments of any variety, kids’ events, etc). After that, I add in what I want to do for me. If I want to exercise or read or take a nap, I put it on the 6 things list. What I’m doing here is prioritizing. First, the things that help me accomplish my goals. Secondly, things that MUST be done (appointments and the like). Thirdly, things that are good for my health and well-being so I can keep eating that elephant. And then……….wait for it…….the other tasks of the day that really should be done. The last items, things that should be done, fit into the remaining slots on the 6 things list in order of priority based on time sensitivity or importance. Did you catch the order of priorities here?

So the question then is…..what constitutes a “thing?”
That is a great question. It is one I had when I first put some thought into Old Ben’s quote. It took some tweaking to figure out just what a realistic “thing” is for my lifestyle. But I have mastered it and nailed it just about every day since.

I’m going to revise my goal mapping calendar and throw in an additional blog post to delve further into that because this post is getting rather long…..stay tuned. I will get to this tomorrow. I’ll be an on airplane from Greenville to LA  so there will be some time to flesh out the remainder of this post. What I’ve written so far should at least give you enough to get started, right?

 

 

NOTE: There are some amazing apps out there to make goal planning and 6 things lists easy to do. Or an old-fashioned notebook or super cool Moleskin will work just fine. I use both of the above, favoring Evernote as my online note taking, list-keeping, idea jotting app (it syncs to all my Mac devices so I have access to my notes pretty much all the time). I like Moleskin notebooks, Cross notebooks and other fancy journal as well, keeping several around for different projects or general idea planning and goal setting.