Saturday, July 11, 2009

Just One Thing

I learned a trick from a friend yesterday. She has a chronic illness that robs her of energy and puts her in pain a great deal of the time, and when things are just overwhelming her, she makes an effort to do 'just one thing'. You know, when you take a look at the living room and it is just a giant crappy mess and you are too tired to clean it and so you turn on the TV instead? You know, when you need to do laundry and you look at the baskets in the various rooms and the stuff in the basement laundry chute and it is all just too much to contemplate so you take a nap instead? You know, how the back yard is a mess with downed branches and weeds and trash blown in so you go back inside and pretend you didn't notice? You know, you have that paper to write and it is just too too much to wrap your brain around, so you read a novel instead? Well, if you walk into the living room and do just one thing, like gather up all 18 of the Mountain Dew cans and take them to the recycling bin, or just pull all the whites out of the laundry, or just pick up the branches out of the lawn, or gather up all the reference books for the paper and write down the outline, you will find you DO have the energy for that one thing. Then later you can do just one more one thing and pretty soon, things start to look better all around. Or, after you get the whites pulled out, you might have energy right then and there to pull out all the jeans and then maybe actually start one load. After you gather up the Dew cans, you might gather up all the dishes and take them to the sink. After you pick up the branches, you might go after the litter. After you write the outline, you might take a crack at the intro paragraph too. One aspect that makes "Just One Thing" work is that you allow yourself the satisfaction of achieving a small part of the whole goal instead of beating yourself up for not getting the whole job done. Another aspect is that often, once you get one little thing done, you find you actually have energy for one or two more little things and you make even more progress on the big task. But maybe the most important aspect to "Just One Thing" is that it will train you to break a big overwhelming job into smaller achievable tasks. It will teach you to think of it not as a big hard deal but as a cluster of totally doable little things. It is a mindset that can help take the overwhelming out of life and lead to getting more done, even if that more is done in bits and pieces. And that is how life works. The tree doesn't grow in one day, but a little bit at a time. The bird doesn't build the nest all in one session, but a little bit now, then some snacking, then a little bit more. "Just One Thing." Like I am writing this down now, in the afternoon, and later, maybe in the morning, I will find a photo and post it. This can work for me!

6 comments:

Chuckles said...

Also called the The Swiss Cheese Technique which was introduced by a famous time-management specialist, Alan Lakein, in his book "How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life".

http://www.agileera.com/dnn/Default.aspx?tabid=152

Chuckles said...

As someone who lives in Wisconsin I would have thought you would have known that.

Oh. Not a true Wisconsinite. Transplanted Dakotite.

You're excused...

goprairie said...

Swiss Cheese implies random holes in the job. I think it needs to be more organized than that - you start with the first most logical thing, like SORTING the laundry not just tossing some random parts of the pile into the washer.
One of the things they teach us ADHDers is to cluster in meaningful ways. If the livingroom needs cleaning, and you decide your 'one thing' is to clean off the coffee
table, you take a pop can to the kitchen and get distracted in there. But if your 'one thing' is go around the livingroom and gather ALL the popcans and dishes that go to the kitchen, THEN you have accomplished a meaningful thing if you DO get distracted in there. Learning how to design what the 'one thing' is is important.

Chuckles said...

Clever.

I'll forward this on to Lakein...

goprairie said...

troublemaker

XSarenkaX said...

I just discovered this post today. You did a great job of applying my epiphany to your own life and describing it in ways that work for you. I'm glad it can be shared and that it's helping even just one person. :)