If only there was a manual, tailored to each and everyone of us, that told us what to do first (among a slew of competing priorities).
Imagine what we could achieve in a day, let alone a lifetime.
If you’re anything like me (aged 47), I’ve wasted so much of my life doing things that were anything other than the first thing -- they should have been consigned to a drawer marked “wasting my life” -- chief among them fighting internal battles that kept me pinned to the floor. And before you reach out and invite me to consider the banal urgent vs. important dichotomy, trust me, if it was that easy, every person in the world would have found a way to eliminate all manner of life-sapping distractions and be living a life of bliss. However, if there is a way, or at least a way to make sense of things, my advice is clear: write it down. In other words, write down all those things that have created open loops in your mind.
You might be wondering, “Is that it Summerhayes?”
Yes, for the simple reason that no matter how many times I exhort of others that if they want to sort out their messy lives they need to write it down, I still don’t see the take up necessary to turn this once-in-a-lifetime event into something that’s adopted daily or as a matter of routine.
This isn’t about creating great gobs of To Do lists but instead to get out of your head all those things that refuse to go away. You know the sort of critters who’ve a habit of waking you up in the middle of the night or spoiling your day when you can’t stop thinking about them.
If you do write them down then you may feel the need to order them, but actually that’s not really going to save your bacon. What you need do is to pick one thing that you resolve to do now, and tomorrow and for however long it takes to get it done.
And then rinse and repeat for the next thing.
Of course, outside of the one thing there will be everything else -- and lots of it will be urgent -- but if your focus is restricted to just one thing then trust me in the moment that you’re doing it (and in watching its effects unfold) will be the difference between living a life of purpose and merely existing. If that sounds a bit melodramatic it’s meant to be because, in most cases, that’s its effect.
In summary, my thesis for first things first:
Write down everything that’s playing on your mind and needs to get done (this isn’t a place for another wishlist, i.e. the dream holiday -- not yet anyway);
Wait a day or two and then go back to the list. Check it has everything written down of import;
Pick one thing that simply has to be done as if your life depended on it;
Keep doing it until it’s finished or you can’t take it any further;
Repeat, i.e. go back to your list and pick the next one thing.
I recognise that I still haven’t told you what’s the most important thing -- the first of the first -- but that’s where you’ll have to go on instinct. If you’re anything like me, it’s usually the thing I’m avoiding most but normally enjoy most when I’m doing it.
One final thing. Whatever timeframe you set yourself to complete said task, double it and double it again. In my bitter experience it always, and I mean always, takes you a lot longer than you think to complete it.
PS. A very happy new year to you. I hope 2015 is a year of doing and not musing on what might be or have been.