Juggling by Threes

This has been a great day to juggle several things: generating an order of service for a memorial service, meeting with a team of ministers, educators, and musicians about our collaborative worship plans, developing a proposed plan for a Rapid Response Network in the Houston area, and adjusting my 2013 calendar for incoming events. Interesting that I chose the word “incoming.” Rather indicative of my feeling that multiple things are coming at me at once. The dates in your calendar are closer than they appear.

Well okay then.

This morning I read some advice from Management Tools (a great resources with a free newsletter, podcasts, and the option to sign up for more). Not revolutionary but practical and easy as 1, 2, 3. When things are coming at you, fast and furious, or you find yourself stuck in the mire of inertia, there’s something satisfying about the number 3.

One: Pick the next three things you need to do.  Write them down on a post it or a piece of scrap paper.  Do them.  Every time you get distracted and think – what was I supposed to be doing? – go back to your short list.  When you’ve done the first three, do another three.  You’ll be amazed at how many completed post-it notes you’ll end up with.  I find this helps on days full of interruptions or when I’m feeling a little [overwhelmed].
Two: At the end of the day, pick the most important three things for you to do the next day.  Write them down.  Do those things FIRST, before email, before phone calls, before any meetings.  If you use this technique, you’ll always be working on your priorities.
Three: If your list is very long, pick three like things, and do just those.  Three phone calls, three emails, three pages you need to print, three pieces of filing.  If you like stability, do three more of those things until all that group is done.  If you like variety, do three of something different.
Part of their advice reminds me of another resource, a book with a great title: Never Check Email in the Morning by my hero Julie Morgenstern (Fireside/Simon& Schuster, 2005). In other words, take control of your day before it is swallowed by other (very important) information, requests, or events.
Busy days can be the most productive of all. When I had just 10 minutes before a meeting I sent out the first draft of that order of service, printed a document for the meeting, and showed up ready to participate. After the meeting I had received a reply that generated a second draft. Feels good to accomplish a lot. There’s also a down side, so read on.
Give yourself a break! Just as skipping a meal to lose weight just means you’re so hungry later you want to eat everything in sight, going non-stop from one task to another means you starve yourself of time for reflection. If you have to schedule time for yourself in your calendar, do it! Then you can honestly tell someone you have other plans.
So here’s what I’m working on, just for me: yoga in the morning, a walk every day after lunch, and learning and practicing a Bach aria assigned by my voice teacher. Easy as 1, 2, 3. Then I might pick another three or maybe even the same ones!
What works for you? How do you balance work, family, chores, and self-care? It won’t always balance on a given day, but is there a rhythm you can sustain over time?

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