For once I would like to enter autumn feeling on top of things: my client work mapped out for the year, a clear understanding of how to meet my remaining annual goals in these next four months, and my kids' school activities listed in my calendar. I would like to look fabulous in a wardrobe of "fall transitional clothes," rather than resemble Eric Carle's Mixed-Up Chameleon in some crazy combo of flip-flops, cotton dresses, and wool sweaters.
So I've decided to implement a three-step process to solve my fall dilemma: Purge, Plan, Reward. I'm going to block out three solid days in the next month to:
Purge: Out with the old (or the stressful, or the irrelevant) before starting something new. My mile-long to-do list stresses me out and prevents me from setting my top three priorities. So I'm going to delete it. If it hasn't been done in six months, it probably isn't that important. I'm also going to clean out my office and throw out anything that makes me think guiltily, "Oh, I really should [fill in the blank]": industry reports from last year I've been meaning to read, files of prospective clients too busy to meet with me, etc. I need to start fresh.
Plan: Make a plan, make sure it is realistic, and carve out time to accomplish it. I will (1) list all my current and pipeline projects from now through December; (2) review this year's goals to see what I still need to do and add what is realistic to that list; (3) identify all remaining travel and plan for it (transportation arrangements, child care, budgeting, etc.). Note that I am not adding every single thing I would like to accomplish in life into this three-month plan!
Reward: After all that purging and planning, we need to treat ourselves. Notice that the rewarding comes before the implementing. What will I do? Go shopping, of course! Hey, even moms need new back-to-school clothes. I'm taking myself out for a day -- yes, a whole day by myself, without kids.
You can apply this process to quickly solve any problem in your personal or professional life:
You want to get married and your boyfriend of two years isn't sure he wants to commit?
Purge: Break up with him, gather up all his things in a box, and mail it to him.
Plan: Make a list of 50 positive qualities you want in a relationship (like monogamy), sign up for a couple of online dating services, and only date people who meet your most important qualities.
Reward: A girls' getaway weekend, a massage, a long hike -- whatever makes you feel good.
You need to plan and launch a new grantmaking initiative?
Purge: Spend a couple of hours jotting down possibilities: possible goals, strategies, grantees, consultants. Now purge. Literally cross out everything that you think is unrealistic, unsuccessful, annoying, or stressful even to think about. Goals that will take you off course? Delete. Strategies that are the same worn-out, time-consuming approaches? Cross out. Grantees that are good on paper but never seem to deliver? Remove. Consultants whom everyone recommends but you don't like? Oust. Another purge: What current work can you delegate to someone else so you have time to design this initiative?
Plan: Now sit down and write up a six-month plan to develop the initiative, based on your remaining possible goals, strategies, grantees, and consultants. Add in things like: Determine existing resources we can build upon, identify data sources, and identify potential funding sources.
Reward: Now that you have a plan in place, take a day off. Do something fun: Spend the day with your kids, go to a museum, explore a new neighborhood. You will return refreshed and ready to implement your plan.
So think about it. What is something you need to get done quickly?
What should be purged to physically or mentally clear out space so that you can accomplish it?
What are the three, five, or ten steps that you need to take to get it done?
What is a nice carrot at the end of this short stick that would make you feel happy?
Go do it.