Sometimes I get to the end of the day and wonder where the time went. I didn’t do all of the things I intended to do, but can’t pinpoint exactly what I did instead.
It’s not just the unpleasant tasks that don’t get accomplished. I don’t just avoid the things I’m afraid to try. I also don’t do the fun things, the restorative things.
I’ve noticed that I spend way more time checking my email or scrolling on social media than I’d like to. I also end up puttering around doing little things that don’t need to be done and never really add up to anything.
It’s not necessarily a matter of exerting more self-discipline to make myself follow through on the tasks at hand. Often, I don’t use my time well simply because I’ve finished one thing and am not sure what I’m going to do next.
Diving into a task or project requires me to have made a decision about what I’m going to do or at least where I’m going to start. Even the most mundane tasks, like doing laundry, require a decision before they can be accomplished. Likewise, I can’t really relax until I’ve decided I’m going to take a break and chosen what I want to do with that time.
Mornings are a time when I struggle to get started on much of anything, but mornings are also the time of day when my mind is the freshest. How I spend my time in the morning tends to set the tone for how I will spend the rest of my day.
I feel less stressed when I can ease into the day, but if I don’t have a plan it’s hard to ever get moving. I get caught up checking my email and all my social media accounts and the weather and then opening my RSS reader to catch up on all the blogs I follow. Then I cycle through all of it again just in case anything got updated while I was checking something else.
Before I know it, the morning is half gone and I’ve gotten nothing done. Not only that, but I have no momentum to get moving.
You know what’s helping?
I’ve started deciding ahead of time what I will do first to start my day. When I eat breakfast, I check my schedule and list my top three priorities for the day. Then, I write three pages in my journal. This starts my day with reflection and preparation for what is ahead. Next, I get to work on my most pressing writing project while my mind is fresh and rested.
It’s easier to set aside the phone and dive in when I already know exactly what I want to do. As you can see, I actually plan out the first few things, but even one thing is helpful to keep me from falling into that loop of online scrolling.
Making decisions takes energy. The more decisions we have to make in the moment to choose what we’re going to do, the less energy we have left to actually do those things. Instead of deciding how to spend our time, we can fall into whatever is readily at hand—checking social media, watching TV, etc.
When I wait until morning to choose what I will work on that day, I often spend so long deciding that I get tired and run out of time before I really get started.
Think about your typical day. When do you get a little bit stuck? Maybe it’s hard to get moving first thing in the morning. Maybe you tend to hit a lull after lunch. Maybe it’s when you get home from work or after you put the kids to bed.
Keep in mind, this is not about being unceasingly productive. It could be that you struggle to get going on the important work of the day. It’s also a possibility that you have a hard time switching out of busyness to do something you enjoy.
Don’t worry about planning out all your time right now. Let’s just focus on giving yourself a little boost in an area where you tend to get stuck. This week, try to decide ahead of time what you plan to do during that time that often gives you trouble. See what happens.
Maybe you plan to workout before breakfast. Maybe you’ll tackle your inbox first thing after lunch. Maybe you’ll quit whatever you are working on and pick up a novel at 8 pm.
Getting stuck at a point in our day is just one of the many ways we can get stuck. The goal isn’t to never feel stuck, but there are things we can do to prepare for the areas most likely to trip us up.
Deciding ahead of time what you will do during the times you’re most likely to waste may seem obvious. But it can be tricky to notice what is happening when we’re stuck in a pattern of behavior.
Over the past few years, I’ve been learning ways to recognize when I’m stuck and gently get myself moving again. I created a destuckifying toolkit for myself to help me recognize the symptoms and remind me of the tools that make a difference.
I can’t give you a secret formula to keep you from ever getting stuck again, but I can help you support yourself through the process. Whether we’re stuck in one little area or our entire lives seem to be standing still, we don’t have to just wait and hope that things will get better.
We’re all different and my toolkit might not hold the tools you need most. Instead, I put together a guide to walk you through creating your own personalized destuckifying toolkit. You can get it here for free, along with access to the entire Self-Trust Library. I’d love to know…what situation or time of day are you most likely to get stuck? What will you do instead?