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Two Lies You May Be Telling Yourself

May '12

# 1  When you say aloud, “Yes, I’ll do it”, and think to yourself, “That’s O.K. with me; it’s a good thing to do. I’ll squeeze it in somehow.”

Your It’s OK with me” rationalization provides a perfect example of “short term gain, long term pain.” Nodding positively to an appeal to serve on a colleague’s committee, or replying, “Sure” to another Mom’s request to make cupcakes for the school bake sale brings momentary ease. You avoid dealing with the disappointment, or even disapproval from that particular colleague or friend. But when you start pulling together the ingredients for those bake-sale cupcakes or attend the first meeting of that yearlong committee, an awareness of the “long term pain” arrives. Your quiet sigh of resignation probably signals you lied to yourself with that simple rationalization.

Saying “No” often involves discomfort in the short run, but can bring “long term” rewards. Perhaps a two-step plan can make handling these requests for participation easier.

Step one: you reply, “Thanks for asking, let me have some time to think about it, and I’ll get back to you.” – or some version thereof.

Step two: you actually take the time to consider whether you truly want to add this commitment to your life.

Then you can respond with an authentic “yes” or a “no.” Your “yes” will be more enthusiastic – maybe baking cupcakes calls on your creativity and baking skills, and your “no” will be simpler, because you will be clear in your decision – much as you would like to make those cupcakes, your “to-do” list is brimming over right now, or much as you appreciate the value of this committee’s work, it’s not going to work out for you right now.

# 2  When you come across a task that needs completing and think, “I’ll get to it some other time.”

May I be blunt? Probably not. Think about it for a minute. This happy rationalization that you’ll get to it eventually, again brings comfort to your present moment – in this case by avoiding the unpleasantness of actually tackling the job, or the even more basic decision of whether or not it’s worth completing in the first place.

You open that messy kitchen drawer; fumble through the implements trying to find your special spatula. You find it, shut the drawer and mumble; “I have to straighten that drawer sometime.” If you’re like most of us, you don’t, but the next time you open the drawer and search for the same spatula, you get mildly annoyed again and repeat your, “I’ve got to straighten that drawer,” routine.

With every similar incident, you fill your head with another mild worry about a “need-to-do” item. In just a few weeks, these can quickly create an over-cluttered, energy-consuming mental environment.

The solution is to get your “need-to-do’s” out of your head and onto a list. In a workshop I took years ago with David Allen (time management guru), he called this a “brain dump.” And it works! I actually suggest you stop reading this newsletter right now and take only 5 minutes to list all the things you’ve been meaning to do – you know, those famous “I’ll get to it some other time” items. Why not try it? When you return, I’ll give you the next step.

… Welcome back! Now, you simply take each item, and decide “yes” (then actually put it in your planner), or “no” (then cross it off your list, or “maybe” (then put it on your “maybe” list to be reviewed again in a month with the same process). With these action decisions, your head will be less muddled and your energy freed up for more exciting ventures.

That reminds me – time to decide what to do with that plastic pot of lilies I never got around to planting last summer. They sat outside on my deck all winter and miraculously came up again this year – all three plants! H…mmm.

What chores have you been postponing? Now which items have you decided to complete or, equally important, cross off your mental to-do list? That disordered drawer may just be fine with you after all! I’d love to hear any details of how this “brain-dump” exercise worked for you.

Happy clearing!


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