For me, seeing light bulbs flicker on in creatives’ minds as the path to their Magnum Opus opens up is the most amazing experience. We creatives are often plagued by the Dreamer Disease — we can’t stop thinking about things. The result? We never start doing things. That shit is so overwhelming. And nobody’s got time for that.
I want to share a little project management trick with you. Apply it to your life, do it every morning, and those lightbulbs are going to be going off like New Years in your head.
Getting your shit straight
The main problem in seriously overwhelming situations is that you’ve got a bunch of stuff coming at you all at once and only so many hours in a day.
Life doesn’t just go away because you don’t have time for it. You have obligations, I know. And a lot of them are probably stressing you the fuck out. I know. Been there. Sometimes I still end up there. But I say unto you:
Girl, there is some light, and you don’t even need to walk all the way through the tunnel to bask in its warm, glowy lightness.
You just need to get your shit straight.
In the project management world, we’d call in a daily scrum meeting. It’s a super quick (15 minutes max) stand-up meeting where everyone on a team answers 3 questions. By voicing the answers, the whole team gets a thorough understanding of the project’s overall status.
Conquer Overwhelm with 3 Magic Questions
As a project manager, I ask myself these questions every morning, and the results have been intense in both my personal and professional productivity. Now I’m sharing them with you. I want you to set yourself a habit each morning to ask yourself these questions, and then let me know how it’s changed your life.
(Spoiler: It definitely will.)
01. What did you do yesterday?
Start with where you’re at. It’s always the best place to start. From there, you can look both backwards and forwards. First, we’ll look backwards:
With your Magnum Opus in mind, what did you do yesterday to further your goals?
Example: If your passion is to run your own business and you’re just getting started, yesterday you may have researched sole proprietorships and LLCs, purchased business cards, or connected with a potential client. Acknowledge that!
3 reasons why:
- A boost to your motivation — small wins are great wins!
- Batching similar tasks is efficient — if you were researching the legal side of running a business, then it’s probably a good idea to continue working on the legal side until you’ve got a good foundation in place, then move on to another aspect.
- If you didn’t get around to doing something you meant to do, or should have done, it forces you to see that so you can reschedule it for today (or another time). Sometimes, it’s best to say that now is not the right time and choose another task.
This question forces you to be accountable to yourself, and more importantly, to be honest with yourself. If you acknowledge what you did and didn’t do yesterday, you know exactly where you are in your process. There’s no guessing.
That’s why this should be your first question every day. Don’t discount this question as something silly or useless; there’s a whole lot of power in recounting to yourself what you did the day before.
02. What will you do today?
You’ve been super honest with yourself and seen that you got a whole lot of shit done yesterday.
Or maybe you’ve taken the blinders off and acknowledged that yesterday… wasn’t so productive for you. It happens.
Either way, you know what’s up: You know what you did yesterday, and you can now decide what you should do next. Hint: That’s today.
Choose 1 or more items from your list of tasks, which should be a breakdown of steps towards reaching your passion and maintaining your other responsibilities. These are the things you will do today. Say it out loud.
03. What was in your way yesterday?
Maybe yesterday and every day before it was great for you and you accomplished 100% of the things you set out to do. In which case: Are you a machine and can I hire you?
Not every day, but many days, you’ll probably find that you didn’t manage to get around to all the things you wanted to. Why not?
There is a reason. Even if it was because you were unmotivated, or procrastinating, or got hooked on re-watching every season of Grey’s Anatomy. Make note of whatever your block was. Common ones might be:
- The task took longer than you planned
- You were feeling lazy
- You didn’t motivate yourself to do it
- You got distracted by the Internet
- You realized you didn’t want to do it
- You realized you didn’t need to do it
- You found an alternative to your original task
- You didn’t have the materials and supplies necessary to do it
- You didn’t have the foundational knowledge necessary to do it
- You were thwarted by bureaucracy
- You had too much wine and forgot you were supposed to do something
- A family emergency happened (I hope everyone’s okay!)
- You were mugged
- Your car broke down in some backwoods tundra 15 miles from civilization
- So on
— Holly O. 🎃 (@GirlAlchemy) October 20, 2016
When you set out to create your Magnum Opus — your small business, your best-seller, your modern Mona Lisa — you take steps to get there. Sometimes, the steps you initially plan for will veer off in another direction, and it’s good. Sometimes, you’ll veer off because you get distracted, and that’s not good.
Seeing the things that impeded you yesterday — your personal “bullshit” — is the only way to find the path again if you’re heading off in a bad direction. You can’t stay on the road if you don’t know you’re in the woods, right?
So, what was in your way yesterday?
See it. Acknowledge it. And now: Make a plan to fix it.
If you were thwarted by bureaucracy, you should now focus on figuring out what steps you need to take to work with the system. If you were feeling lazy, you need to set yourself up with some reward system to convince you to work today. If you lacked the foundational knowledge you needed to complete your task yesterday, then today’s a good day for a pot of coffee and Wikipedia.
Whatever it is, get on it today. Remove those blockades, or find the right person to remove them for you. Whatever you do, do not throw your hands up, saying, “Oh well, I guess I can’t do that now.” Give me a break. Give yourself a break. Do it.
Your Passionate and Productive Life is, like, so close!
Creating your legacy isn’t supposed to be easy. But it isn’t supposed to drive you insane, either.
Work with yourself, not against it.
The reason these questions are so important is because they force you to think about your progress daily and that, in turn, creates an intuitive understanding of what you’ve accomplished, at what rate, and how to get to the end as quickly as possible.
It’s accountability + perseverance + knowledge. And as Slytherins, Hufflepuffs, and Ravenclaws know, you need all of ’em to take over the world.
Try this for a week, and then let me know how it’s changed your output and your life. It definitely will. I’d love to hear your results in comments!