Getting Things Done

And now I need to fix this tear in my monitor, ugh...Whenever I’m overwhelmed, Donna reminds me how to eat an elephant.  One bite at a time.  It’s really good advice, and yet I still try to poke that thing down in one gulp.  I always fail of course, and have guilt, more stress, an increasing workload, and a lovely shame spiral that seems to never end.  Ahh, RealLife™, how greatly thou can suck at times.

A big problem with my conundrum is that much of my work is based on creativity.  Yes, I make crap up for a living.  It’s quite lovely.  When a seemingly endless workload mixes with dozens of half done projects — the end result is usually shoddy product.  Which adds stress, adds guilt, and the shame spiral begins again.  What’s a geek to do?

Quite frankly, I’m open to suggestions.  Here are the things I’ve tried that have NOT worked:

  • Scheduling everything in Google Calendar.  This is fine, until something goes wrong (I work in IT, something ALWAYS goes wrong).  Then I’m off schedule, have guilt, more stress, you see where this is going…
  • Keeping a TODO list for all the tasks in my various jobs.  This works better than scheduling everything in a calendar, because there is no timing on the things.  HOWEVER, it’s a bit like shoveling snow from a driveway that happens to be 30 miles long.  I never see progress.  I have guilt, shame, stress, and yes, the spiral begins again.
  • [INSERT PRODUCTIVITY SYSTEM HERE] — I’ve read books, watched videos, etc, etc.  Whatever system is pitched always sounds great, but my problem is I get caught up in the system and never get anything else done!
  • At work, we’ve implemented a trouble ticket system that is a bit nicer than our old clunky one.  I think this will help at my sysadmin job, because I can just do the top ticket, and work from there.  They’ll never be gone, but at least I can see what to do next.  For the rest of my jobs (writing, producing videos), that doesn’t work, because there’s not just a list of things that need to be done, it varies and changes.

So I’ve been trying to think what might actually work.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Get up early and try to accomplish one thing before anyone else gets up.  Getting up early sucks, but if I only have to accomplish one thing, it might not be so bad.  Plus, I can have a nice quiet hot beverage, and maybe my creativity will flow a bit.
  • Make a daily list of things to do.  NOT all the things I have to do (30 mile driveway again), but rather a smaller list of things that I need to accomplish THAT DAY.  I think I’ll put this on paper, because if I put it on something electronic, I’ll spend weeks designing the perfect list software…
  • When I’m done with the list, STOP WORKING.  I think this is important, because I suffer pretty badly from burnout.  It seems like I never accomplish anything, so stopping cold turkey probably won’t really change productivity, but perhaps it will help my brain.
  • Do something fun every day.  I miss fun stuff.  Perhaps this is a silly video.  Perhaps this is a silly poem.  Perhaps this is just a snowball fight with the dog.  Whatever it is, I think I should insist on doing something fun.  For science!
  • Take time to read.  Even if it’s just a little.  Reading is brain exercise, and quite frankly, my brain is getting flabby.  I need to tone it up a bit.

So that’s it.  It’s not a list of New Year’s resolutions, because those never work.  It’s not some new "system" I’m going to get caught up in.  It’s just me brainstorming how to get stuff done, and be happy while I do it.  That last part seems important, ya know?  I’m open for suggestions on how to get stuff done without instilling the wrath of Mr. Shame Spiral, but we’ll see how my plan goes.  I spoke with Fred about it, and he seems to think it’s a grand idea.  Although, to be honest, I think he just wants me to feed him earlier, so he was in favor of the early rising thing.  🙂

8 thoughts on “Getting Things Done”

  1. Shawn, You remind me so much of me at your age it’s scary. If I could have given myself advice from fifteen years in the future, I would say to myself “get more rest. You’ll be even better at your game and accomplish more in the process. On top of it all, you’ll be a better family man.”

    Oh, and remember another thing – life is too short to drink cheap booze.

    Your friend-at-a-distance,
    Chris Reich

  2. I suffer from the same problem – there’s always work, there’s always emergencies, there’s always things I’m behind on. I hate to admit this in public, but I missed out on a lot with my daughter because I was so overcome with work that just had to be done. It also had a lot to do with my divorce.

    You need to prioritize your life – not work, your life. You need to accept that you can’t do everything, and that killing yourself with work isn’t just bad for you, it’s bad for everyone in your life who cares about you.

    Do what you can and the best you can each day, then put it aside and be Shawn. Remember, you shouldn’t be living to work, you should be working to live.

  3. I’ve been trying to do the same thing for ages, but I’ve particularly been pondering it since September, when my doc helpfully noted that if I don’t find some way to get it under control, I won’t get to see 30. I’ve tried a lot of the things you mentioned (particularly the calendaring, which is incredibly frustrating when you don’t know what time you’ll get up or go to bed) with equally little success.

    The one thing I *have* figured out, though, is that part of my problem is the number of things on my list that don’t need to be. It’s not that they don’t need to be on *a* list, they just don’t need to be on *my* list. If there’s anything I’ve learned from our dear friend Candy B., it’s that you don’t have to do it yourself to get it done right – you just need a good VA (or other qualified delegatee).

    My advice is to take a look at that 30 mile long driveway and ask yourself “What part(s) could be shoveled by somebody else?” Maybe the mini-Powers can shovel some. (I don’t doubt they already do, but maybe there’s a bit more.) Maybe the kid down the street is a good shoveler (and cheap). And maybe some just needs to be passed off to a pro. It’s terrifying at first (at least it is for me), but the alternative isn’t particularly attractive either.

    (And if you’re anything like me, the immediate reaction will be “Well, I can’t hire a pro, that’s just not something I can afford.” I speak from experience in saying that what takes you a year to do won’t necessarily take them the same amount of time. My clients send me stuff all the time that I finish in 15 minutes that would have taken them several hours. Even if it takes me an hour, the $40 it costs them is worth it to free up five hours. Give it a try, at least once, and see if it’s not more affordable than you think.)

  4. For me, it’s important to see the ‘done’ list.

    I have a to-do list (a really big one like yours, with a simple system around it)

    I try to pick a half day’s work off that list to make a ‘do today’ list.

    Then when I do something, whether it’s on the list or not,
    I make sure I mark it down on the ‘done’ list.

    The ‘done’ list is encouraging and fulfilling,
    the ‘to-do list’ is soul draining.

  5. I’ve had the same problem and while nothing works all the time here’s some stuff I use…

    If you’re on the computer, extra monitors and all use this site: It’s super simple and helps a lot because it only shows you what you should be doing now.

    Shut off the internet. This is the hardest of all. I finally set my router to turn off network access during times I should be asleep. I don’t always sleep but at least if I am on the computer I end up doing something useful instead of becoming an internet zombie. is a good site, with Android app Shuffle.

    The only other thing that’s really helped me is getting an android phone because I can set 3 or 4 alarms for the same calendar event so distractions don’t get me any more.


Leave a Comment