We can all benefit from reminders. And self-forgiveness. And taking a single step (or creating the “next action”) as David Allen says in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity. Atomic Habits by James Clear is another book with similar suggestions. There are a growing number of books, articles (like this recent New York Times piece), and videos dedicated to this topic; go ahead and explore. After all, the ancient Chinese saying is: “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”
We are all burdened with too much work and too little time. If we are not careful, our work overwhelms other parts of our lives, and we lose balance. I struggle with this myself. It is helpful, then, to have a quiver of tools to deploy in the moments when your self-awareness kicks in: “Whoa, I’m out of balance; I missed my kid’s field hockey game, or that school event, or the dinner with my family.” Or maybe all of the above.
In these moments, as the NY Times article suggests, break it down to ONE action.
- Forgive yourself. Move past it and commit to behaving differently NOW. Self-disappointment gets in the way of personal progress.
- Do ONE thing. Leave early enough today to go exercise, for example.
- Find a SMALL thing to change. “Managing time” is a huge monster, but getting THIS particular project started involves finding THAT one phone number. There. That’s progress.
- Read a book about process. (This works for me: instead of doing better, read about doing better, maybe implement ONE idea from it, and rejoice. As you read more and pause and reflect more often, you WILL find more opportunities to change or establish a new habit. It is okay if this takes weeks, months, years, decades. We are all works in progress.)
- Set yourself a task for teaching work/life balance. Nothing like see one, do one, teach one, like we did in medical school. Or worse yet, don’t even see one or do one, but figure out how to TEACH one, and that forces you to examine yourself and pay attention. (Speaking of which, come to the CMIO Leadership Academy where I’m going to be teaching … work/life balance. Hilarious!)
CMIO’s take? If you’re having trouble managing time or really getting started changing yourself, break it down into a small “next” action. Read the article. Watch a YouTube video. I’m surprised at how many authors now offer their best ideas on video or in short articles. Are Books “so last century”? Maybe so.
This piece was originally published on The Undiscovered Country, a blog written by CT Lin, MD, CMIO at University of Colorado Health and professor at University of Colorado School of Medicine. To follow him on Twitter, click here.