Hello, my name is Jeanette and I’m an organizing freak. Yes, I admit it. I can not function in chaos. I’m a planner as well. I have to know all my steps, my master to-do list, my map so-to-speak. I have always been that way and I am finally comfortable enough and proud to say that I will always be that way. We all operate and function in different ways. Just as people learn via different methods, people can also thrive (or not thrive) in various environments.
For years, nay almost a decade, I thought that something was wrong with me, on why I couldn’t succeed in doing things, why others succeeded when I didn’t, why I consistently felt stressed out and not myself. Part of it was those people that I thought were my mentors and while they were (and still are) amazing people which I learned a lot from, they consistently told me one thing over and over again which seriously hindered me…they told me “quit planning and just do”. While that may work for most people, I am certainly not most people and it definitely did not work for me. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized that.
I was bumbling along in my career. Trying to succeed in this, trying to succeed in that, with zero luck. I was attempting the “just do”, but I didn’t feel like myself and when you don’t feel like yourself, you definitely lack self-confidence. And when you don’t have self-confidence, well…everyone can tell. I didn’t feel strong or sure of myself. I constantly second-guessed myself. I consistently let fear of the unknown get the better of me. And I think that the biggest thing for me is the fear of the unknown. Heck, I get ridiculously uncomfortable driving in new places unless I’ve reviewed the route via Google Maps at least a half dozen times. I need to know the route, the back up route and the back up route for the back up route. The same is true of my life.
I make plans and then I play devil’s advocate to come up with a few back-up plans just in case. I’m constantly joking around that if you create a back up plan, then you won’t need it, but if you don’t have a back-up plan, then that’s when you’ll need it. Yeah, I joke about it, but I really truly believe it to the core. It calms me, it soothes me. Knowing I have a plan B and a plan C, allows me to relax about plan A, not worry so much about it, have more self-confidence about it and you know what? I very rarely have to use plan B and I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to use plan C. It’s just so comforting to me knowing that they are there.
And that works for me. It gets rid of a lot of the chaos (I’ll never get rid of all of it, nor would I want to as chaos does provide that air of excitement), but most importantly it leaves me with a calmer mind that allows me to succeed in my project du jour.
Now for those naysayers who are thinking to themselves (or even out loud), “Sure, you’re a great planner, but plan all you want, nothing happens until you do something”. Here’s where I take my planning to the “doing” level. Once I have a gameplan, I set it up into teeny tiny, succinct to-do lists. I mean like ridiculously tiny and succinct (google such-and-such to brainstorm, pick top 3 ideas from google brainstorm session, create a gameplan for each top 3 ideas from google brainstorm session-yes, those have been actual to-do items for me). Then I take those to-do items and add them into my calendar task list for the appropriate day that it should be done on. If a to-do item doesn’t or can’t have a due date, then that means that I need to re-evaluate it in my overall gameplan and tweak it to where it can have a due date. Everything in my gameplans ultimately have due dates. That’s how I can take my planning self and turn it into a doing self. If it’s a project that take two weeks to complete, then I break it down into teeny, tiny bites/tasks that can each be accomplished in one day and then I add all of those to my task list.
Sure, I end up having 40-50 tasks each day to do, but you know what? Over half of those tasks take 5 minutes or less each. And I’m telling you, you definitely feel like you are having a successful day when you are constantly checking off things as completed. And lots of little baby steps can take you really far.
Creating those task lists by due date also help clear my mind in that I only worry about what is on my list for today. I don’t worry about tomorrow or the next day or next week. I don’t have to worry about forgetting something, because as soon as I think of “something that I have to make sure I don’t forget”, I add it to my calendar task list and then I’m free to forget about it until it conveniently pops up in my list on the day it’s due. It’s refreshing and limits my daily stress.
Now, one extremely important thing that I have learned and 100% respect is that not everyone operates like I do. Where I try to avoid chaos, there are others out there that thrive in it, that love it, that fuels them. There are those people who just the thought of a to-do list freaks them out. And it’s very important to know that that’s ok! We all function differently in different ways and in different environments. The key to success, especially when working in groups, is to understand that the way that you do things is not the way that others are going to want to do things. It’s ok to allow each member of a team to do things their way as long as they get to the agreed upon final product. Just as Google Maps has various ways to get somewhere, the same is true of projects.
I guess what I’m trying to say is to embrace who you are and how you work while respecting the way others work. Tolerance like in all areas of life is important. Be tolerant to others but also be tolerant to yourself. That’s the one we typically forget. Let others be themselves, but don’t forget to be yourself as well.