The “how” behind getting things done.
I told you I wouldn’t leave you hanging. We ended our last time together with you trying to answer the question, ‘WHY do I do what I do? What is my purpose in life? And at my job?’ Today, we are going to talk about the ‘HOW we get it done’. Hang with me if you haven’t made progress on the last assignment. I promise I’m going to help you.
I envision that many of you read the last entry about purpose and thought to yourself, “I don’t have time to stop and think about that — I’ll come back to it” but never did. How do I know that? Uhhh, because I do it ALL the time and because I spent most of my life stuck in this way of operating. If something requires more than five minutes, I’ll do it later. The problem with that is that you never get the important things done because they usually take more than five minutes. Let’s name a few of those….exercise, reading and praying in the morning, putting pictures in a photo album (imagine the eye roll emoji). Not to mention asking yourself what your purpose in life is and how you spend your time in relation to that.
Okay so what’s in the way? It’s the mentality that kept me stuck (for years) and procrastinating all the most important things in life –the “All or Nothing” mentality.
Today I want to cover two things:
Your nugget today is called “It’ll do”.
I am going to propose how I want you to practice it.
First let me explain “It’ll do”. This one little phrase “it’ll do” has been a life changing way of operating for me and the key to getting the things done that matter to me. I’ll share another time about the origins of the phrase from an experiment I did but for today I just want to touch on how it applies to you!
It’ll do means just that! IT WILL DO! Whether it’s picking up 10 weeds while I am walking through my back yard (which I got this from watching my friend Ken—who I initially mocked, by the way, as I watched him pick up a handful weeds in between sit-ups during our very intense driveway workouts), doing chores for :10 around the house, or spending :15 on that writing project you’ve been telling yourself you would start. What used to look like insurmountable tasks, I now see as incremental ‘small tasks’. Don’t get me wrong, I still have things on my to do list that have been there for years (photos, insert eye roll again) and a few books that need to be thrown out. I’m certainly not perfect in this. But that’s the genius of ”it will do”! You get things done over time, your stacks get smaller, your purpose becomes clear and your anxiety goes down because you get the things done that matter to you. You just don’t get them done overnight. And guess what, most things in life that matter, you can’t do in one sitting. See also getting clarity on your purpose. I would be willing to bet that the important task of thinking about your why was put on the back burner because it seemed too big.
Now brace yourself because this is going to be profound. If you don’t start, you will never start. Yes, I know, SO profound. But seriously, if you don’t learn to do things incrementally, you won’t accomplish the really big things in life.
Okay, enough lecturing. I hate lectures by the way. Here’s what I am learning and how I am applying it for myself these days. I am actually, by the grace of God, at 53 and for the first time in my life, planning my wedding. That’s crazy in and of itself, but not exactly what I am here to talk about. That would take another 1053 entries.
Anyway, being a first-time bride you would think would be SO fun and exciting and all the things. But for me, when I slip into my ‘all or nothing’ mentality (the opposite mindset of ‘it’ll do’), planning a big event that will not be wrapped up until the day it happens, is a recipe for NOT enjoying the process. Poor Curt.
I keep praying and asking the Lord to help me not miss this season. When you can’t enjoy all the small and incremental tasks in life, because you are always looking to be finished with the big project, you can’t enjoy the process. And everything in life is a process.
What I am working on these days is how to shift from seeing it as one big project that I want to check off to something else…
Let me rewind for one second.
One of the most life changing books I have read in the last decade has been The Compound Effect. My brother Matt read it and recommended it, and it proved to be a quick listen on Audible and super short read for the over achiever. The formula that Darren Hardy puts out there is “Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = Radical Difference”. I never realized just how engrained the ‘all or nothing’ mentality was in my way of operating until I read this book. It challenged and slowly began to change my belief system.
I, for the first time, began to see that things that are worthwhile usually do not get completed in one sitting. I began to learn to see and value small incremental steps toward a bigger goal! Yes, there is value in spending five minutes on something.
Okay back to applying this today. Instead of seeing this as one big project to wrap up, I am trying to enjoy this season which includes the hundreds of details of planning a wedding. By the way, if I haven’t mentioned this already, the most valuable things in life are a hundred small investments of time. Just peer into any relationship you have built—your spouse, your closest friends, your children, or your best employee. And they are worth it.
I remodeled my house a few years ago and actually lived in the 1450 square foot freezer for two months in the middle of the winter of 2019. Anyway, I remember my friend Missy was helping me do the remodel (who was also not living in the freezer) and she said “I love watching things come together” and I thought, “I just want to quit wearing gloves in the bed and get back to enjoying life”. THAT is the difference between all or nothing thinking and what I now affectionately call the “life is a journey” mentality.
Donald Miller said in his book Scary Close about his own wedding, “I’m watching this unfold and getting caught up into the story we’re telling”. In December, that’s where I want to be. Totally and completely caught up in the story God has been telling in my life for the last 53 years. Not fretting, worrying, driving the people around me crazy. Being bridezilla heaven forbid.
No, I want to have done the hundreds of tasks, being a presence of love and warmth and acceptance to those around me. Seeing all the details as a part of one big story unfolding, my story, unfolding and coming together. I want to enjoy the daily moments that make up my life.
Okay now it’s your turn–to practice. Pick any activity you feel resistance toward. It can be walking, running, writing, reading, journaling, folding laundry—whatever you want to pick that matters to you. For those of you who left the last entry a little anxious and not knowing your purpose – AND didn’t do anything with the questions—I want you to start by sitting with one of the questions below and writing whatever comes to mind.
Here were the questions, I left you with last time.
“What is my purpose in life? Why am I here?” If that question is too big, “What in my week do I enjoy the most? And why does it bring me joy? What do I get out of it?”
Now, I want you to set a timer for 5 minutes and do the task you chose.
I know at the end of five minutes you might want to keep going (unless you are running), and you can. What is important about this exercise is that you begin to see the value in the small steps. I want you to repeat the five-minute exercise every day for a few days. After the first few days, you can continue beyond the five minutes.
Honestly, I get a little overwhelmed (and feel a little shamed) by Socrates’ “wasted life” saying–though I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way. And I really don’t want you or me to waste our lives. So I want to encourage you to think about it this way.
When you start that task or spend five minutes thinking about your life or doing the things that matter to you, you are in fact living the life you want to live. Our lives are made up of all those moments strung together. And know that your five moments today will be added to those tomorrow and eventually you will complete that big goal or project that’s important to you.
Today, I hope you see your learning and growing as your story — unfolding and coming together.