Manage Your Minutes

by Bobb Biehl

It's my guess that every single person in the world has thought, I'll never get caught up…It's hopeless…I'm so far behind, I don't know where to begin! We all know that overwhelmed feeling of having so many things to do we don't even know where to start!

Make a List When you begin to feel buried by all the things you need to do, ask yourself, What do I have to do by the end of today? By the end of the week? By the end of the month? Put a time limit on the things you need to accomplish. Let your mind dump onto a piece of paper all the things you feel pressured to accomplish in the near future, and form a list. Making a list of things to do is about as sensible to me as making a grocery list when going to the market. When items are listed on a sheet of paper, you don't forget anything, you can organize what you need to do, and you have the satisfaction of crossing off each item as it is accomplished. Begin to see lists as friends, not enemies.

In Order of Importance If your list is long, you may feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin. That's when you make a second list! Ask yourself, If I could only do one thing, which one would I do? That thing becomes number one on your new list. Then ask, If I got number one done and could only do one other thing, what would I do? That becomes number two…and so on. This little bit of extra planning is valuable because it makes sure you're getting the highest prioroity done first.

Start at the Top Start at the top of your list whenever possible, but there may be occasional exceptions. Sometimes you may feel too discouraged, overwhelmed, or fatigued to tackle the number one task-especially if it is a big one. You may want to start with a couple of easy items and check them off to feel like you're making progress. Just do something! If you keep "chipping away" at the list and checking off items, sooner or later they'll all get done!

For my senior year of college I transferred from Bethel (a small Christian college with about 500 students) to Michigan State University (with a campus of 35,000). The first day I was absolutely overwhelmed! I soon had thousands of pages to read, stringent course requirements to meet, and more than I thought I would ever be able to handle. I remember thinking, I'm going to have this overwhelmed feeling hundreds of times in my life. How do I deal with it? That's how I discovered the value of making lists. Since then I've faced a lot of overwhelming times, but I've never forgotten the feeling of relief that came from simply making a list…and starting somewhere. Key Questions:

- What are all the things to do?

- What is the order of importance of those things?

- What are the top three things you could do in the next seven days?

Make your list and "keep on keeping on," and sooner or later you will be done!

Excerpt from The On My Own Handbook, by Bobb Biehl, Chariot Victor Publishing.
Bobb Biehl is president of Masterplanning Group International, a consulting organization.
Used by permission.