Spring Cleaning My To-Do List

Full disclosure: This was not the blog that I had planned for this week.

I’m typically a believer that when life gives you limes, you make margaritas. What I’ve learned this week is that when you’re a career coach, when life gives you a busy week you write a blog about it.

This past week I was overwhelmed by everything on my to-do list.

Adding insult to injury this past weekend was Passover and we were hosting a Seder. If you’re not familiar with this Jewish tradition, all you have to know is that it’s a lot of work (like Thanksgiving-dinner-level preparation). And if you’re observant, like I am, it’s not just preparing for dinner and buying some matzah. There is a whole ceremony around “cleaning your house.”

Let me be clear: you haven’t seen Spring Cleaning until you’ve seen someone clean their house for Passover.

… And it wasn’t just getting ready for Passover. It’s the beginning of a new quarter. In sales that first month of the quarter is a really important time to get your (work) house in order. Therefore, I had a long (long, long) list of things I needed to do at work.

… Okay, so it wasn’t just busy for Passover or at work. That I could handle. It suddenly felt like all the little things were piling up on me too. It was bills and mail. It was plane tickets for a wedding. It was hotel reservations for another wedding. It was buying new clothes for my kids. It was scheduling doctors appointments. It was buying furniture for a newly renovated part of our house and then fighting with the furniture company when that furniture arrived broken.

…. And then, I opened my freezer and it was perfection. Seriously, it was perfection. In my husband’s Passover cleaning he had completely cleared out the freezer and I was overcome by joy. Not just because I had forgotten we had Bon Bons and could now access them faster, but because it was so clean and organized.

…. And that’s when it hit me. I had to Spring Clean my to-do list. Here are four things I did to get my “life freezer” back in order and it was even better than surprise Bon Bons.

  1. Quick wins: I put laundry away. I went through the mail. I activated that HSA debit card that has been staring at me for 60 days. And it felt so good. Knocking out all the little things I would have typically left until all the big things were finished were the quick wins I needed to feel like I was running my to-do list—it wasn’t running me.

  2. Replacing perfect with perfectly satisfactory: I pride myself on excellent executions, so this one always feels like a work in progress for me. The irony is that when I let go of “perfect” for “perfectly satisfactory” at work, things actually worked out well. Really well. The meeting I did the least prep for? Best one of the week. Probably because the time I did spend prepping was super-focused. The email to a client that I had left until the next morning? Overnight something had landed in my inbox that was actually the perfect thing to send over.

  3. Delegating: outside of the office I asked for help with a lot of the homefront administrative tasks that would have typically been in my wheelhouse (to my husband’s credit, we typically have an extraordinarily even splitting of the responsibilities at home). Maybe because my husband wasn’t feeling maxed out, suddenly he got everything resolved with the furniture company—and without any fight.

  4. Doing things NOT on my official to-do list: in getting more tactical and effective in tackling my to-do list, I actually gave myself time back in my day and I used it to not do errands.  By letting go of perfection I actually scaled myself more effectively across my client base. By delegating, I freed up a night to make it to a standing monthly dinner I have with some girlfriends. By knocking out the quick wins first thing in the morning instead of saving them as the last thing to do at night, I suddenly had 30 minutes to put my feet up and just watch a TV show. These were all great reminders of the power of self care: by taking care of myself I brought more energy and effectiveness to everything on my to-do list.

All four of these are tactics are ones I regularly rely on—usually at different times—to manage and prioritize my time. What I learned this week is that just like the house gets to that next level when you do an intensive Spring Cleaning push all at once, in deploying all four tactics concurrently it made a huge and immediate impact on my to-do list.

If you haven’t done your Spring Cleaning, you don’t have to purge your house. Start with your to-do list using these four tips… and when in doubt, always (always) reach for the Bon Bons.