Here’s something that everyone has in common, whether they are a US Senator, an NFL quarterback or a dishwasher.
You can only do one thing at a time.*
This can be very frustrating because reality can do an infinite number of things at once and our minds can think dozens of things at once on multiple levels.
On top of that there are all those people that are not you. There are billions of them and they can do billions of things while you can only do one. Of course each one of them can only do one thing at a time but there are so many of them it’s not fair.*
So it can be very discouraging and overwhelming if you compare how much you can get done (one thing at a time) to what you can think about doing, especially when you’re thinking about all the things that everyone else is doing while you’re thinking about what you should be doing.
But here’s the good news.
Language is linear.
We can think about dozens of things at once on multiple levels (I mean thinking about something and thinking about the fact that you’re thinking about it and subconsciously thinking about something else) but we can’t talk or write that way.
That’s one of the main reasons why it really helps to get your to do list out of your head and onto paper.
If you want to do it write it down.
This will get it out of your head and into reality, at least on paper. This allows you to see how many things you want to do, remember them and put them in order. This is much more effective than just thinking about stuff. Because language is analogous to individual action (as opposed to being analogous to reality, group action or thinking) it’s super helpful to write down the things you want to do.
Another way of looking at it is to see that the limitations of language can be very helpful. The bad new is that you’ll never see a poem as lovely as a tree. The good news is that writing tasks down will help you get them done.
This may be very obvious to you but as someone who resisted organization and to do lists for years I found it a revelation.
Three Steps to
*There are two things that might make it seem like you can do more than one thing at time.
- Multitasking: This is not really doing two or more things at once. This is just doing one thing that accomplishes two or more goals.
- Getting other people to do stuff using nifty new inventions like language, money, civilization and twitter is another way to get things done. This is not doing more than one thing at a time, however. This is getting other people to use the one thing they get to do at this time in service to your goals.
**Imagine that the world is split into two teams and you’re on one and the rest of the world is on the other. We’ll call your team “The Ewes.” We’ll order jerseys. Go Ewes! We’ll call the other team the Knots (because they’re not you). The teams are not even (it’s 7 billion against 1) but a lot of people make the comparison between the Ewes and the Knots and find the Ewes sadly wanting. In fact, while your were reading this the Knots had like 100,000 babies, built a few houses, finished 157 novels, fell in love a million times, ran a few marathons and lost a ton of weight (several tons actually). You better get busy!