Time tracking: two big rocks

Prior to this era of personal time tracking, if you told me I had two hours to myself, I would make a list of 20 things I hoped to get done in that time. Then one of two things would happen: I would either work frantically to accomplish as many of them as possible (and feel entirely spent at the end), or I would become frozen with the immensity of the tasks before me. i would waste the time and get none of the important things done. 

What I found myself saying this month is, “My priority in the next two hours is to get x and y done.”  It didn’t mean I stopped after I got those two things done. I often got much more done. But focusing on those two priorities helped me to feel less frantic, anxious and overwhelmed (surely, I could get two things done!), and I was less exhausted at the end of that time. I usually got those two priorities done, and they were the two Big Rocks in my mayonnaise jar. The rest of the sand and pebbles fit in around them.

The mayonnaise jar analogy, if you don’t already know it, goes something like this:

A professor brought a mayonnaise jar, some large rocks, some smaller rocks, some pebbles and some sand to class. He asked the students if those items could all fit into the jar. The students thought it wasn’t possible.

The professor then proceeded to put the big rocks in first, followed by the smaller rocks, the pebbles, and finally, the sand. It all fit, after he gave it a good shake and let all the small things settle inside the jar.

He told the students that time is the same way. If you start with all the small, piddly stuff, you’ll never fit the big, important rocks in. But if you get the big, important rocks in first, you can shake down the contents and find that the smaller, less important stuff fits into the smaller spaces.

May you get those two or three “big rocks” in today!

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Rigorous Time Tracking…sort of

This will be a short post.

You know all those New Year’s resolutions you’re breaking by now? Well, my time tracking has not been quite as rigorous as it was in the beginning.

First, my son had a violent stomach flu, and we both lost a night of sleep over it. Two days’ later, I got the same bug. We were both largely out of commission last week.

And then, I remembered that I had a provision for this. See, I knew it was impossible to catch everything I did in my time tracking. I knew at some point, I would fail to capture something because of sickness or some crisis or higher priority. But my husband reminded me from the beginning that even snapshots give more information than no tracking at all. My good friend, Lauryl, who is the Queen of Tracking, reminded me that capturing three days’ activities in a week was better than none. 

So last week, I captured some information. I wrote down activities almost every day. I have more information than I would have had before. In my next post, I’ll share what I learned in a week of imperfect time tracking!

2014 – The Year of Rigorous Tracking (Part I)

This blog will be part of a series in 2014, and I am starting it off with a little background before we kick off the New Year.

I’ve become a fan of “tracking” in the past year, though the actual habit of rigorous tracking frightens me. Tracking for both personal and professional habits includes writing down the things we do, the resources we use, and our experiences of them. Some folks may need very little tracking in order to stay “on-track.” Others of us need considerably more.

This is my professional coaching site, but this is a decidedly personal process. So I’m going to share the content with my readers for their own personal use and challenge, and I’m going to share the personal experience because human change is often difficult, and it’s a disservice to pretend it is not. I’m not a coach because I have everything mastered; I’m a coach because I’m walking the talk and sharing the journey with those who wish to join me on it.

A little more background: the Good Mother and the Good Father

A long time ago I realized that the parent’s job is to help the child internalize the principles that help them to self-regulate later. In other words, we learn from our parents how to parent ourselves. For some people, the gaps in that information of how to parent themselves are very small; they had good parents, and they may tweak the parenting they live out, but they essentially have it down. For others of us whose parents were mentally ill, addicted, abusive, or otherwise largely checked-out, we have more work to do to fill in the gaps.

I never understood what people meant by “working with archetypes,” until recently. I suddenly realized that I knew what the Good Mother was enough that I could embody that not only for my child but also for myself. I started dialoguing on paper with the Good Mother, and I found that I knew how to access the nurturing, playfulness, compassion, and safe space I could provide for myself. I often have done so with journaling and art journaling practices.

However, as soon as I tapped into the Good Father, all hell broke loose! The Good Father’s job is to guide the child into the real world and teach the child how to show up. The Good Father knows that if you’re late for work, you’ll get fired; if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. In essence, there are actions and consequences.

All my life, I have struggled with structure. I have rebelled against structures, even if I put them in place for myself! There is a certain undeniable insanity to rebelling against the very things we decide support our life goals, mission and purpose! Yet the feelings that come up for me around structure are so intense and shame-laden. I have decided in 2014 to take the bull by the horns and enter into The Year of Rigorous Tracking for those areas of my life where I have tried to deny reality and make it somehow work differently for me.

The Year of Rigorous Tracking

I’m going to carefully track and pay attention to two categories of life: behaviors and emotions.

In the behavioral category, I’ve got two big areas to track, and a third that I will periodically track. They are time, money and food. By no small coincidence, these are areas where I will express emotions, rather than dealing with them directly. Expressing emotions through wasting time (or being too busy), spending money (or hoarding it) or eating too much (or too little) will be destructive. However, a lot of emotion comes up around these issues, so I’m adding tracking in the emotional category to support success in these other areas.

In the emotional category, I will use two primary tools: journaling and art practice. These are the two ways I will be most likely to identify and work with feelings in a constructive way.

What’s the Point?

I’ve been a meditator for years, and the practice I follow is to observe the breath and body sensation without attempting to change them. What I have learned there is that the things we pay attention to naturally change. It’s a proven fact that the people who write down everything they put into their mouths lose weight. They don’t even have to consciously change their eating habits. I’m trusting that the same thing will happen here: by writing down where I spend my time and money, the accountability and visibility of that action will change the behaviors. By attending to the emotions directly and with compassion, I will find healthy expression of them.

Want to Join Me?

One of the most powerful tools I’ve found for any kind of change is companionship and the encouragement and accountability that go with them. If you’re interested in joining me in this Year of Rigorous Tracking,  feel free to follow me here and leave comments/questions about your own journey.

Tomorrow, I’ll share some more about how the tracking will work for me, and you may use these tools (or others) as you find them supportive.