Getting Things Done

A member of the brood had a sort-of minor semi-meltdown over this last weekend. The disheartening task of choosing and applying to universities was too much for them, and we had some tears. Didn’t last long, but it was a good time for a little wisdom from the evil-awful parents.

I can’t take credit for it, and in fact the source is one of the cheesiest things imaginable: a self-help book. Of sorts. It’s called “Getting Things Done,” and it was written by a management guru guy who helps executives get their chaotic lives organized. It’s grown to almost cult-like status with its own web site and consumer products built specifically for use with its system. But I digress.

The wisdom is actually pretty simple, and boils down to something your mother probably told you: just try to do one thing at a time. The concept is that any large project is broken down into its component parts. When you work on the project, you are really just working on one of those parts. Each of those parts is a simple task: making a phone call, filling out a form, gathering some information. When those parts are done in the proper sequence, the project is gradually completed.

So for the student applying for university, there are many small tasks that must be completed. When these small tasks are viewed one at a time, they seem much less daunting and scary than the overarching project of which they are a part. So we began breaking down the tasks on Sunday, took a day off on Monday, and began looking at some small tasks today — and made some important progress.

I sometimes forget, myself, that this method for dealing with these overwhelming areas of one’s life helps to settle things down and put things in better perspective. Focusing on the small parts of a larger project can be the difference between taking some still important steps forward and procrastinating.

It’s something I need to remember as we move slowly forward towards our ultimate goal of moving out west. That’s not going to just happen by pulling a switch; it will be the culmination of thousands of tiny steps over the next two years. Every one of them important, all pieces of a larger puzzle that paves a road to the Rocky Mountains.

Will there be sort-of minor semi-meltdowns along the way? The smart money says ‘yes.’ With luck, we’ll be able to keep those to a minimum and keep getting things done.

One thought on “Getting Things Done

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  1. Anna has been having a really challenging semester. She is taking 3 upper division courses in her major with lots of reading and writing. Although she’s more than halfway through college, she needed some pep talks this semester. And we talked about just what you wrote about- breaking those big projects down into smaller parts to help make them more manageable. She is so independent but it’s nice once in a while when she calls and still needs a pep talk and some reminders of what she already knows 🙂 And by the way, she will be going to Australia next semester!

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