Slice of Sunshine —Where’s the Fire? False sense of urgency; Targeted Task List

Where’s the Fire?

My baseline pace is, shall we say, uptempo. Zippy. I walk quickly, talk quickly and think quickly (usually). It is partly because I like to get things done and be efficient, but it is also how I am wired. I may be part hummingbird.

A few weeks ago I had my first—and hopefully last!—bout of vertigo (BPPV to be specific). It was awful: the room was spinning and I had debilitating dizziness, worse than any hangover or flu I had ever experienced. While the 5 hours in the ER were not the highlight of my week, I was relieved to hear that what I had was both common and easily treatable. The recommendation along with specific physical therapy maneuvers was to take it easy and slow for a few weeks.

No problem. At least for the first few days. The dizziness came back any time I moved too fast. 

Once the symptoms were mostly gone, I was raring to get back to full speed. Trying to take it easy actually made me more anxious. Despite knowing that resting would help me get back up to speed sooner, I wrestled with what I call a “false sense of urgency.” 

Perhaps you’ve felt this too? 

Hummingbird tattoo
Elona’s hummingbird tattoo by Joanne Slorach at Hive Tattoo

It feels like you need to rush when there is no actual rush. Sometimes it manifests in the creation of deadlines that, upon reflection, are arbitrary. For example: I need to drop off my Amazon return at the UPS store today, but I also have back-to-back meetings, and I promised my daughter we could go to Fred Meyer to buy a squishmallow. Or: I need to respond to three emails, put in a load of laundry and make a vet appointment before starting dinner. 

Of course there are deadlines in life, but if you find that everything feels like it needs to be done now, ask: am I creating a false sense of urgency? Or, in Department of Practical Sunshine shorthand, “Where’s the fire?” 

It requires mindfulness to notice when you are getting wrapped up in the cycle, but if you can train yourself to do the self check, it will help you to know what actually needs to be done vs. what your brain is tricking you into thinking must be done. 

Even for those of us who seek to (over) achieve, there are moments to actually take it slow. Be mindful, check in. It is probably possible to take it easy more often than we think.

Try it!

It can be both…but how?

One way to determine what is actually urgent is by creating a Targeted Task List.
*Start with a Brain Dump: get a writing utensil and an unlined piece of paper. Fold the paper in half widthwise, aka “hamburger style.” Set a timer for three minutes and write down everything you need to do on the top half of the paper. Don’t try to group it yet, just dump it all out!
*On the bottom half of the paper, create categories. I like to do these four: “Work,” “Home—inside” (this includes phone calls), “Home—outside,” and “Out in the world.” You may find that your categories need to be different once you get the hang of this process.
*Group the items from your brain dump into the appropriate categories in order of importance.
*Put a star next to the items that are either most important OR that are costing you the most “bandwidth tax” and get them done!
You can get fancier with colors, ranking, etc. but don’t let the creation of the list become its own “to do.” Want to see this process in action? Check out my 55 second time-lapse video!

(other) Smart People

“Time isn’t something we find, but time is something we lose, all those times we fail to recognize that time is always at hand…Time doesn’t even exist. You are what exists. Time is what you are doing at the time you are doing it.”
–Karen Maezen Miller, hand wash cold


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Try it!