Have you ever wondered how to get through or get over something? Of course you have. We all have disappointments or challenges that seem to be overwhelming. That’s where our coping skills have to come into play. By coping I don’t mean you should merely be passive and let the problem wash over you until you can catch your breath again. Coping can be, must be, a positive, action-oriented phase that gives you the power to deal with an issue that has become persistent and annoying in your life.
It’s no secret that we all carry a certain amount of mental baggage in our heads that can drag us down and distract us from positive, productive steps forward. One exercise I learned many years ago gives me insights into leftover thoughts, wishes, even dreams that I have not acknowledged that may never be fulfilled. That kind of clutter in the back of your mind can be a great inhibitor and keep you from being your best productive self.
For me, the first step in solving a problem issue is understanding the full nature of the issue. Sometimes we misunderstand just what the real problem is. If our heads are filled with distractions we cannot get our minds around strategies that will get us past the problem. Actually, I have found that once I truly understand the nature of a particular problem, the solution is usually self-evident. Creative problem-solving is really all about determining what is the essence of the problem.
One of the exercises that has worked for me — and I should do this more often — is making a list of everything I can think of, that I ever wanted to do, but haven’t done yet.
Try this out for yourself: take a sheet of paper or a notebook and make three columns. The headers should read, from left to right, ‘What’, ‘How’ & ‘When’. Take a few days to jot down all those things you ever wanted to do under ‘What’. Don’t be judgmental. If you think of a call or letter you didn’t do, a trip you wanted to take but haven’t so far, a task you wanted to accomplish (even if it’s from your youth) — just write it down. Every idea counts because it has been lurking around in your sub-conscious for too long. Give yourself plenty of time to do this, even if it takes weeks. Keep your sheet handy so that you can make a note whenever some random recollection occurs. If you don’t write the thought down right away, it may be lost indefinitely.
So, what happens next? Your list may be long by the time you decide that’s all you can think of. If you have been honest with yourself, some of those ‘What’ items may seem positively silly. No matter, that’s what decluttering is all about. Your next job is determining ‘How’ you are going to deal with each of those ‘What’ items. The first step before filling in this middle column is easy. Look at the ‘What’ list and cross out everything that you now realize that you will never do, don’t want to do or is impossible to do. That will shorten the list considerably. What’s left are those things that you still want to do. Then write down in the ‘How’ column how you plan to execute. Is there someone on the list you want to send condolences to, to apologize to or offer support to? Perhaps a letter, phone call or e-mail will do the job. What if it’s something that hasn’t been done because there never seems to be time to do it? Reorganizing my messy garage comes to mind for me so establishing the steps that need to be taken and the time involved has to be noted.
We’re not finished yet. But by this time you may be realizing that this process has already started to provide some real solace. That’s because a whole lot of petty distractions are now disappearing. When you have completed stage two, by filling in all the ‘How’ comments, you come to the most important step of all. This is the secret that all successful people know intuitively as they move forward, accomplishing all their key tasks. You can be just like those people too. The secret is scheduling.
At this stage you can’t be satisfied with what amounts to another ‘To Do’ list. Deciding when you want to deal with the items on your revamped list is going to bring you to the successful conclusion of this exercise. Some things, you will realize, you can do immediately. Others may be scheduled for later this week, this month or even this year. When your brain realizes that you have taken the step of scheduling stuff that has kicked around the back of your mind for ages, it stops letting those distractions bug you. And that allows your brain to work at full potential to resolve all the new issues that you are facing day by day.
OK, what happens if you don’t get around to doing something that you have scheduled for a certain date. Not to worry, this is your schedule, just set a new date. We all know that stuff happens. The key here is that when something is scheduled it usually gets done and your subconscious mind stops fretting about it.
As the man once said, “Try it, you’ll like it.” And let me know how this works for you.