I was "The King of To-Do Lists". Back in the 80’s when there were no electronic devices, a student at the university told me, “You are my role model for being well organized. How do you plan your exams?“ He seemed to be impressed by my bulky personal management notebook. At the same time I was asked by others to organize training sessions on self-management. Looking back, this was probably the starting point of my coaching career.My motivation was to have everything under control. And as a working student, I needed to manage my time well. I was not happy with the planning tools available on the market, so I printed my own to-do lists in the perfect format with punched holes for my notebook. Checking off those items made me feel so good!
When electronic organizers came into the market, I hoped to be more efficient in managing my lists. So I put all ideas and tasks into my Palm Pilot. However, the problem with these kinds of things was that the more I used them, the more I was in danger of being over-organized. I had heard Tom Peters say, "When you think you are in control, you are actually out of control." But I had not yet realized that this statement is not about how to be in control, it's about the importance of trust.
When kids came into my life, there was less time to work my way down to-do lists. And I could not be perfectly well organized anymore. Too tired to open my to-do list in the evening, too much under pressure in the morning to plan my day, too many urgent things back home and on my desk in the office.
A moment of truth happened one day when I was on my way to work. I was running late for a client meeting because our kids had challenged me by taking too much time to get dressed. I was riding my bike fast when a car suddenly started pushing me aside, ignoring me. I stepped on the breaks and stopped. Without this I would most probably have been in a bad accident. After an unfriendly verbal exchange, I somehow managed to ride the rest of the way to my office and breathe! I made it!
Later that same morning I was making my new Best Year Yet plan when I discovered that my strongest limiting paradigm was that “I must have everything under control“. I quickly realized that it was not the car driver who was stressing me. It was me. I did not have my inner balance when I got on the bicycle and felt I needed to be faster than I should. In fact, I had been really lucky not to be hurt or injured. Did I want to risk my physical well-being, just to be on time, to follow my plan? No! I needed a new, powerful positive paradigm.
I then understood that there are guiding forces in our life that we can’t control ~ we must simply trust. My new powerful paradigm finally enabled me to stop micromanaging myself.
“I trust luck to guide me!”
This new paradigm has had a huge impact on how I organize myself. Here’s what I have changed with my new paradigm:
- Yes, I still maintain to-do lists, but they are much shorter. My new paradigm helps me to limit the time I spend working on these lists. What counts is what guides me.
- Every morning before starting any computer or Smartphone, I sit down to read literature that helps me tune my mental energy to what works, what is important to me, and to start into the day in a spiritually positive way.
- I have started to trust my ability to respond more naturally to all kinds of circumstances in my life. So many things take care of themselves! Today, the most important file in my office is the hanging file labeled “Time Will Deal With It”.
- I trust my body much more. When something tells me I am tired, I let go of my original plan and immediately adjust to the situation. Others say that I have become more flexible.
- This gives me more focus and energy for the important things that don’t take care of themselves, like calls to clients.
Actually, writing this article was not on my to-do list. On the date it was due, I woke up and finalized this blog post.
Was it by coincidence that a client appointment was cancelled that same day, giving me more time than I had planned to write? I don’t know, but I do know that:
“I can trust a guiding force to manage my way through life, without my constant push.”
About the Author
Thomas Freitag, Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and founder of MindMove in Zürich, Switzerland is an executive leadership coach and professional facilitator for team and organizational development. He has worked in the banking and consulting industry for more than a decade and is the current president of the International Coach Federation Switzerland.
Thomas has worked with Best Year Yet® since 2005. He publishes regularly in major Swiss HR and Management Magazines and in his German Blog http://www.mehrfokus.ch. Thomas works in German, English and French and is a truly international Coach. Contact Thomas at http://www.mindmove.ch.