01/21/2013 06:30 pm ET | Updated Mar 23, 2013

How Can We Remember What Really Matters in Life?

Today I'm reminded that one of my biggest challenges is to do first what really matters -- and to do it before I respond to the siren call of getting as much done as I possibly can. And I know in my heart I'm not alone.

You see, today would have been my mother's birthday. What a saint and what an angel. Above all, she remembered what really matters most. First thing this morning I found a note from my sister to our family:

2013-01-17-Mom.1940copy.jpgThis is "an important day because of what happened in Pender, Nebraska, 103 years ago -- Katherine Thomas Anderson was born ... and our lives are richer because of how special and loving she was. God bless her beautiful soul."

Lately I find myself in a lot of conversations with others who are frustrated about this same issue. Here are some typical comments:

  • "I try so hard to stick to what matters, but the day just takes over and I don't get to them."
  • "With all our wonderful technology, designed to make it all so much easier, I just feel more overwhelmed instead of more productive!"
  • "I can't figure out how to make things happen that just don't happen."
  • "I'm good about lists and most days I get all the stuff done, but lately wondering if I'm really getting anywhere."
  • "I'm beginning to discover that I've taken on more than I can possibly handle -- what do I do now?"

As you may know, over the New Year's period I was in a funk and couldn't seem to pull myself out of it. Then I realized that I was feeling overwhelmed and depressed because of my inability to stick to what really matters.

Here's what I know. Over the years I've observed that people have their own way of getting things done -- here are the main work style approaches I've seen. As a first step toward learning to do more of what matters, read through these descriptions and choose the one that most matches your behavior.

To Do List-er

Make a list every day and then start rushing around, motivated by getting everything on the list done. The list is usually a mixture of errands, personal stuff, email, calls, and action for work.

Post-it Planner

Spend most of the day in front of a computer. When a new request or problem comes up, a note is made on a Post-it, stuck on the side of the computer, and then back to work!

The Fly

Off to a fast start, interrupted by a call, start checking email, then remember to check Facebook and book ranking on Amazon, listen to voicemail, check schedule and race to meeting, and it's time for lunch.

Small Stuff First

Have an important project to complete today, but first the slate must be clear so concentration is possible. Small stuff to do includes things like get the desk organized, read and respond to emails, return phone calls, and book dinner. By then several hours (at least) have passed, and the strong morning energy is waning.

Totally Organized

Desk is completely clean, pencils sharpened, working on only one thing at a time, can find anything needed either on computer or in files at a moment's notice. Master of control.

Tough Stuff First

Disciplined and dedicated to tackling the biggest project or highest priority of the day first, when the mind is most clear. Usually working on the things that matter most before going to voicemail, email or Twitter.

Which type are you?

  1. Identify your work style from the list above -- or describe your own.
  2. What have you learned about sticking to what really matters?

That's as far as I'm going with tips and sharing what I've learned. What I'd really like to hear are your ideas about how we can stop the experience of being overwhelmed, over-busy, and spinning our wheels? And, above all, how can we remember what really matters in this short life of ours?

Enter your comments and answers below this article, or write to me directly at

With much love,

For more about Best Year Yet, click here.

For more by Jinny Ditzler, click here.

For more on Healthy Living, click here.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
We’re basically your best friend… with better taste.