10/02/2012 12:05 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2012

Playing With Bubbles: How To Get Things Done

Whenever there are things to be done, it is always smart to prioritize. Imagine yourself standing in a room, and all of the things that need to be done are encapsulated in little clear bubbles hovering in the air around you. Each bubble has an hourglass inside, and as the sand flows through, the bubble becomes heavier and heavier. Your job is to do something with the bubbles before the sand runs out and the bubble is weighed down and lands on the floor. The amount of sand in each hourglass depends on the urgency of the task, so the bubbles are dropping at different speeds. The bubble disappears once we accomplish the task inside the bubble, and it is our objective to clear the room of all the bubbles.

Sometimes there are a lot of bubbles in the room, and other times there are only a few. There are times when, right after we clear the room of all the bubbles, new bubbles form and hover all around us. As the new bubbles fill the room, our priorities may change. Bubbles that were once sinking fast and ready to hit the ground rise up closer to the ceiling. When this happens, we may need to change our focus and redirect our efforts. Put in another way, we need to adapt to the situation.

Just like a child playing with bubbles in the backyard, we have to approach our to-do list with a strategy. Even something as simple as light-heartedly chasing bubbles around in the backyard requires a plan. A child must first survey the area, notice which bubbles are sinking the fastest, and then run to catch them before they hit the grass and pop. All the while, she needs to keep tabs on the other bubbles so that they don't hit the ground while she is focused on the first bubble. Other children may be running around in the yard, there may be a dog barking in the background and the sun may be in her eyes, but she does not allow the distractions to get in her way. With a smile on her face, she keeps running through the backyard, having fun playing with the bubbles.

Our to-do lists may not always be as carefree as a game chasing bubbles, but it certainly does not have to overwhelm us if we know how to approach things. There are four things we need to do to keep this game running smoothly:

1. Make a list. Physically write down a list of all the things that need to be done. When we identify our to-do items on paper, it is easier to conceptualize what needs to be done. The items are no longer abstract bubbles floating around the room.

2. Prioritize. Review your list and start prioritizing. Which bubbles are sinking to the ground the fastest? Which bubbles can be bounced back up the ceiling and dealt with at another time?

3. Create a timeline. Identify when each of these items need to be completed. Now, you may be more interested in doing one item on your list before another, but we are not trying to decide which of the bubbles look like more fun to catch. We are trying to make sure that none of the bubbles hit the ground and pop. Determine which bubbles need to be attended to first. Sort your list by hour, by day, by week, or by month -- whatever makes the most sense to help you catch the bubbles.

4. Lighten up. We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves, which can make us our own worst enemies. There are only 24 hours in a day, and unless you have been exposed to gamma rays or struck by lightning, you are probably not a superhero. Be realistic with your time, and go easy on yourself.

By approaching our day like a game of chasing bubbles, things are put into a more manageable perspective. We feel a little lighter, and with a strategy in place, we feel more in control. If there is a time when you feel there are too many things to do and begin to feel overwhelmed, stop and imagine each thing you need to accomplish floating in a bubble. In your mind, feel the sun on your face and hear the laughter of the other children. Life does not have to be hard. Decide what need to be done, catch that bubble, and have some fun!

For more by Denise Scarbro, click here.

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