Chipping Away

As I start to write this post it’s 4pm on a Sunday afternoon.  I’ve got half an hour before feeding time at the Longley Zoo commences.  I could have chosen to spend this time scrolling through social media.  Or checking my emails.  Or flipping through a magazine.  But instead I decided to keep chipping away.  The concept of chipping away is something I touched on in my last article.  It’s something I’ve always done but have never had a name for.  But thanks to my friend Carol I now do. 

Chipping away is one of my secret weapons against overwhelm.  Chipping away stops me procrastinating.  And chipping feels like I’m living life at a slower pace. 

To me chipping away means continuing to put one foot in front of the other throughout the day.  It means ticking off one task after another.  And moving through my to-do list one item at a time.  It happens in those pockets of time where you find you have a free 30 minutes.  Or even ten.

Chipping away doesn’t mean I can’t have downtime.  Or time to scroll through social media, check my emails or flip through a magazine.  It means I choose not to.  Or rather I choose not to during the day.  Instead I choose to have my downtime during the evening when I can truly unwind. 

I have one of those personalities that can’t relax until everything is done.  It’s something I’ve come to terms with and I no longer desire to change.  Why?  Because that’s who I am.  And if it’s not doing me any harm I don’t see why I should worry about it.   

Chipping away is not only something I do with work, but small personal tasks as well.   On a Sunday afternoon I sit down and write myself two lists.  One is for work.  The other for the little jobs that need doing during the week.

With my list of work tasks I set them out in order of priority.  At the top are the things I do for Physiotas. I get paid to do these, so it’s kind of important they get done.  At the bottom is my blog post and newsletter.  While they are important to me, if they don’t get done it’s not crucial.  During the week I start at the top and chip away at the list until I get to the bottom.

I also list out any personal jobs I need to do.  Things like going to the post office to send off a parcel.  Buying dog food.  Or picking up dry-cleaning.  I then look at my week and schedule each task into different days.  On my long days at work I schedule one thing to do on my way home.  On my short day I schedule two.  But nothing more than that.  Like my list for work I find it best if I chip away at things.  One task at a time.

I used to feel overwhelmed when I had a to-do list for the week as long as my arm.  But it was because I was looking at it differently.  I used to feel like I had to do it all at once.  Sit down and write a blog post in one go.  Do all the tasks in town in one day.  And I felt like I needed to schedule everything down to the last minute.

Chipping away at things over the period of a week makes everything seem less pressured.  I don’t have to find large chunks of time, just little snippets here and there.  But for chipping away to work you have to use those small moments of space in your day mindfully. Because at the end of the day living a slower and quieter life comes down to being mindful in everything we do.

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