Do Hard Things

This post may contain affiliate links to products I’ve used and recommend. If you click on the link and purchase the product, I am compensated (at no additional cost to you). 

View my full disclosure here.

I participated in a #thankfulnesschallenge this month and wrote a post about gratitude being a state of mind. Furthermore, I challenged you to track the following in regards to doing hard things:

  1. How many times you wanted to give up
  2. The number of times you actually gave up
  3. The total number of difficult things you did

I participated too and will share what I learned about myself in this challenge. Moreover, I will share some changes I’m making in my processes at work as a result of my reflection on this challenge.

Do Hard Things

Firstly, I am certain I missed tracking results several days but I did track. I mostly did this in my place of work but the results did include a few personal moments, like working out when I didn’t feel like it. Anyway, here are my numbers for a 3-week challenge:

  • Total number of difficult things I did – 18
  • How many times I wanted to give up – 6
  • Number of times I gave up – 0

The important thing was to not actually give up. It’s okay to want to give up. Heck, it’s quite normal. However, it’s what we do with that desire to want to give up that creates character.  I’ve discovered that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I’ve also learned that it’s in the overcoming where I become the woman God wants me to be.  Although, it often does suck in the process and for that, I cannot go it alone. My first line of defense is prayer. My second line of defense is my team and by team, I mean the people who have been strategically placed in my life.

The importance of having a team

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

Team is defined as:

noun

  1. A group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport.

verb

  1. Come together as a team to achieve a common goal.

I have a team in the office. Additionally, I have a team of warriors in my recovery. Furthermore, I have a financial team. We all have teams and choose the players in our lives. Sometimes it’s done unconsiciously but I prefer to consciously pick my teammates.

My mind can be a battlefield and when I’m left to my own defenses, it’s not always pretty. If I find myself squireling down a hole of unproductive thoughts, I call in my team for reinforcement. They challenge me, they hear me out, and most importantly they talk to me about solutions.

Doing hard things at work

I discovered that the bulk of my challenges these days come at work. Perhaps that is because I spend a good chunk of my time every week at work.  Also, it’s called work which implies that it can be hard. Since I’m a fan of doing hard things, I want to embrace this and get better.

Upon reflection over this past month, I’ve conferred with some of my work teammates on how to get better. As a result, I have five strategies I’m employing in my career to create efficiencies and protections.

1. Ask for help

I noticed that when I was faced with incredibly hard tasks at the office, I often talked to my colleagues on how to do it. I believe I’ve developed the ability to ask for help from years of being in recovery.

It’s a great habit to build as other people can often see the problem objectively and hence suggest a solution we might not see while in the midst of it.

Furthermore, if it’s a problem at the office it could affect the entire team, so they have some interest in helping me solve it.  Typically, I just need to talk it out, hear others input, formulate a strategy, and then execute. Simple.

From my experience, it’s easy to get stuck in the problem.  Asking for help from others is often the lubricant needed to keep things moving.

While I didn’t mention tracking this in the challenge, I noticed that almost every time I had to do hard things I asked for help.

I believe, although I don’t have statistics to support this, that others don’t always ask for help because they see it as a weakness. Sometimes I’m guilty of this and want to prove I can do things alone in my career.

However, almost every time I call on reinforcements for help, the problem is solved more efficiently.  And let me clarify, I am not asking for others to do the work for me. Typically, I’m just looking for another set of eyes on it. Although, there certainly are times when another colleague may be better suited to help with the execution.

Bottom line, when things get overwhelming, ask for help.

2. Batch processing

Okay, email is a big problem. I mean BIG and I’m certain I’m not alone in this as we all get bombarded in our inboxes daily. A growing inbox can be quite derailing from the projects I need to complete.

One of my colleagues recently employed batch processing his emails. This is not a new concept. It basically means setting aside specific times each day to process a certain thing in a batch-like manner.

I asked him how it was going for him and he expressed that it improved his workflow. I have no shame so I decided to copy him.  He already worked out the kinks and discovered three times a day to be the magic number.

I now have three chunks of time blocked off on my calendar each day for processing my emails. I’ve found it reduces a lot of frustrations and also allows me uninterrupted times of focus on my work.

The key to batch processing emails is to not look at them in between these times. We use Gmail at the office and there is a great extension called boomerang. Here are some of the features that I utilize with Boomerang:

  1. Schedule emails to be sent later
  2. Boomerang an email to return to my inbox at a later date
  3. Send emails and boomerang them back if no one responds
  4. Pause my emails

Overall this little extension helps me reduce my inbox clutter.

When I’m in between email batch processing times, I utilize the pause feature. If I’m expecting an urgent email, I can use delivery exceptions to allow for emails from specific senders.

Overall, I’m 100% in and will continue to embrace batch processing.

3. Task Management

We utilize a great collaborative work management tool in the office called, smartsheetThis also helps reduce inner office inbox clutter as we can communicate within certain projects on smartsheets.

However, I’ve found it to be too robust for my daily task list. I had reverted to using pen & paper to write my daily to-dos. It seemed silly and so I talked to a colleague about it. I use todoist for my personal tasks and he suggested I additionally start using it for my work tasks.

I love it!  The different main project headings in my todoist app are:

  • Work
  • Blog
  • Investments
  • Personal

Under the work project, I’ve created a project called Quick Work Tasks. This is for the little one-off things that need to get done but are not necessarily a full project. My colleague suggested this and it’s genius! As I am batch processing emails or receiving calls, I can put little one-off into this list with a scheduled date and then move on.

If something hits my radar that is going to involve multiple steps, I create a sub-project under “work” in my todoist app and list the potential steps needed to complete this project.

Because the app allows me to create different color-coded projects, I find I can use it for work and personal without interference.

Furthermore, todoist allows you to schedule reoccuring tasks.

Now the first thing I do every day at the office is to review my todoist list.

4. The power of two

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

My boss has reminded me that we don’t need to go it alone. When there is a potentially hard meeting scheduled, we should go in twos. After all, Jesus sent out his apostles two by two. It creates a stronger front.

I manage client accounts and feel a strong sense of responsibility to do it well. I take complete ownership. Sometimes this means that I go it alone; however, my boss has encouraged me to call on reinforcements.

We’ve built a strong team and for the most part, we have the capability of doing meetings in twos. I needed to be reminded of this possibility which leads me back to point #1 – remember to ask for help.

5. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain said, “eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

A former colleague used to come into the office and say, “let’s eat the frog!”

It basically means doing the thing you don’t want to do first. It helps you take charge of your day and is a hedge against procrastination. Here is a great little article on identifying the frogs of your day as well as tips for actually doing it.

I had to wake up extra early one day this month for client open enrollment meetings. I discovered my day was extra efficient and as a result have started waking up earlier every day. This allows me more quiet time. Furthermore, I am identifying the frogs of my day and then eating them!

Closing Thoughts

Photo by Robert Baker on Unsplash

No one likes to do hard things but it’s in the hard stuff where we develop grit.

For me, the key is having systems in place to fall back on when I’m feeling overwhelmed and want to give up. Additionally, it is a hedge against me reverting to old behavior like hiding.

Moreover, the systems allow me to get better in life and who doesn’t want to get better?

Alright, I’d love to now hear from you. If you participated in this challenge, how did it affect you? If not and want to, I recommend you do it for the next couple of weeks and come back and share your results. We are a team and together we can get better…

6 thoughts on “Do Hard Things”

  1. Very fitting post. I just posted on my site about my thoughts after being a blogger for a month and it’s definitely not easy…I’m not doing it for financial reasons and did it because it sounded fun but now that the honeymoon phase is wearing off it is starting to feel like hard work…Also makes it worse that since I do it anonymously I can’t rely on a team, but really the FIRE blogging community is so nice it’s like having a team.

    1. I will have to check out your post! It is fun but also a lot of work for sure 🙂

      The FIRE community is one of the best teams for sure.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Deanna, your blog today took on a special meaning for me. I just commenced a Tai Chi class yesterday due to the fact our family physician recommended I do so, to hopefully improve my walking situation. I found the session extremely difficult and also somewhat painful, primarily due to my weak right leg as a result of the anklosing spondylitis , and as a result of my shoulder replacement surgery. I came home really hurting with the thought of discontinuing Tai Chi after one visit. Furthermore, I was embarrassed about how poorly I performed.

    I am now reconsidering, and may attempt to attend at least one more Tai Chi session because of your blog on “Doing Hard Things”.

    1. Love you, Dad. So glad to hear you talking about doing hard things!

      I’ll look forward to talking with you on some other suggested exercises programs I’d recommend.

Leave a Reply