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Take A Small Piece

For most of this year, I've been working on a political campaign. The good news is that my candidate won; the bad news is that I've neglected a lot of people and projects along the way.

For example, my house is a hot mess. I can't remember the last time I cleaned baseboards. But for my husband, the film crew from "Hoarders" would be on my front door step. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of things that I neglected or ignored during the campaign, including my husband.

Anyone who has ever worked on a campaign can tell you that it is a job unto itself. Add to that my day job, and, but for the furloughs, I'd have been hospitalized for exhaustion.

When I think of all the things I neglected and all that lies ahead, like getting ready for the holidays, I just want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head until, say, January 2011.

To make matters worse, I'm reading Condoleezza Rice's memoir of her family, "Extraordinary, Ordinary People," in which she admits that not only has she been a procrastinator, she remains so to this day.

Great. One of the most accomplished women in the world procrastinates, just like I do. I really wish she hadn't shared that. Not the encouragement I need right about now.

I do have to give myself credit, though. Instead of being totally overwhelmed into procrastination, my usual M.O., my mantra for trying to get my life back on track has been this: Take a small piece.

It's so easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks before you, especially if you've neglected them for, say, six and a half months. Now I don't even allow myself to think about how much I have to do or how much time I have in which to do it. I just say to myself, "Take a small piece."

For example, I desperately needed to organize my office at work, especially my desk. My inability to find files for my cases and projects was starting to hamper my work performance. But when I looked at my office and the two foot high piles on my desk, I just wanted to crawl under my desk.

Instead, I said, "Just start with a corner of your desk. Take a small piece and work on that." I'm ashamed to admit to the undeserved degree of accomplishment I felt just by getting the files off of one corner of my desk and organized into my file cabinet. It was childlike, for sure, to the point that I even rewarded myself with Starbucks because I felt like I had "done something." But I did: I started. And if just saying to myself, "Take a small piece," was what I needed to do to get me started, it worked.

I'm glad to report that 90% of the piles on my desk are gone, replaced with photos of my husband, pets, and siblings. My file cabinet is organized, and I'm still taking a small piece, so to speak -- working on discrete sections of my office and the one remaining pile, a little at a time. I've got other things I have to work on, too, but now I can work on them because I can actually work at my desk. I'm even back to editing my book, a small piece at a time.

So if you're like me and you've been feeling overwhelmed by large tasks that grew bigger while you ignored them or while you procrastinated, stop beating yourself up about it. Take a small piece. Just get started. And reward yourself when you finish with that small piece. Trust me, it will get and keep you motivated.


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