In these challenging times, it’s so important to breathe, stay calm, and focus on the things you can control–rather than obsessing about the things you cannot.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try making a checklist.
Checklists are like an extra storage tank for your weary, over-stuffed brain.
Research confirms that making a checklist can help you feel calmer and more focused, and can shift your body on a physiological level. When you check off a completed item, this creates that oh-so-satisfying burst of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps you feel more positive, think clearly, and solve problems creatively.
Personally, I know that making a checklist helps me feel more steady, strong, and grounded during turbulent times. Checklists are good medicine.
A few checklist ideas and downloadable templates for you. (All of these templates are free. Enjoy.)
– Got a bunch of unexpected free time? Maybe a project got cancelled, your shop is temporarily closed, or a trip has been postponed. Instead of panicking, try to use your time purposefully. Here’s a checklist of different ways to use your free time productively–and strengthen your business or career.
– Feeling stuck? A checklist to help you finish a project you’ve started.
– Need to find more clients and line up some work? A checklist full of marketing ideas, including lots of ideas that don’t involve social media. Because social media is optional, not mandatory.
– Tired of endlessly scrolling on your phone? A checklist to help you reduce screen-time, create a healthier relationship with your devices, and create more quiet and space in your day.
– Want a fresh approach for planning your day? Here’s my personal method for creating a Daily Checklist, which I do every single night before bed. (I make tomorrow’s checklist *today* and print it out in advance.)
– Lots more checklist templates here: including a Self-Care Checklist, Workout Checklist, and others.
– You might suspect I have a mild obsession with checklists. You might be right. I wrote an entire book about checklists. The book is available online. You can also find The Checklist Book at your local bookstore, or ask your public library to order it for you.
– Also, while it’s not specifically checklist-related, you might enjoy this too: One Letter Today. A short e-book about the power of sending a handwritten letter, filled with all kinds of letter-writing ideas. Perfect for these stressful times when people yearn to slow down and connect from the heart. Sending–and receiving–snail mail always feels so good.
Stay safe and healthy.
Take good care of yourself.
Make a list. Check things off. One tiny step at a time.
In a world that often feels frightening, depressing, and baffling, completing a tiny project is one way to feel a little more powerful.
What is a tiny project?
It’s a very small project that feels beautiful, meaningful, and inspiring to you. Something you can realistically complete in about 25 minutes or less.
Why bother doing this?
Because tiny projects make a big difference. Your tiny project (poster, card, class, gift, audio message, whatever you decide to create) could significantly change someone’s day. Maybe one person. Maybe ten people. One thousand. Or more. There’s no telling how many people will be impacted by your contribution. Tiny things are a big deal.
Want to make a tiny project…but not sure what to do?
Here are 15 tiny project ideas:
– Write a beautiful “thank you” letter to someone who has touched your life.
– Record a short audio message for a friend who’s going through a hard time. Let them know that they’re loved, that you’re here to listen, and that they’re not alone.
– Make a homemade poster with an inspiring message that the world needs to hear. Put it somewhere in your city: bulletin board, pinned to a telephone pole, bus stop, etc. Remember that it doesn’t have to look “perfect” or “fancy.” Simple handwriting on a blank piece of plain paper is great.
– Make a special music playlist on Spotify or wherever you listen to music. Share it with friends, colleagues, clients, anyone in your community.
– Draw a picture of your best friend, take a photo of it, and text it to them. (If you’re “terrible” at drawing? Perfect. That means the picture will be extra hilarious and wonderful.)
– Doodle, draw, or paint a very small piece of art. Write an encouraging note on the back. Hide it somewhere so that one day, eventually, a stranger might find it.
– Make a helpful checklist and share it with people who might find it useful. “Boost your immune system” checklist. “How to successfully work from home” checklist. “Fun activities to do indoors” checklist. “Steps to launch a business” checklist. “Get ready for college” checklist. Any topic you want.
– Write a glowing 5-star review about a book, product, or business that you really love. (The author or artist will appreciate it so much!)
– Write a short statement about “my biggest lesson from 2020, so far” and post it online, share it with your family, or both.
– Write a list of what you’d want to do if you had 24 hours to live.
– Ask an elder (parent, grandparent, auntie, etc.) to describe their childhood home. Where was it? What did it look like? Feel like? Record their response on your phone and save the audio.
– Write a “You’re totally awesome” note to someone who always makes your day a little better–a bus driver, teacher, barista, assistant, intern, whoever you want.
– Write a letter to an elected representative (mayor of your town, senator, etc.) to say “thanks for the great work” and/or encourage them to make a particular change that you’d like to see.
– Make a very fancy cheese and fruit platter and deliver it to a friend. If you can’t visit in person, see if you can mail them a gift, or get something delivered.
– Write a fan letter to someone you really admire–a famous person, or a totally-not-famous person–with no strings attached, and no expectation of getting a reply. Purely just to say, “Your work has touched my life.”
– Plan a wonderful party (letter-writing party, vision board party, book club meeting, taco night, whatever you want) and write a beautiful invitation. Send it to your friends. (You can meet with people virtually/online if you need to. Try Zoom, Skype, or Facetime.)
– Or, come up with another tiny project that sounds fun to you.
Complete a tiny project.
Lift your own mood while uplifting others, too.
Your efforts matter so much.
How long is one human life?
On average, the answer is: 72.6 years.
72.6 years is approximately 26,500 days.
26,500 is a pretty big number. It’s a lot of time.
So, why does it feel like there’s never quite enough?
Once upon a time, a friend of mine confessed that she desperately wanted to take 30 days off work. She’d never taken this type of break before. Not ever. She had worked tirelessly for decades. She had built great things. Served thousands. Raised millions. Raised kids, too. She was tired and long over-due for a sabbatical.
She longed for this break. She fantasized about it. Thought about it daily.
She yearned to shut down her computer, sleep deeply, wake up naturally without a blaring alarm clock, read actual books, travel, walk, wander, make memories with her children, and experience life away from a digital screen. Maybe she would use this break to write a book. Maybe not. Mostly, she just wanted to rest. Recharge. Reconnect with the parts of herself that have nothing to do with her professional identity.
She had some savings. Financially, she could afford to take a month off work. It was doable. But emotionally, she felt reluctant. Something kept stopping her.
To her, 30 days felt like “so much time.” She worried everything would “fall apart” in her absence. The business. The emails. All the logistical strands. She felt as though she couldn’t possibly take 30 days away from her office. Something would surely shatter. The whole notion seemed almost…dangerous.
We talked for awhile about life, work, death, and time. As we spoke, I was struck with a different perspective. One I hadn’t considered before. I told her:
“You know, it’s just 30 days out of 26,500 days. If you think about it that way, it’s actually not much time at all. If your heart is aching to take a break, give it to yourself. It’s not an eternity. It’s just 30 days. 30 days out of your whole life.
You can do this. The world will keep turning. Everything will be okay. And this will probably be one of the greatest gifts you give to yourself. Ever.”
What is your greatest wish?
Whatever it is, isn’t it worth 10, 20, or 30 days of your life?
A little sliver of your time on earth. A small and beautiful fraction.
Imagine what might happen if you took your deepest longing and gave it 30 days of your time. Or 30 hours. Or even just 30 minutes of your full, undivided attention.
All things considered, it’s really not much time.
A flash. The blink of an eye. So little time. But so much could happen.
And your only regret will be that you didn’t take the time…a lot sooner.
. . .
How long is one human life?
Not long enough.
How much time do you have left?
Hopefully a great deal. But nobody knows.
What happens now?
Whatever you choose.
Oh hey! To celebrate the release of my new book—The Checklist Book: Set Realistic Goals, Celebrate Tiny Wins, Reduce Stress and Overwhelm, and Feel Calmer Every Day—I have a cool assignment for you.
This assignment is really simple. All you need to do is make a checklist. That’s it. Instructions below.
*Fun news: the deadline to enter has been extended.*
If you complete this assignment by January 30, 2020, you’ll be eligible to win some wonderful prizes—including a trip to Hawaii. For real.
Make a checklist. Any kind of checklist. Type it. Print it. Or write it by hand.
A few ideas. You could make…
– A simple checklist with things you want to do (and experience) today.
– A seasonal checklist with things you want to do (and experience) this spring, summer, autumn, or winter.
– A get-it-done checklist with a list of things you need to do to complete an important project.
– A loose-end checklist with lots of miscellaneous bits you want to finish up and clear out of your brain.
– A self-care checklist with various ways you can take care of your mind/body/spirit this week.
– A birthday checklist with all the beautiful experiences you definitely want to have on your b-day.
– A before-I-die checklist with important things you want to do (or say) before you transition into the next world.
– A final-24 checklist with all the things you’d want to experience if this was your last day on earth–your final 24 hours of life.
– A house-upgrade checklist with exciting steps to breathe fresh energy into your home.
– A visionary checklist. For instance: a checklist of steps to end bullying. A checklist for running for President. A checklist for healing the oceans. A checklist for bringing more love into your community, country, and/or the world.
– A quirky, silly, creative checklist. For instance: a checklist for transforming into a mermaid. A checklist for building a time machine. A checklist for your first stand-up comedy open mic show.
– Or any kind of checklist you want to make.
1. Make your checklist. It can be simple and elegant. Creative and whimsical. Short or long. Typed or handwritten. Whatever style you want.
2. Share your checklist somewhere in the world. Online, offline, or both.
For instance, you could post a photo of your checklist on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. You could post your checklist on your blog and encourage your readers to make their own checklists, too. You could share your checklist in your email newsletter. Pin your checklist to a bulletin board inside your local coffee shop. Paint your checklist as a mural on the side of your house. Email your checklist to your five closest friends. Basically: post your checklist somewhere in the world where other people can see it. Anywhere you want.
3. Wherever you share your checklist, please include this phrase:
This list was inspired by THE CHECKLIST BOOK by Alexandra Franzen. Get the book at your local bookstore, local public library, or order it online: http://bit.ly/the-checklist-book
You can use that exact phrase or something similar. Thank you!
4. Important final step. To be eligible to win a prize, please fill out this quick form to officially submit you contest entry.
If you complete this assignment by Midnight on January 30, 2020, you’ll be eligible to win some cool prizes.
* 10 winners receive signed copies of The Checklist Book.
* 1 winner receives a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii (value: $3500). Three days and three nights. Accommodation and meals included, plus a $500 credit that you can apply towards your airfare. Spend a few days in paradise making beautiful checklists, working on creative projects, swimming, sunbathing, hiking, relaxing in a hammock, feeling invigorated and inspired.
Winners will be announced in this newsletter. Winners will also be notified personally via email.
To sum this up:
* Make a checklist.
* Share your checklist somewhere. Online, offline, or both.
* Include some links and stuff to help support The Checklist Book: Set Realistic Goals, Celebrate Tiny Wins, Reduce Stress and Overwhelm, and Feel Calmer Every Day. (Thank you!)
* Fill out this form to officially enter to win.
* Enjoy the experience.
Have fun with this assignment.
I can’t wait to see your beautiful checklist!
PS. Share this contest info with anyone you want! Here’s a link you can share: http://bit.ly/checklist-contest
PPS. You’re awesome. Thanks for doing weird challenges and completing tiny projects and making art with me.
I attended a training program in Arizona—getting certified to teach fast-paced, energizing yoga/dance/fitness fusion classes.
Why? Purely just for fun. I wanted to take a break from my usual routine (writing deadlines, lengthy documents, publishing commitments, computer, emails x infinity) and try something completely different. Shake things up. Rocket-blast out of my comfort zone.
It was five days of sweat, creativity, kind people, and great vibes. I loved it.
And…I noticed something interesting.
The company that runs the program is an international, multi-million dollar brand with over 5,000 certified instructors to date—and now me, that makes it 5,001—and a loyal fanbase. A prosperous, thriving company.
On day one of the program, they handed us a big workbook with all the class materials.
The workbook had several errors. A few typos here and there. A missing word. One photo caption wasn’t correct. One sequence was out of date, as the trainer explained (“We don’t teach it that way anymore. I’ll show you the updated way…”).
The workbook wasn’t “perfect.”
It didn’t matter. Not even a tiny bit. The training program was fantastic. The curriculum was excellent. Lifelong friendships were formed. People literally cried when it was over and didn’t want to say goodbye.
Nobody cared about the typos.
This is the thing about perfectionism. It’s a pesky little monster. And it’s a liar. Perfectionism tries to convince you that your work isn’t “good enough” to be shared publicly—unless it is “perfect.” And yet, 1. Perfection is an aspirational destination that doesn’t actually exist, and cannot be achieved unless you are, I dunno, God. 2. Nobody cares about the little blunders as much as you do.
People feel the intention behind your work. They feel the big message. They feel the heart and spirit. They feel the vulnerability and courage. That’s what they remember. Not the fact that you spelled “the” as “teh” on page 42.
Best-selling books are released, all the time, containing typos. My friend Lindsey wrote an award-winning cookbook that’s missing the final steps for one of the recipes. Whoops.
Broadway shows roll nightly, even when actors occasionally flub their lines.
Barack Obama’s re-election team once released an important media campaign that misspelled the word “Congrssional.” Oops. He got re-elected anyway.
Oh, and Mayor Cory Booker (now a US Senator) took out a full-page ad, urging his constituents to “re-elect President Barak Obama.” First name, misspelled. Doh.
Even world leaders bungle things up. The globe keeps turning. The sun continues to rise and set. Life goes on. Love still blooms. Babies get born. Big goals still get achieved.
I once watched a world-famous researcher go completely blank onstage and forget the next part of her speech. There was an awkward moment of silence as she stared out into the crowd, mental wheels churning, mouth half-open. Then she chuckled at herself and strode across the stage—back to the podium—to grab her notes.
“Uh, give me a sec,” she told the audience, laughing at herself, shuffling through her papers. The crowd laughed along with her—kindly, not mockingly. I would bet $1000 that everyone in the room loved her even more than before, and felt even more connected to her, because of that “mistake” and how she handled it. Because of her imperfections.
Whatever you’ve been working on?
* That very-important email you’ve been hesitant to send out.
* The inspirational speech that you worry “isn’t inspirational enough.”
* The book. The song. The screenplay. The letter asking people to donate to your cause.
It’s probably good enough. It’s probably great. And, let’s be honest, if you spend another 10 hours pecking at it, fussing over it, double-checking, and mentally gnawing at it, will it become significantly “better” due to your efforts? Probably not. It’s probably as good as it’s gonna get. So, get it out there. Imperfections included. It doesn’t matter.
Don’t hold back, waiting for perfection. It will never arrive.
You are lovable, valuable, and powerful with all of your “typos” included—and so is your wrk. Oops, I mean work. Whatever. You get it.