You Can Only Operate On One Man At A Time. Where Do You Start?

“You know, they give this test to all novice field medics...
Say, that you get three wounded men: one with a belly wound, one with a serious thigh wound – open break, blood loss, shock, the works – and one with a glancing shoulder wound. You can only operate on one at a time –  where do you start?
Surely, all the novices say, it’s the belly wound.
Bad guess, says the examiner. While you’re busy with him, and it’s nine out of ten that he’s going to die anyway, the guy with the thigh wound will get complications; he will at least lose his leg, and most likely die, too. So you have to start with the most serious wound among those with a decent chance of survival – in our case, the thigh wound. As for the belly wound, well … give the man an analgesic and leave him to the One’s will. “
-- The Last Ringbearer, K.Eskov


This morbid scene from an excellent fanfic illustrates a decision many of us struggle with daily. Well, not literally, unless you’re a medieval field medic. But deciding what’s the next thing to do, even if it’s not a life-or-death matter, can be overwhelming to the point of paralysis. Either there's too much to do, or the stakes are too high, or the task is too unfamiliar, or it feels too long, or too tedious. Or all of the above.

Ever noticed that a to-do list is much easier to write than to actually do the to-dos?

The Steven Covey quadrant (the urgent-important grid) isn’t always a good solution, because you might get stuck in placing the tasks into their quadrants. Is cleaning my house really more important than settling that medical 4-digit bill with my insurance company? Is booking an hotel for my vacation more urgent than writing to my subscribers? My readers would be expecting an email next week, and my vacation is in a month. But maybe there won’t be any rooms left, because we travel in high season?

This can go for hours without anything getting really done.

So... for those who get stuck choosing a task, here is one handy tactic:

1. Choose ONE "thigh wound". In productivity jargon it's often called MIT - Most Important Thing. I find a "thigh wound" to be more emotionally charged, and therefore more likely to stick. So let's use that.

What the ONE thing you can do today that will give you/your job/your business/your relationship the best chances of... well, a better tomorrow?


2. Start operating. START operating. Don't think about the entire surgery, don't look at the poisonous arrow (yet), don't plan the neat bandage bow at the end. Wash your hands and pick the best scalpel for the job.

In other words, find the first tiny step to heal that thigh wound. Do it. Now. Seriously, this very moment, your patient is bleeding.


What's your "normal"? (from Mostly Dead to Fairly Functional, part 7)

normal pace panda.jpg

Welcome to the final piece of “Getting back to Normal”!
I have a single question for today: What’s your “normal” pace?
How do you measure it? Spend a moment giving it a thought.

What does your “fully recovered” look like?
Are you going to get back to writing 3 posts a week, or just to working 6 hours a day, finally?
Is it simply having the energy to plan more than an hour ahead?  
Or maybe recovery in your case means that you're ready to dive head-first into your next project?

It's easier to do anything, make any kind of progress, if you know where you going. 


What  are you expecting of yourself?
Once you know, you can map the way, and celebrate small wins. Big wins too, actually. You wrote a post? You worked for 3 sprints of 15 minutes? You rock!

It’s been a week. That went fast!
Any chance you’ve rested enough to take a moment, and ask yourself “when do I consider myself fully recovered?” It’s OK if right now it’s not the time. But be sure to do this soon. Put a reminder to ask this question a week from now. (“OK Google, remind me to ask myself “what it means to be fully recovered” a week from now”).

This way the road to that blissful state of “normal” would be much easier, or at least much clearer.

Hope you loved this series. Let me know what you think!


P.S. If you missed the other pieces of "Mostly Dead to Fairy Functional" series, no worries. Life happens.

I put together a handy list below for you to catch up. I think you'd like it.
P.S. If you missed the other pieces of "Mostly Dead to Fairy Functional" series, no worries. Life happens.
I put together a handy list below for you to catch up. I think you'd like it.
Day 1: You survived the Big Crunch Time. You're "only mostly dead". Now what?
Day 2: Let go of inactivity guilt during "still time". Cap it! 
Day 3: The trick to planning your return to "Fairly Functional": Big or Granular
Day 4: The big impact of Small Wins. With examples
Day 5: Skype coffee? How working with others helps you focus your internal resources
Day 6: The un-work "back to life" hack: Get your gym clothes

The un-work "back to life" hack (from Mostly Dead to Fairly Functional, part 6)

exercise panda day 6.jpg

Today we are not going to talk about work per se, because it’s the weekend.
This post is focusing on gradually getting back to your exercise routine.

This is not a straight up productivity hack, but at this point there's plenty of evidence that exercise is one of the best things a person can do for their, well, productivity. 

Let me repeat that and bigger letters:

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for you productivity.

If you have an exercise routine in place, I don't need to convince you. You already know how essential your physical activity is to your well-being. So just remember to slowly renew your regimen if you have neglected it during crunch time. 
"Slowly" being the operative word. You’re recovering, it’s not the time to push for personal records.

If you don't, how about using this time to build a beginners exercise routine? You're useless anyways! It'll do wonders for your mental and physical state, I promise. 

It doesn't mean that you need to run a marathon. It doesn't mean that you need to lift weights, if you hate it it. It absolutely doesn't mean that you need to do yoga, if you can't stand any kind of yoga. (I was in that camp until recently, I know how it feels).

The only thing it means that if you don't have an exercise routine now, find some kind of exercise you enjoy, and experiment with it. 
Good luck! Tell me how it goes in that Skype coffee we're planning.

Skype coffee? (from Mostly Dead to Fairly Functional, part 5)

socail pandas day 5.jpg

It's day 5 of "Mostly Dead to Fairly Functional" series, and today we won't focus on you.
We'll talk about people around you. Mostly.


One of the biggest factors helping us get back on track is the support from human environment. Your teammates, your clients, your family , your coworkers, your boss or coach. 

In other words, get together with people. Start scheduling social commitments, small ones at first. A session in your mastermind group, a coffee date,  may be a one-on-one with your supervisor or a coaching session.

Why is that important?

Because even the most introverted introverts, tend to be more focused, energized, and say smarter things in conversation with another human being. 

We tend to mobilize our internal resources when we communicate LIVE.

If you're fortunate to be surrounded by supportive and positive people, first - you’re probably a wonderful person yourself. Want a Skype coffee?

I digress.
What I meant to say - you know, you can straight out ask a friend or a colleague “can I work with you sometimes? Can we Skype for half an hour, and just be present, each doing her own thing?” If you need to collaborate on a project, even better.

The presence of another human being gives us the focus and the accountability to perform. I was going to write to "perform much better", but when you're mostly dead, it's often "to perform, period".
If you’re a solopreneur, this is truer by an order of magnitude.

So use your social environment, use your network, work with people. You might be surprised as to how much results it provides.


What Small Wins? Could you be more specific? (From Mostly Dead to Fairly Functional, part 4)

small wins panda day 4.jpg

As you may remember,  last time I mentioned creating a repository of small wins. What are these small wins, exactly? And how do you make them work for you?

We are on day 4 of "Mostly Dead to Fairly Functional" series. 
Let’s take a closer look.

Small wins usually have to do with somewhat mindless work. 

That's because they're, well, small, and don’t require too much mind power. 

 - For example, sorting through your bills will make you feel highly accomplished.
 - If that idea makes you cringe, make a short to-do list.  Short! 3-5 entries max.
 - Schedule a doctor's appointment. 
 - Read an article for 15 minutes, then stop. 
 - Look for cute animal pictures for your next post. (Like these adorable pandas in parts onetwo, and three. You're welcome).
The idea is to convince you that you can plan and execute.
See? You've just done it. You have the power.
Go look at baby elephants!

A side note: the idea to look at baby animals to help you write, and to feel productive in general, came from the amazing Maria Granovsky, a writing coach, and all-around brilliant overachiever. 


Feel free to let me know what other simple tasks you can use for small wins. 
Always love hearing more ideas :).

Big or Granular? (from Mostly Dead to Fairly Functional, part III)

planning panda day 3.jpg

After the initial, guilt-free, capped in time period of stillness, it’s time to ask yourself: Do you have plans from before?

If you do, time to gently review these plans, gradually adjusting them to your current circumstances. Did anything change? Are there easier things to execute, while you’re not fully functional? For example, getting your books in order doesn’t require much creative energy. Same might be true for choosing pictures for your next blog post or product. Fun, easy, somewhat mindless stuff.

Following an existing plan removes the need to spend cognitive energy on decisions. In other words, it’s relatively easy to do, and you’ll need to do it anyway.

If you don’t have an existing plan, time to start planning. This is trickier that it may sound, especially of you’re not the planning type. The key here is to go either really big (I’d build my blog to 5 million subscribers over the next 2 years, and build a online store for my audience) or really small and granular (I’ll load the dishwasher, call Rebecca, and get out of the house for a 15 minute walk).

The key here is to go either really big or really granular.

Remember, we’re taking it easy now. You’re recovering, which means you haven’t recovered yet. Grand plans, as well as immediate plans are way easier to make than the dreaded and often avoided mid-term planning.
Grand plans are seductive and inspiring. Immediate plans are tangible, easy to execute, and therefore highly satisfying. As you build up your strength, this is where you want to be. (If you're ADHD-gifted, congratulations, you’re stellar at both!).

Grand plans are inspiring. Immediate plans tangible.

Speaking of planning -  when you go small and granular, you gradually build a repository of small wins. Why is this important? Because small wins make you feel good. They give you motivation, create momentum, and make you feel you're back in control of your schedule, your business, and possibly your life.  

More about small wins in the next post.