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Countdown to Summer: How to Get from Panic to Productivity When Time’s Ticking

27 May 2013 | Personal Productivity

It’s half term AGAIN. After that, we’ll be on our final countdown – 7 weeks until the summer holidays. At least at our school it is. What about yours?

I probably should be used to it by now – having kids may not physically make time move quicker, but you sure as heck notice it!

So what do you do when time’s ticking?


What NOT to do (trust me, from personal experience, it’s not worth it) 


Panic – Spend your time fretting about how little time you have. Remember, “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It keeps you busy but gets you nowhere.”

Yes, by all means have your “Gah!” moments but don’t stay there. Move on.

Do everything now – or at least try to. It’s as if someone’s just rang the bell at the bar, and your brain decides to cram everything it’s been holding onto into that one last order. Everything you’re working on. Everything you’ve been meaning to work on or wanting to work on. And probably a few things you’ve been avoiding too.

It all needs doing, and it all needs doing now. Sound familiar?

It’s a sure fire way to send yourself into overwhelm, where everything needs doing but nothing actually gets done.

Give up. Call it a day. If you can’t get everything done, you might as well wait… until you have time. More time. All the time in the world. It’s bound to happen someday, right?

The thing is, you don’t want to be paralysed by panic, stuck waiting for the perfect time while the days, weeks and terms of imperfect times pass by.

Equally you don’t want to be so overwhelmed with trying to cram everything in, that all you end up doing is your best headless chicken impression, piling lots onto your plate, but getting nothing actually done.


What to do instead 


So how do you get things done without driving yourself crazy?

How to you get beyond the panic and into productivity? How do you make every moment count, however fleeting or imperfect?

Get it out of your head

If you’re playing things on loop in your head, trying (and failing) to get your head around all the stuff to do, with varying degrees of panic that you might have missed or forgotten something fairly important, it’s time to get it out of your head.

Braindump all the things you need to do, have to do, want to do and feel you should do. Only when it’s out of your head can you really take a step back and see it for what it really is. One giant menu.

Be picky

If you tried to eat everything on a menu at once, it would become a torturous rather than tasty experience, and you’d probably be sick. The same applies to your braindump.

Pick one thing. One thing that you can be proud of achieving by the summer, instead of a starting a hundred things that you feel bad about not finishing.

Make it personal

Life’s too short to live by anyone else’s values but your own. Yes the bins need emptying, laundry needs doing, and there’s always a fair share of underwhelming stuff that needs doing, but if your time is going to feel productive – time well spent – it’s got to be on something personally meaningful.

If you’re faced with a host of possibilities, wondering “how do I choose?” start asking yourself, “why does this matter?” and notice what makes your heart sing, your spirit soar or your gut wrench.

Out of all the possible things you could be doing between now and the summer, what would really make a difference to you?

Give yourself definition

Without definition, you have nothing to focus on. When you don’t know what done looks like, you’ll always be chasing your tail.

A deadline without definition creates panic.

Define exactly what done looks like and be clear on what you’re going to do. Make it personal. Be picky. And don’t be afraid to park things.

Take baby steps

Eating a frog for breakfast is all well and good, but if your frog’s more like an elephant you’re going to have to take it one bite at a time.

Take baby steps. Avoid overwhelm of doing everything – and everything at once. Break it down, make it clear, make it doable, make it easy to get on and do.

If I had woken up to “Write Book” on my to-do list every day, there’s no way I would have gotten it done. Instead “draft way 16 on saying no” gave me focus and definition to get on and do it, rather than sit and think about what I need to do next.

Know what fires you up (and it’s not necessarily work!)

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to stop working, and do something that charges you up.

So often, we think that when we’re not working, we’re not being productive. Yet, taking time to recharge your batteries, rest your brain and renew your passion, can be infinitely more productive than flogging yourself to work harder.

What will supercharge your action? What input into you will make a massive difference to your output?

Whether that’s rest and relaxation, hair raising adrenaline-fueled fun, doing something creative, learning something new, being on your own or spending time with people.

Whatever it is that leaves you recharged, renewed, inspired and fired up – do it. And know that you’re being productive.

Over to you. What are you going to focus on getting done before school’s out for summer?


  1. naomi

    Grace I am using lists and not over committing myself to too much. I like to do a job well and that means time spend on each bit of my work. I agree ‘baby steps’ – as they say Rome was not built in a day. I have 3 projects that start in September so it all about the preparation now.

    • Grace Marshall

      Thanks Naomi, just like if you were to run a Marathon in September you’d probably want to start training for it now. Happy preparing!

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About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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