When you want to make progress in one area, you need to focus more of your attention and time on it.
But you can’t let the rest of your life slide completely, eh?
Enter the maintenance mode.
it’s a ninja move. Something every mom knows, because it’s what you do with the rest of your life when you have a newborn. You put “life” in maintenance mode and focus on that newborn for the first few weeks (months?). Slowly things get into a routine, you get some sleep, and you can start turning your attention to other areas again.
When you’re using maintenance mode, you do the bare minimum. You keep things going, just enough. There are a couple of keys to making it work.
1. You’ve got to define the area(s) going into maintenance mode.
This is important for a couple of reasons: first, if you don’t define what’s in maintenance mode and what’s not, everything will slide into the bare minimum. Know why? Because doing the bare minimum is much, much easier than doing all the work. But you can’t coast endlessly on the bare minimum, and if you slip into bare minimum on every area of life you’ll have a lot of catch-up to do. It turns out being more work. Define what’s going into maintenance mode so you can take it back out again at the right time (or, if you find that maintenance mode is adequate, you can just keep it there. Sometimes that happens, too). Second, if you don’t define what’s in maintenance mode, even if just mentally to yourself, you’ll still feel like you need to do more. To truly appreciate the benefits of using maintenance mode, you need to consciously decide you’re doing so, and quit feeling guilty/bad/behind about whatever area is on maintenance.
2. You’ve got to define the bare minimum.
Otherwise how do you know what you actually need to do and what you don’t? Hint: bare minimum is usually less than you think it is.
3. You’ve got to set an end time.
This could be a simple check-in point, say, 1 month or 2 down the road. What you want to do is just take a look at what’s in maintenance mode and see how it’s going. Is there stuff piling up that you need to take care of? Schedule a time to do it; then either revert back to maintenance mode or back to your normal upkeep/attention, if you’re able to do so.
Now let’s look at the actual steps of going into maintenance mode.
Step-by-Step Guide to Using Maintenance Mode
- First Step: Know what it is. This is where you define the area and then define the absolute minimum that must be done to keep things alive.
- Second Step: Make it easy and make it routine. A complicated maintenance routine is too much work. Simplify as much as possible, keep it easy (supplies on hand), and put it on your calendar.
- Third Step: Hand off as much as you can. Delegate, defer, pass on to an employee or child or friend or volunteer or stranger who hangs out by your desk too long.
- Fourth Step: Simplify, then go back and simplify again. Really. We over-complicate to the extreme. Keep breaking it down until it’s as basic as it can get.
- Fifth Step: Lower your standards and state your expectations. Don’t expect the same results from maintenance mode as you would from regular work-hard mode. Be clear and communicate what you expect from yourself and from other people involve.
- Sixth Step: Fix whatever bothers you that much. If there’s something that just irks you, some area or detail that you can’t get rid of, then deal with it.
- Seventh Step: Leave the rest alone. ALONE. Don’t worry about it, think about it, ask about it, or meddle with it.
- Eighth Step: Set up a catch system. If there are things that are piling up (mail, referrals, laundry) as a result of the maintenance mode, be sure you put in a way to catch those so you can deal with them later.
- Ninth Step: Set an end time. Plug it in your calendar, and when it rolls around, check in. Deal with the catch pile, see how things are going, adjust as needed.