THE DOABLE WAY
Alison is a junior in high school. She has a regular volunteer gig, a slew of babysitting clients, a full load of college prep classes, a spot on the varsity field hockey team, and an active social life. Oh yeah, she’s also on the school’s environmental Green Team, has weekly chores at home, dreams of starting her own nonprofit this year to help rescue shelter dogs, and has her sights set on getting into a small, liberal arts college in New England.
Alison is the epitome of a classic overachiever—someone who outperforms expectations. And even if that’s not how you would describe yourself, my hunch is that you have a lot in common with her. Like Alison, you have big dreams, things you need to take care of every day, longer-term goals you’re reaching for, and a busy, busy life. (Am I right?)
Having a To Do list a mile long—whether it’s full of huge aspirations or mundane little tasks—just seems to be how teens roll these days. Perhaps more than any other generation before you, you’ve got full lives,
full schedules, and a ton of things to do. So the question is, how good are you at getting stuff done?
Perhaps some To Dos are a piece of cake for you, while just the thought of doing others makes you break out in hives. Perhaps getting just about anything completed is challenging for you, so much so that you’ve started doubting your own ability to tackle and accomplish anything of importance. Maybe you’ve come up with your own way of tracking what’s on your plate, be it jotting down your tasks on scraps of paper or putting them in a memo app on your phone. Wherever you fall on the continuum, there’s no doubt that successfully tackling To Dos involves a lot more than just writing down what needs to be done and then doing it. If it were that easy, we’d all be super productive, procrastination wouldn’t exist, our stress levels would be close to zero, and frankly, this book would never have been published.
One of the things people ask me all the time is how I manage to get so much done. Because, like you, I have a lot on my plate. I mean, I have a nine-year-old son who requires a lot of energy and patience to parent, I volunteer regularly, I exercise (nearly) every day, I take care of the house (clean, cook, laundry, and so on), and as of the writing of this book, I had just relocated to Amsterdam in the Netherlands with my family. Plus, I coach writers and creative entrepreneurs, consult on a number of writing projects including a website for teens and a television show for preschoolers, and write books for a living.
So yes, getting it all done is something I’ve become super good at, whether I’m shipping a completed manuscript or clearing out a closet. Some people are experts at starting businesses, developing computer games, or
performing life-saving surgeries. Me? I cross things off my To Do list like nobody’s business.
When I first began researching this book, I talked to many teen girls just like you and asked them what they wished they could do but had trouble doing. As you can imagine, I got all kinds of answers. Here are just a few:
■ Get good grades
■ Make an impact and be known for my passions
■ Go to school to learn sign language and be an interpreter for a child
■ Generate more school spirit on campus
■ Make a documentary
■ Become an animator
■ Get a job at a law firm during high school
■ Find the funds to do nonprofit work without worrying about where I’m going to get money to take care of myself
■ Turn things in when they’re due instead of being late all the time
Learn how to surf
■ Tell the guy I like that I like him
■ Find time for me
Next, I asked these girls what big dreams they would pursue if they knew with 100 percent certainty that they would be successful. These were some of my favorite answers:
■ Go to Harvard
■ Be an actress
■ Make my own talk show
■ Be a professional violinist
■ Teach photography or writing
■ Make my own fashion line
■ Be the best softball player I could be
■ Apply to Columbia University
■ Build wells in Africa
■ Get my wildlife rehabilitation license
asked these teens what it was that regularly got in their way and thwarted their attempts to do what they set out to do. Here’s where I discovered what was preventing these awesome girls from kicking serious booty in their lives:
■ I lose momentum if I have any setbacks.
■ I have a really hard time starting and finishing things, and since I expect I won’t be able to do it, I don’t even bother trying.
■ I don’t know whether I’ll be successful or not.
■ A lot of times, goals just end up being so big or intense that I literally don’t believe I have what it takes.
■ I get distracted and lose interest.
■ I’m uncomfortable taking risks.
■ I don’t have enough time to do it on top of everything else I have going on.
■ I don’t actually have a strategy for goal setting and goal pursuing.
■ I’m so overtired I don’t have any energy left to accomplish my goals.
■ I have low self-esteem.
■ I don’t have enough information to begin.
Any of these answers ring a bell? Good. Because this book you’re holding in your hot little hands contains my best secrets and tips for addressing all these problems and more. My goal? To help you be as productive as you want to be. To turn any goal or pursuit into a doable venture.
Don’t worry . . . I’m not going to tell you that you have to stick to some intimidating, intricate plan for my approach to work. And Doable isn’t about figuring out everything you’re doing wrong and fixing that. (That doesn’t sound like a very good read!) In fact, I believe you already have absolutely everything you need to be successful at getting things done. It’s true. You have what it takes—your unique strengths, your gifts, your talents . . . your essence. Doable is about discovering, unlocking, and ultimately harnessing all of these by plugging them into a framework that can be applied to any (seriously . . . any) To Do. By exploring and consequently understanding your own beliefs, thoughts, experiences, and style, you get to know your biggest asset . . . you! That’s the benefit of self-knowledge, and it’s the key to success on any level—just ask the queen of self-discovery, Oprah, who has built a global media empire rooted in helping people learn how to be their best selves. When you know how you best operate in any circumstance, you can figure out what you need in order to get anything done.
Doable in Eight Steps
Over the following chapters, I’ll share with you my eight-step approach for making anything doable, but here’s a sneak peak:
Step 1: Define Your To Do: Get crystal clear on exactly what you want to do and why you want to do it.
Step 2: Detail the Little Tasks: Break your goal down into the smallest possible parts.
Step 3: Defend Against Obstacles: Recognize the obstacles that often get in your way and plan for them ahead of time.
Step 4: Develop Support Systems: Harness all available resources—tangible, emotional, and otherwise—to support you.
Step 5: Determine What Success Looks Like: Know exactly what it will feel and look like to have achieved your goal.
Step 6: Do the Work: Dive in and get down to the business of doing.
Step 7: Deal with Setbacks: Expect, embrace, and learn from the failures and setbacks you experience along the way.
Step 8: Deliver the Goods: See your goal pursuit through to completion, and then acknowledge, celebrate, and reflect on the journey.
See what I mean? This isn’t brain science. It’s straightforward. It’s practical. And best of all, it works. Apply these steps in your own unique way to anything on your To Do list and you’ll be on your way to getting it done. Boom.
Oh, that reminds me: everyone who reads this book will be working toward different things. Some will be chasing huge dreams, like earning a pilot’s license or auditioning for a Broadway play. Others might have straightforward goals like landing an internship. And some might want to tackle day-to-day To Dos, like emptying the cat litter or feeding Fido, with more ease. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about—To Dos, goals, or dreams—they’re all doable. So I’ll interchange these terms freely throughout this book.
To get the most out of Doable, go through it chapter by chapter, as each step builds on the previous and contributes to the overall goal of accomplishing anything you set out to do. To take it a step further, go to www.debbiereber.com
and download the free accompanying Doable workbook so you can put the steps to the test by applying them to your own life and To Dos. Or if you’re more of a journal girl, that works too. Whatever your method, jot your ideas down, work through the questions and exercises honestly, and spend some time thinking about how you’ll apply each step to your own life.
One more thing: I encourage you to turn the page ready to explore and discover who you are and how you approach things. Be curious. Be willing to learn. Be willing to suck at some things. And be willing to stretch yourself at every step in the pursuit of self-discovery. Remember—there’s no right or wrong here . . . just useful information and self-knowledge that will undoubtedly make your life run much more smoothly. And what could be better than that?