How I Conquered My Hardest Task (and How You Can Conquer Yours)

Nov 18, 2019

Happy relaxed young woman sitting in her kitchen with a laptop in front of her stretching her arms above her head and looking out of the window with a smileIf you could wrap up the most difficult, wildly uncomfortable project on your list, what else could you accomplish? No telling.

Last week, after nearly two years, I wrapped up one of my hardest tasks: creating detailed instructions for my loved ones in case I get hit by a truck. That was pleasant. Eleven gorgeous pages. I did everything but pick out a dress.

You have to laugh at this stuff. But you can't ignore it.

And for the record, it wasn't just hardit was existentially exhausting. A few things I learned along the way, in hopes they make this task easier for you. If you've already done it ... take the rest of the day off.

  1. Get the wrong people off the bus. You might be surprised how motivating this is, how stress-relieving. In my case, both my attorney and my patient advocates were much older and/or three time zones away. Step 1 was vetting and naming folks in my home state of California. Boom. Done. 
  2. For the personal stuff, designate someone you love, like and trust. You'll sleep better knowing someone's got your backsomeone of your choosing. It's also an incentive to declutter. Why? Because now you're picturing that person having to one day empty out your home. It isn't morbid, it's reality.
  3. Keep a list of what to include. It's infinitely easier than keeping everything in your head. Some of the categories I included: Personal/Business Bank Accounts, Location of Key Documents, and What to Do With My Journals. Burn them! Or shred them. 
  4. Just tackle it one a step at a time. If you'll pardon the pun, this is a big undertaking. And while I've never liked that line "How do you eat an elephant?" (answer: one bite at a time), somehow it applies here. Just keep chipping away at it. Interim deadlines help. 
  5. Make your wishes known (yes, even the quirky ones). Whether it's favorite hymns, who should be notified, or what not to do (no organsand don't play "Freebird"), it's a lot easier to give clear instructions than to leave your loved ones guessing. One of my requests: don't sing the Our Father. If Jesus had wanted us to sing it, He would have left us sheet music. 
  6. Build in some accountability. Had I not pulled in my assistant Ali, I never would have schlepped across the finish line. Ali was instructed to check in with me every few days. Which she did. We celebrated all the small milestones. But when I stalled, she kept pinging me. Finally I told her, "I'm going to get this wrapped up—and then I'm going to write a Pep Talk about it." Done and done. Who's your go-to accountability person?
  7. Reward yourself. Whether it's a new purchase, some time off for good behavior, or a celebratory trip to Starbucks, this is a huge accomplishment. What's one way you could celebrate?

Finally, in case you're wondering why a healthy, youngish woman with no kids would go to all this effort, it  goes back to something a surgeon told me long ago: "The chances of complications are small, but if your number's up they're a hundred percent." All-righty

Sometimes in life, for ourselves and those we love, we need to plan for the hundred percent.

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