“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” – William James
Do you have days where you just feel like you can’t get anything accomplished? You start on something, get sidetracked and eventually you have 25 different partially completed tasks “pending” and by then you don’t know what the heck needs to be done first, last, or not at all. I have those day…s a lot…and by a lot I mean daily unless I force myself to prioritize and stay focused. Now there’s no perfect method and there will always be issues that come up that throw a kink in things for even the best of planners, but there are a few things that I do that really do help and make things less chaotic, more organized, and alleviate some stress which I think is something everyone can benefit from.
- Make a List: sounds like a pretty common tactic and you’re right, it is, but it really does help. I make a list each morning, actually two of them since I have my “regular job” and the rest of my life. Both lists have the same basic concept though – start with the “fire” items that absolutely have to get done yesterday and end with the items you need to get accomplished at some point but the world probably won’t end if you have to move them to tomorrow’s list. Even if you don’t get all the way through the list, you can see what you have accomplished when you see that items are getting crossed off of the list. Being able to visually see that even when it feels like I’m running in circles, I have been at least somewhat productive keeps me motivated to keep going and when I lose track I can look at my list and say “oh, yeah I need to work on this project”.
- 5 Minute Rule: If there are any tasks that can be accomplished in 5 minutes or less, do them right away and get them out of the way. (This can be a 2 minute rule, 10 minute, 15 minute, or whatever fits your lifestyle and needs but same basic concept regardless of the time limit you choose.) This can be sending an email response or request to someone, taking out garbage, loading the dishwasher, calling and making a dentist appointment, shaving your legs, pretty much anything on your list that can be taken care of quickly – get it done. You’ll be amazed how quickly your “to do” list will shrink if you just set aside the first 30 minutes or hour of your day to take care of several of these tasks and then you can focus on the major, more time consuming items without getting side tracked with these smaller annoying issues.
- Notes / Notebooks: This sort of coincides with making lists, but I find that keeping a notebook or using the notes app on my smartphone helps me to remember things that come to me when I’m in the middle of something else. Sometimes completing one task leads to something else that you need to do, pick up at the store, send to school with the kids, an idea to blog about, a project that you want to research, etc., but you don’t want to stop what you’re currently doing and you don’t want to forget. Just jot it down. A brief note to review later will help you to remember that item and you can then choose whether it’s really important or if you can forget about it without interrupting other tasks, causing you to lose your train of thought, and putting you behind schedule with items that are more of a priority.
- Calendars: Use them – write down appointments when you make them, school functions, work meetings, deadlines, etc. Use your phone calendar, computer calendar, or good old wall calendar – whatever you will remember to look at on a regular basis. This puts less responsibility on your already over worked brain to remember these things. When the deadline or appointment day gets close, add anything you need to do to prepare for it to your daily to do list (see #1) – for example if the school birthday celebration is Friday, you may want to put “pick up cupcakes” on your Thursday list so that you’re not scrambling Friday morning when your 6 year old reminds you on the way to the bus stop. This also helps to eliminate that “I know I needed to do something but can’t remember what” feeling because you can look at your calendar and see what it is that needs to be done or that no, that isn’t until next week so you can relax a little.
- 10 Minute Pick-up: You may want to do this in the morning before everyone leaves for the day, or in the evening right before everyone heads to bed so that there’s a fresh start the next morning. Regardless of where in your day you decide to take ten to pick up, the goal here is to get everyone in home involved, hubby, kids, and yourself, and everyone takes 10 minutes, stops what they’re doing, and picks up and puts away everything that is out of place in the house. Throw away garbage, pick up dirty clothes, put away laundry, put dishes in the sink or dishwasher, etc. You’d be amazed at what 3 or 4 people can accomplish if they each contribute 10 whole minutes to a common goal.
What would you do: What tips do you have for staying organized and keeping the chaos of getting through daily tasks to a minimum? Share your ideas, questions, and helpful hints in the comments below. Thanks for reading!!