The Fine Art of Getting Things Done

I get stuff done

Do you have trouble getting things done? I sure do! Some tasks I do just fine with, like scheduled appointments, work deadlines, and most daily minutiae. But that closet that needs to be cleaned out? Purging and reorganizing the files in my office? Cleaning out our dusty, spidery garage? Things that sound only slightly less fun than a root canal–those are the chores I put off. In fact, sometimes I put them off for so long that I become blind to their incessant, nagging existence (at least that’s what it seems like). But the psychological weight of clutter and Things To Do keeps my spirit weighed down and trapped, unable to truly enjoy the present because so much of my inner self is taken up with anxiety from these unfinished tasks.

So, when I find an opportunity to tackle these annoying stealers of joy, I usually have to get creative before I can get things done. Why I can’t just make a list and then power through it, I don’t know. I’m just wired differently. If you are list-challenged like me or if you want some new ideas on how to tackle the next big project, check out my favorite tricks:

1. What Hurts the Most? Relieve the Pressure

stress

When my to-do list is truly epic and things are so out of control that I become almost catatonic with it all, I stop and ask myself, What hurts the most? This is not physical pain I’m referring to, although if this type of pain is on the Crazy List, then of course it demands your attention. Out of the babble of chores, obligations, and distractions pulling at you, which pulls the hardest? Which must be done first out of them all? What is the most upsetting? Find THAT one, and ask yourself, What could I do about this task that would relieve the pressure? How could I breathe easier? What is one step I can take towards finishing this thing? Then do it immediately.

2. Change Your Scenery

This is one of my favorite ways to jumpstart creativity or just get some fresh air into a project that’s become stale. This trick is especially helpful if your task involves pondering, brainstorming, or other mental participation. You may not be able to get rid of your task, but you can try to put a different backdrop behind it. Years ago when I worked from home, I would often move to different locations around the house to help me slog through hundreds of pages that needed editing. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I would move outside or even to my favorite coffee shop, although this was always complicated by my need for a quiet stiller than the grave in order to work.

3. Bring a Little Magic

Mary Poppins was right!

Mary Poppins was right!

Do you remember this line from the Mary Poppins song: “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down . . .”? This maxim is a wonderful addition to your mental-health arsenal. I rely heavily on it when I have boring household chores to tend to. I find something that would add some joy and brightness to the often mundane tasks of washing dishes, sorting laundry, or even cleaning out the bathroom cabinets. You can do almost anything if you bring a little magic to it. Make a ceremony of time with your loved ones, just because. Combine your bummer activity with your favorite place (e.g., do your weekly budget at Starbucks).

iced coffee

My two secret weapons for coping with these dreary duties are 1) my favorite drink, usually involving caffeine, and 2) audio books. My favorite: Agatha Christie murder mysteries! Her books on tape (and CDs) have been my companions for many years, and I will cherish them forever. Even if your task is festive and fun (say, decorating for the holidays), adding some well-loved music and something to sip on makes everything cheerier.

4. Race the Clock

race the clock

When you find yourself in the midst of a chore and your motivation is grinding to a halt, race the clock! Kids love to race—against each other, against time, really anything. So can you. A little adrenaline goes a long way. Figure out a tight time limit, one that will put the squeeze on you. Then challenge yourself to finish XYZ before time’s up. It may sound childish, but hey, who cares? You’re the only one watching, and if it works, it works. Maybe you have a pile of laundry fresh from the dryer, and you are feeling lazy. If the TV is on, make a game of finishing your folding before the next commercial break. Whatever it is, find a slightly uncomfortable boundary of time to be done by, and GO!

These are just a few tricks that help me get through my to-do’s with minimal muss and fuss. Do you have some great ways you get your rear in gear? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Have a great (and perhaps productive) rest of the day!

Cheers, Brooke

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: