Do you have unfinished household projects lying around? I can tell what my clients’ projects are at a glance – there are light bulbs that need changing; clothing that needs repairing; pictures that need to be framed and hung; and gifts that need to be wrapped. They are sitting out on the counters, tables, and floors, all waiting to be done. But they aren’t getting done. Why not?
Have you become clutter-blind?
Unfinished projects often become a pile of clutter. Sometimes we forget all about a project despite the fact that it is sitting right there in plain sight. That’s because we become “clutter-blind”. The project becomes lost in the “visual noise”, and our brain simply doesn’t register it anymore. Or, it disappears under a pile of other stuff we intended to do.
Another reason these projects don’t get done is that we don’t set aside time for doing them. Why not schedule time on your calendar? The things we schedule are more likely to get done. The items on the counter could theoretically serve as a visual to-do list, but that only works if you have only one project to focus on; and your home is otherwise clutter-free (so you notice the project sitting there); and if you consistently follow through on your intentions (so it doesn’t sit there forever).
My clients are afraid they’ll forget to do the projects if they don’t leave the items sitting out where they can see them. They want to do the projects, but they are overwhelmed, just as list-makers get overwhelmed when they have a written to-do list a mile long. It’s overwhelming because there is no way to do everything on the list in one day…or week…or month…or year…
So, what is the solution? A Project Box and a Master To-Do List!
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Corral the Clutter
Corral small items pertaining to projects into a Project Box. Examples: The screws, screwdriver, glue, and felt pads you are going to use for refurbishing your dining room chairs this weekend…and the new electronic gadget you just bought and the instructions you need to read but don’t have time for today…and the gift, wrap, and card you want to write and mail to your niece before graduation day. I use a 16 qt. Sterilite plastic bin, which is plenty big for a number of small projects. Ziploc bags are great for keeping small parts together. Some projects will be too big for the Project Box and may require a larger bin, or shelf, or closet. Even so, you don’t need to leave projects sitting out unless you are actively working on them. If you follow the rest of these steps, your projects will be out of sight, but not out of mind!
Step 2: Add it to Your Master To-Do List
New Rule: Nothing goes into the Project Box (or gets stashed elsewhere) without adding the project to your Master To-Do List!!! Yes, this is the list that can seem overwhelming if you look at it every day, and feel bad that all the items aren’t completed. But I suggest you think of your Master To-Do List as merely a tool for capturing ideas…and tasks…and projects that have yet to be planned out by breaking them down into smaller tasks. It is a living document that will, and should, always be long and ever-changing! It does not matter whether it’s an electronic list or a handwritten one. The more thoughts you can capture, the more your mind can relax and not worry about having to remember everything. A relaxed mind is what will allow you to enjoy your daily activities more, whether they are things you have to do, or things you want to do.
Step 3: Make a Short Daily To-Do List
Each day choose just a few things to actually do. Say, 3-5 things including appointments. Maybe you want to choose something from each of your major life categories, as I described in The Chinese Menu Time Management Technique . It depends on what sorts of things you need to do, and how you like to count them. (I might count “run errands”, as one item. You might count all the stops you need to make as individual items.) The point is: If you only “bite off as much as you can chew” in a day, you will feel a sense of accomplishment almost every day! If you find you’ve completed your short list early, go ahead and choose another task, or take the opportunity to relax.
Step 4: Review Your Master To-Do List Weekly
You can glance at your Master To-Do List if you need to, to remind you of urgent items for your Daily To-Do List, but a weekly review is usually sufficient, and crucial for not forgetting what’s on there. If you never look at your Master To-Do List it will be no different from having stuff piled on the counter and not registering what’s there anymore. Schedule a weekly planning session with yourself — yes, on your calendar — and set a recurring alarm reminder, if that’s what it takes. Take a few moments while you’re at it to break down a project into smaller, more do-able tasks. Schedule some tasks on your calendar. Make this weekly planning session with yourself more fun by choosing a comfy chair and sipping a delicious beverage, or taking yourself to a coffee shop or other relaxing spot you enjoy.
Step 5: Remember, You Don’t Have to Actually Do Everything on Your List!
Each time you review your Master To-Do List you have an opportunity to select something that you want to work on…as well as an opportunity to decide NOT to do something after all. Ask yourself: Is it Really Worth Doing? Think “Do, Delegate, or Dump”. Sometimes Doing looks like completing a quick task just to get it over with, like changing that light bulb. Other times Doing means putting in regular chunks of time on an ongoing project like exercising, studying, or writing. But Delegating a task to someone else, or Dumping it altogether, are equally valid ways to get something off your list. Just because you put it on the list doesn’t mean you have to do it!
The key to feeling productive and happy is to Do only tasks and activities that support your goals and priorities, and to Delegate or Dump the rest.
It also helps if you know how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals.
What sorts of projects do YOU have sitting out so you can see them?
Do you think a Project Box and a Master To-Do List would help you to control clutter and get things done?
Please leave a comment below and share with your friends!
Copyright 2014-2019 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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