I think my fascination with lists started as a teenager when my parents would leave me home alone for a few hours and would write a list of (super easy) chores to complete before they returned. Once I had conquered the list, I was free to talk on the phone, watch TV, raid the refrigerator. As long as each item was done, no questions asked. My love affair with lists continues to this day. Lists complete me.
Here is my Top 10 list of tips for getting things done:
Make a listof the task at hand and the sub-tasks that go with it. This will help you find manageable chunks of smaller tasks and will also highlight where you may have dependencies on other people. Get busy asking those people for what you need ASAP. Give them plenty of notice and ask nicely. Your emergency isn’t their emergency. Yada yada yada.
Put yourself in jail. “I can’t leave this office until I create that pivot table.” “I can’t lay down on this bed until I fold the clean laundry.” “I can’t have a glass of wine until I hit my 10,000 steps on my Fitibit.”
Do a mind map. Sometimes trying to write an orderly list is a barrier to getting started. You may need a less structured way to brain dump and find a path forward. If you haven’t done a mind map before, check this out. A great tool!
Set a timer. Shut out all distractions and set a timer for 10 minutes. You are only allowed to work on the 1 project for that 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, decide whether or not to do another 10 minutes. You’d be surprised what you can get done in a short sprint. I’ve written this list (so far) in about 10 minutes!
Get down and give me 20. Write down 20 things that will help you achieve your goal. Don’t give it too much thought just keep writing until you have 20 ideas. Getting to 20 is often a struggle. You will have to think outside the box to complete the list. Warning! Be on the lookout for breakthrough ideas.
Imagine if. Tell yourself a story of how the world will look when this project/task is done to perfection. When I don’t know where to start or don’t have all the details I just close my eyes and imagine that future place when this seemingly impossible project or problem is finished and I’m accepting an award for my outstanding achievement. Who is there? What are they doing? What has changed? What am I wearing? Writing myself a few paragraphs on what that imaginary place looks, tastes and smells like is both motivating and productive. Once I’ve glimpsed a better place, I have to get there!
Do the most unpleasant task first. It may be that this 1 painful thing is prohibiting you from getting started, so just get that 1 thing out of the way.
Reward yourself. Sometimes hard work is its own reward and sometimes you need a fro-yo or a mani/pedi. Right-size your reward with the task and make them both happen.
Outsource it. Is this really yours to do? Can you trust someone else to do it? Can you hire a service to do it? Many people (guilty!) bury themselves in tasks because they can’t give up control. Maybe your husband can be trusted with your fine washables. Maybe someone else on the team would be willing to arrange that meeting. Maybe your son is old enough to write out his own birthday invitations. Maybe you can bring lunch for a month and hire a professional painter versus spending two weekends on a DIY project.
Don’t do it. Will this matter in a year? What will happen if this doesn’t get done? Could this possible be a nice-to-have? Will this jeopardize another priority? Sometimes we are reluctant to start a task because we don’t see the value in doing it. Not doing it is always an option. Like the song says “Let it go.”
There are many things that make me smile. Overall, I am a smiler! Being greeted by these two faces when I walk in the door always lifts my mood. I like to take my coat off, set my purse down and immediately lay down on the living room rug and let them kiss my face. Sometimes I “fake” fight them off. It is a great ritual and a fun transition from my work life to my home life. My family isn’t bad either, but they don’t literally jump for joy when they see me.
Here is my scorecard on how I performed. The thing that stands out the most and that I will take forward above the others was the virtuous cycle that is set in motion by choosing grace.
I was going to go through the month without telling my husband about my focus. That all changed one day in the car when he said something that he knew was controversial and waited for me to react and take the bait. I sat silently and just let his words hang in the air. As I sat there peacefully, instead of assuming I was choosing not to argue he accused me of giving him the silent treatment! This was great insight into how I must normally behave. I like to be right. I like to manage my husband and wear the bossy pants. I like to think I’m smarter than everyone including him. It was eye-opening for me that it was easier for him to see me as punishing him versus recognizing that I was loving him and showing him grace. So I told him I was working on marriage for my Happiness Project and had revisited the many lessons learned in our marriage-changing workshop on Love and Respect. I told him I was being respectful and apologized for previous behavior that made him jump to the conclusion that my silence was a punishment.
From that moment forward, we have had a different dialogue. There has been a lightness to the way we engage with one another. He laughs when he sees I am choosing not to complain or argue. My decisions not to react have caused him to pause and evaluate what he just said that warranted me biting my tongue. He has apologized and laughed at himself when he gets heated versus feeling it is his right to behave any way he wants or that somehow I have caused him to act that way.
The results have been improved cooperation and communication in our household. As I serve him, he is motivated to serve me right back. Letting go of needing to be right in the moment has paid huge benefits of helping my marriage be on the right track in the big picture. Happiness Project month 2 has been a success.
This morning my son met me in the hallway with a big smile on his face and let me take in the wonder that was his outfit. He announced, “it’s pajama day!” and I could see he was looking forward to a day of fun and comfort in his fleece pants.
My shame sheriff rose to the surface and I quizzed him. “Are you sure it’s pajama day buddy, it would be embarrassing to show up in those pants and it NOT be pajama day.”
He assured me it was but I couldn’t let it go, “why don’t you wear jeans to school and bring those bottoms in your backpack and change later, just in case you’ve got the wrong day.” Maybe I was having a flashback to my 18 year old self showing up at the restaurant I was waitressing at in full cowgirl gear only to find out it wasn’t rodeo-days anymore. I needed to protect him from being embarrassed. Just as I was stringing together another warning he smirked at me, did a little dance move and said, “YOLO Mom.”
(You Only Live Once) Wise words.
Oh, and today’s ZerotoHero challenge is to link to blogs you love. Here is Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project.
I pulled him close and gave him a reassuring hug and asked him, “Why was the sink plugged and running full blast with hot water while you were simultaneously taking a shower?”
He explained that he had used the stopper on the sink and started both the sink and shower running and then laid down on the bath mat and gone back to sleep. His ingenious plan was to grab some more shuteye on the floor and then dip his head in the sink to get his hair wet and thus FAKE a shower. No one would ever know (except possibly those of us with a sense of smell) that he hadn’t actually bathed. When he heard the yelling and pounding on the door he instinctively jumped in the shower so he would be wet but then jumped right back out to open the door. In his post-slumber haze, he missed the whole sink over-flowing and flooding the bathroom piece thus not shutting off either water source.
When he finally came “clean” with the story I couldn’t do anything but laugh and explain to him the lose-lose of a fake shower. I’ve been having the nobody wins when you don’t brush your teeth debate with him for years now and I am on the lookout for that foolishness, but this one blindsided me. I never imagined that anyone would ever want to avoid personal hygiene to such an extent that they would orchestrate this kind of a production.
The whole thing still makes me chuckle and marvel at his ability to surprise me with the way his 12 year old mind works. This will be a great tale to share with his wife and kids one day. To make sure I don’t forget any of the details, I posted it on my new blog 🙂
have a good 'ole rummage through the musings of a modern-ish mum; cherishing the good bits of life, enjoying the funny bits and looking forward to more best bits! Who knows what treasures we may find nestled between nostalgia and possibility...