by Susan McCarthy
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Everyday practice: If you can do a task within a minute's time, do it now instead of later.
Throughout your day, do you find yourself thinking, “If I had more time, I could get to that.” Or, “I’ll just do that later.” Only later becomes later and then it just makes sense to just get through today and deal with all those nagging tasks tomorrow.
And, then, tomorrow, other things need to get done.
It’s not just the big projects and the goals that get aside. It’s the little nagging tasks that nip at your heels.
Wipe up that spill. (I always think that I’ll just clean the entire counter after dinner, but then I think I’ll do it before going to bed. I have no clue why that’s the better option. Obviously, with this attitude, the task doesn’t get done until the next morning.)
And on, and on.
Procrastination Made Me Do It
The above tasks are all so small, that they don’t seem worth our attention. If we just let things build up (hello coffee cups), then we make the task bigger and it will seem more worth doing.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether the task is small (toss shirt and socks into hamper) or large (declutter master bedroom), when it isn’t done, it lives as a thought (Shut the cabinet door. Hey, you didn’t shut the cabinet door. Now you’re in another room and do you remember you left that cabinet door open. Hey. Did I forget to do something? What was it?)
Other thoughts and actions move in and claim prime real estate in your mind. (What am I going to make for dinner? I should text my boss and see if she’s available to go through some numbers.)
But all those tasks you put off? Even if you think you forgot them, they probably moved to some other part of your mind. And if your brain decided the thought was unimportant enough to be done with it and just vaporize it, at some point, you’ll find yourself looking at that puddle of water on the bathroom counter or the yoga mat that you didn’t roll up, and think, “Oh, yeah, that.”
Beware of False Efficiency
When you put off a task, you may do so because it may seem less important than, say, checking your email or posting payment for a bill. However, a lot of people say that they want to declutter and organize their home to bring a feeling of peace to their life.
Ignoring things isn’t peaceful. Allowing distractions and clutter to build up isn’t peaceful. Pretending that our lives will be different in an hour or a day and that we’ll have more time then isn’t peaceful – because later will probably be like now.
It’s false efficiency to think that small (or large) tasks aren’t important – or are busywork – if they are connected to something you value. Desire simplicity? Tasks that aid in that goal aren’t busywork. Long to feel peaceful and calm? Start with the things in your home that you have control over.
The One-Minute Habit
Let’s keep things simple, using just one of the tips in my book Why Can’t You Stay Organized? (the eBook includes another 17 tips). If you see a task that can be completed in approximately 60-seconds, do it right away.
When I started this habit (and it’s still a work in progress), I was astonished by the number of tasks I ignored because I figured I could just do them later. In fact, “I’ll do it later,” ran through my thoughts so quickly that most of the time I didn’t even realize that I’d decided to ignore a micro-task!
Oftentimes, I was walking away from the task (the paper to be slipped into a file, the junk mail to be deposited in the recycling bin, the ball of yarn to be returned to its storage bin) when I realized what I’d done. (So, apparently, all those hours of meditation are making me a bit more mindful?)
Again, reminding myself that I value simplicity and that one of the ways I define this is by putting things away, so they aren’t scattered about, made me realize that these 60-seconds-or-less tasks weren’t time wasters.
Can I Do It Now?
Another benefit to tackling tasks that take less than a minute to accomplish is that you start pulling yourself from the habit of procrastinating. You’ll start asking yourself, “How much time do I think this will take me?” and “Does this task help me live the type of life I want by upholding what I value?”
Completing those seeming insignificant and small tasks can change your mindset from one of procrastinating inaction to empowering decisiveness.
Sign up for emails from A Less Cluttered Life and learn how simple, everyday practices can eliminate the scattered feeling of trying to do too much. Join the free program, A Year of Decluttering, and get access to the 7-day e-course, Distraction-free Decluttering.
The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).