by Susan McCarthy
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Everyday practice: If you aren't getting around to doing a task, put it into your schedule.
Sometimes, the things we want to get rid of aren’t objects that we want to declutter from a shelf but tasks that have been nagging our thoughts for days (months) and we just want them done.
I’m not talking about the activities that you do on a regular basis – laundry, cooking, paying bills, grocery shopping – but tasks that might need to be done once (figure out how to use the new scanner), once a year (schedule physical) or a couple times a year (bring car in to get oil changed).
Because these irregular tasks don’t have to be done at a certain time, they risk not getting done at all. Instead, they loom in your mind until just thinking about what you’re not accomplishing leave you feeling anxious.
First, Do a Mind Sweep
A mind sweep (it’s also called a brain dump), involves listing every task that has been pestering your thoughts whether for an hour or a year onto a single list.
Get it all out – register for class, call doctor’s office to schedule physical, schedule oil change for car, bring classified ad to newspaper, donate bag of books to library, print photos for frames, order business cards, research vacation spots, order invitations, and so on – the personal as well as professional.
However, just making a list doesn’t help you. Instead, you need a way to work on these projects. Trying to address these tasks when you think of them can leave you feeling distracted as you jump from task to task.
Next, Schedule a Power Hour
In her book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin talked about how she came up with the idea of a Power Hour to tackle odd tasks during a focused, scheduled time where she addressed a single task. (Although, sometimes, you can group similar tasks such as multiple phone calls to schedule appointments.)
Ideally, you’d be able to schedule your power hour at the same time each week. However, that won’t always work, particularly if the task involves other people. (For example, on a Sunday night you won’t be able to call your doctor’s office to schedule an appointment for a physical; however, if the office allows you to schedule appointments online, then you can handle the task that way.)
Also, your Power Hour doesn’t have to take an hour. Some weeks you’ll only be able handle a Power Half (or Quarter) Hour. Other weeks you’ll decide to devote two hours to a lengthier task as opposed to carrying it over two or three weeks.
If you frequently get distracted by all the, often, little tasks that demand to get done, the biggest advantage of a Power Hour is that you can defer a task to this set time as opposed to trying to tackle it when you have neither the time, energy, or attention required to get the task done.
Decide in advance what task you’ll tackle during your Power Hour so you can make the best use of that time.
Declutter Your to Do List
Whenever you think of a task that you won’t be handling right away, you can add it to your Mind Sweep list to save yourself from dwelling on it.
Some people say that creating a list like this is stressful because it “reminds” them of what they need to do. However, this list already exists, either as thoughts or notes in numerous locations in a variety of formats. A Power Hour can help you declutter those nagging tasks that aren’t getting done by creating a time just for these types of tasks.
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Susan, chief (and only) organized squirrel at A Less Cluttered Life, pursues learning, practicing, and sharing information about the everyday habits that can lead to living a better life.