Friday, August 31, 2012

Don't Know Where To Start? - Try This

Some days I have so many things on my to-do list that I just don't know where to start.  Sometimes this is how my day goes:

I start to unload the dishwasher and part way through decide that I should vacuum the living room first.  I get out the vacuum cleaner and get it all set up when I notice that the furniture is dusty.  One should always dust before they vacuum so I leave the vacuum cleaner and grab the dusting spray and a cloth.  I realize that I should do a load of laundry first.  I set down the cloth and spray, leave the living room and head to the laundry room.  While there I see the freezer and decide that I should take something out to defrost for dinner.  I grab the meat from the freezer and leave the laundry while I take the meat to the kitchen.  I then notice that I still have not unloaded the dishwasher!  In fact, all I've managed to do is take the meat out of the freezer for dinner!

It's at this point that I realize that I need to focus on one thing at a time because flitting around like a bee pollinating flowers is not getting anything accomplished.  This is what I do to stay on track and get things done.

First write the numbers 1-6 on pieces of paper.

Fold them in half and put them in a small bowl or cup - I use an old tea cup.

Next write out a to-do list.  Each task can only take 15 minutes.  If your task will take longer than 15 minutes then divide it into smaller, 15 minute increments.  Number the tasks 1-6.  Most times you will have more than 6 things on your list. Break the list in two parts both numbered 1-6. List the most important items on the top list and the least important items on the bottom.

Set a timer for 15 minutes - I use my iPod but you can use your oven timer or any other timer that you have.

Pick a number from the bowl and do the corresponding number on your to-do list.  Don't worry if the list has you vacuuming before dusting, the important part is to stay focused on one task for 15 minutes.  Once the 15 minutes are up, re-set your timer and draw another number.  After the third session set your timer for 15 minutes and do something for you.  Get a drink of water, sit and relax.  Check your Facebook or read a magazine article.  When the timer goes off then it's time to start again.

You'll be surprised at how much you can get done in 15 minutes of focused time.  When I first started doing this one of my tasks was to dust the back staircase.  It turns out that I can dust the back staircase and the basement stairs and wash them both by hand in 15 minutes.  This will also make you better at estimating the amount of time that it takes you to do certain tasks.  Some people think that it will take 20 minutes to unload the dishwasher when in reality it can be done in about 3.

This doesn't just work for household chores.  Try it at work too.  Spend 15 minutes filing, then 15 minutes answering emails and so on.  It's easier to stay focused for short periods of time and you will be much more productive.

Do you have any tips for staying focused on the task at hand?

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