Finally tackling a nagging task

Finally tackling a nagging task

1. Identify your “why”. Any task is easier when you have a clear idea of why you are doing it. Finishing my family photo album “because it’s already May and I really should” just doesn’t do it for me. However, remembering the joy we all shared when we showed our kids the album I made last year gives me the push I need. Ask yourself: What value am I honouring by completing this task? How will doing this serve me? What impact is not doing it currently having?

2. Break it down. Very few tasks consist of a single action. Most of the time they can be broken down into a series of smaller, more manageable ones. Maybe you need to clear out and reorganise the kitchen. Even to a decluttering junkie like me, that’s a mammoth undertaking, but if you break it down into steps, it’s easier. Day one, you do a drawer. Day two, another drawer. Day three, you do the crockery cupboard. Then the pots and pans. Doing it bit by bit offers you a regular feeling of accomplishment without requiring you set aside an entire day to get it all done at once. This method also avoids what I call “culling fatigue” – that flagging feeling you get half-way through a big clear out where you lose interest and start making quick and easy instead of good stay/go/donate decisions.

3. Reward yourself! This is the best one. Just because you think you “should have” completed this job ages ago and you’re annoyed you procrastinated so long doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a treat for finally getting it done now. Whether your pat on the back is a run along the river once you tidy the tool shed, a cream cake after you file your taxes, or a home manicure after you’ve cleaned the car, make sure you celebrate and congratulate yourself on your victories and achievements – however small you may consider them.

Letting go of the day and starting the evening mindfully

Letting go of the day and starting the evening mindfully

1. Clear away the day’s detritus. If you’re working from home – perhaps at the kitchen or dining table or at a desk in your living space – it can be hard to switch off when you down tools for the day. However tempting it is to leave the laptop and files out ready to start work again tomorrow, resist. Taking the time to tidy away papers and power down the computer tells your brain to close the door and go into leisure mode. If you have an actual home office, great. You can walk out and literally close the door.

2. Make tomorrow’s to-do list today. Making a list of what needs to get done tomorrow, rolling over today’s unfinished tasks and adding new ones is the only way to end the work day for me. Without this little ritual, everything stays in my mind, and I know I’ll spend at least part of the evening thinking, “ah yes, remember that for tomorrow”. If I’ve already made my plan and written it down, I can relax in the knowledge that I won’t forget anything and tomorrow is, to some extent, already taken care of.

3. Change your clothes. Or take a shower, go for a walk, do some yoga, maybe jog. Do something that creates a clear cut-off point for the day. This is especially true when working from home since we no longer have a place to leave or a commute, during which we can mentally close files and wind down. Even simply taking five minutes to drink a glass of water in the garden or at an open window can be enough to help you step out of work mode and into your evening mindfully, with intention and ease.

Organising your to-do list when it feels out of control

Organising your to-do list when it feels out of control

1. First, separate tasks into categories – personal, professional, family, admin… Then list the tasks, adding a status against each one. I use a star to signify that I have to perform an action. When I am waiting on someone else to complete their part before I can do mine, I write something like “pending Sophie” next to it. Or I might write “email sent, chase on X date”. That way, I know that right now, I can only really attack the starred items. The rest are pending. This automatically makes my scope for action a little less large.

2. Add a red mark of some kind next to tasks that are particularly urgent or time sensitive. If your list is digital, move these to the top. Emergencies notwithstanding, I feel best when I get through at least one item from each list every day. That way I never feel like I’m neglecting work in favour of admin or letting family stuff slip as I tend to clients’ needs. I get a pleasant “keeping all the balls in the air” feeling.

3. Apply the 10-minute rule. If you have any tasks on your list that will take under 10 minutes, do those straight away. Your to-do list just got shorter – and this sense of achievement will motivate you to move on to some of the thornier items. The light feeling I get from crossing off a bunch of small nagging tasks makes it easier to focus on a bigger task that requires time and concentration.

Make it easy on yourself

Make it easy on yourself

Acquiring just a few good organisational habits will help your day go with a swing rather than a bang – because life doesn’t have to be so hard.

It’s a commonly held misconception that life is hard. That it’s a struggle, a war, and that, even in the comfort of relatively peaceful first-world countries, we still have to do daily battle – with a never-ending to-do list, demands from family, friend and bosses, the pressure to keep up with fashion, the news, the Joneses…

But I don’t buy all that. Sure, life has its challenges. They range from the everyday, like finding and keeping a job and maintain good relationships, to the exceptionally hard times when we encounter death, heartbreak, serious illness, depression… Luckily, these kinds of major problems are infrequent for most of us. What’s more, when the serious problems do come along, we have a tendency to rise to the challenge – we activate our support network, we shore ourselves up, and become acutely aware of the need to be kind to ourselves and stay strong.

Nice and easy does it every time

In my experience, it’s not the “big stuff” that floors people, but the accumulation of lots of “small stuff”. When people talk about what regularly exhausts them and causes them stress, more often that not it’s the regular hassles, the daily grind, a lack of time, the constant feeling of frazzled and overstretched. Yet, most of these sources of stress are self-induced. Household clutter is an issue for many people – yet what’s to stop them clearing it away? The pre-work rush gets lots of us off to a bad start but the quality of our morning routine is entirely in our own hands.

Acquiring a few simple and healthy organisational habits can make such a difference and help you live a more easeful life. After all, when you rush from place to place, lurching from crisis to crisis, are you running your life or is your life running you – into the ground? I get frazzled at times, just like everyone, but I do try to stick to a few great strategies for making life just a little easier and therefore more pleasant for myself and everyone around me.

If it will only take two minutes, do it straight away

You get home from work and change your clothes, remove your jewelry, etc. It takes almost as long to throw everything on your dressing table as it does to put them in the wash basket, hang them up and put your earrings into your jewelry box. The difference: a clear bedroom, your favourite gold hoops don’t eventually get lost, and, when you have friends for dinner that week, the pre-visit clearing up is reduced, which in turn means you don’t have to rush home from work, frantically stuffing piles of cloths under the bed and swearing as you step barefoot on the aforementioned lost earrings!

Leave more than enough time between meetings and appointments

You need to make a doctor’s appointment. The receptionist suggests 6pm on Tuesday. You’ve got a meeting until 5.30pm and you want to get to your tango class at 8pm. The doctor’s office and the dance school are about 45 minutes apart. Sounds doable, but before accepting the appointment, think about the possibilities for that day. Your meeting ends at 5.45pm instead of 5.30pm. You don’t even have time to tidy your desk before rushing out the door to the doctor. She’s running late and you don’t get to see her before 6.45pm. The doctor has a test she wants you to undergo, she calls the clinic to make the appointment while you’re there…the clock is ticking. You leave her at 7.15pm, run to the station, catch a train in the nick of time and arrive at your class just as the warm-up is beginning. You’re already hot and frazzled, you haven’t had time to change your shoes, and you go straight into the class without even having time to say hi to a few of the other regulars (which was the reason you joined in the first place – to make new friends). What part of all of that did you actually enjoy, let along savour? And, seriously – why on earth would you do that to yourself?

Pack your bag the night before

It takes three minutes to make sure your handbag is ready for the next day before turning in for the night (even better – do it as soon as you get home, before you sit down to relax). Run through your day in your mind and imagine what you’ll need as you leave the house, see a client, walk to the tube, call a taxi, stop by the shops. Keys, purse, phone (does it need charging? plug it in now!), train pass, lip balm, period is due – shove a couple of tampons in the side pocket, meeting first thing – do I have a few business cards in my wallet?, take that letter to post, grab a reusable shopping bag… It’s one thing you won’t have to do the next day before the coffee has truly kicked in and you’re firing on all cylinders.

Delete or file emails as you read and reply

My email inbox is basically my online to-do list. Everyday, I go through the new emails, read and file things that are just for information, delete the junk and am left with, say ten, that actually require action. I fire off responses to the ones I can (glorious quick wins) and then file them. The inbox is now halved. As long as an email remains in my inbox I know I haven’t finished dealing with it, and the fact that it’s not lost among 50 emails that I have dealt with means that I won’t forget to do so.

Let the phone go to voicemail

Ok. Minor rant now. Why, oh why, do people answer the phone only to say, “Sorry, I’m in a meeting / having lunch with a friend / in a museum. Can I call you back?” Firstly, it’s rude to the person they’re actually with. Secondly, it ruins their concentration and ability to be in the here and now. Thirdly, they almost always forget to call that person back because how often do you immediately write “Call Sandra back” on your to-do list? What is so wrong with letting calls go to voicemail when it’s an inconvenient time to talk? The voicemail reminders ensure you won’t forget to return the call, and you’re etiquette karma is intact.

Originally published on Running in Heels.