Getting It Done

Re-entry after vacation is always tough.

Robert is having a really heavy week. Me, I managed not to overload the early part of the week, and now have a day with 19 to-do items on it. Oops.

It’s hard to feel like you’re getting anywhere with 19 items on your to-do list, especially when some of those items are people oriented things like pastoral care and phone calls, the quality of which suffer when you reduce them to items on a checklist. They take as long as they take.

My challenge today (and every day) is to move through this stuff as graciously as possible. One trick I’ve heard is to look at the to-do list and ask, “What are those things that, if I only did those items, I would feel satisfied with my day?”

David Allen of Getting Things Done fame talks about having a “mind like water”—putting processes in place such that your mind isn’t cluttered with stuff, but focused on the task at hand. I’d rather spend mental energy researching a four-week adult study for Advent than trying to remember where I put the stamps, for example.

What do you do to cultivate a ‘mind like water’? Aside from a general GTD approach to my work, here are a few of my organizational tricks that make my life more harmonious… with no claims of originality:

1. Each night I organize my to-do list for the next day, organized by “context”—e-mails I need to send, errands, stuff I need to think about/write, paperwork. This way I can batch like items together and get into an e-mail groove, or a phone groove, etc.

2. Laminated morning lists for the girls: they use a dry-erase marker to check off each item (breakfast, brush hair, put homework in backback) so I don’t have to nag them as much.

3. Related to that: I put everything on the table they’ll need: hairbrush and rubber band, toothbrush and toothpaste, vitamins, etc. And I do it the night before because I’m always rushed (and often cranky) in the morning.

4. I put my workout clothes beside the bed so I don’t even need to have the light on in order to get dressed.

5. I keep all note-writing and bill-paying supplies in a single basket: note cards, envelopes, checkbook, church directories, stamps, address labels.

What about you? Any tricks to share?

Image is of the GTD collection process.

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7 thoughts on “Getting It Done

  1. Jay says:

    Oddly, I found the simplest thing I do to ease my start in the morning is to declutter/straighten my desk before I go home. Coming in to a messy desk kills my morning momentum (to the extent I have any)

  2. juniper says:

    I have to admit that I kind of chafe against these kind of organizational ideas.

    It’s not making and laminating little charts, for example, that I find challenging (love to make those!) – its finding a place for them, figuring out where to keep a pen near them that wont get lost and remembering to do them that is hard for me.

    My brain has to work so hard on that other stuff, that it seems to defeat the purpose of the organizational trick that I set up in the first place, which is ease and less expenditure of brain power.

    That said, there are some things to do even as a sort of naturally disorganized person that help me:

    1. Lots of hooks in my room. This way, my towel ends up on a hook instead of the floor and my workout clothes end up on a hook (most of the time) instead wadded under the bed.

    2. Making important stuff visible. My key chain is GIANT. I have a little place to put keys, but half the time or more, they end up on some other flat surface. I can find them, though, because they are so large and colorful.

    3. Not beating myself up. Yes, I am once again the last mom at the elementary school (and probably in all of America for all I know) to turn in the gift wrap order. I can expend a lot energy convincing myself that at this rate I will never be responsible enough to actually be a parent, or popular with the cool kids, or whatever. Or not. I’m trying to go for the “or not” choice more often and find it is a good energy saver.

    • MaryAnn says:

      That’s funny about the keys—my mom was using my key ring while we were gone and was like “Do you really need this many keys?” and I thought, “What?! I love that my key ring is so big!”

      It will not surprise you that I am a strong J on the Myers-Briggs. It really is a wiring thing. As uncomfortable as you feel at trying to implement these organizational things, that’s as uncomfortable as I feel with not having them in place… 🙂
      Thank God for 31 flavors!

      Sadly, the demon of inadequacy is universal—I tell myself that someone who is so organized could not possibly be the creative/fun-loving/spontaneous mother that her kids deserve.

  3. Kelly says:

    I think one of my biggest problems is that I have to be super-organized as a second teacher. To do lists galore – I spent my entire day today crossing things off my list – I did all but one thing. But then I get home, tuckered out, and just procrastinate on everything I need to do for myself. I do best when I’m busy, though. Less time for procrastination.

  4. Shala says:

    I use one to do list for the entire week, keep it in a small weekly planner that shows the days of the week on one side, and has a blank page on the other for my weeks tasks. I separate the tasks by segments of my life: Novel, Freelance Work, Volunteering, and Home. Home is listed last, not because it’s the least important, but because it’s the one I’m best at accomplishing. I don’t worry that I’m going to forget to take care of things at home. I worry that I’m going to neglect my Novel, which is why it’s listed first.

    I also have made certain times of day sacred. Now that B is in preschool, it’s really easy. The morning with B is dedicated to doing the things that need to get done around the house. The time she’s in preschool is Novel time (and freelance if my once-a-month standing project comes due), the time after preschool is my time to do something fun with B, and the time after B is in bed is my Volunteering time (I’m a Mentoring Mom, which means that I call Moms with newborn kids once a week to check in with them and commiserate on lost sleep etc).

    There’s no time in there to make dinner, I realize, which may be why I almost never do. Hmm… 🙂

  5. One of the little things I’ve done that makes a huge difference is go crazy at the back school sales and have cups in almost every room of the house full of pens and pencils because I hated looking for one when I needed it!

    I’m also a big fan of prep work: batch cooking, making breakfast and lunches the night before a school day, having as much set aside ahead of time to make things less stressful.

    Finally, I’m learning how to break things down into incremental parts, squeezing little things to do into little spaces of time that add up. I love the GTD strategy but have difficulty implementing it regularly (I’m so P, it’s surprising I can finish a sentence.)

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