In my last blog, I introduced a simple idea that could help you get organized and become a much more productive person. A simple notebook to record important details of your professional life and record your daily to do lists. I realize there’s nothing revolutionary in starting to-do lists. Most people have them, but the idea of keeping them in a notebook may not have occurred to you.
A notebook where you record lists, important conversations, notes about building materials or prices while you are shopping, and other important details becomes a central repository of information, an external hard drive that helps you keep track of details and ultimately better manage your life. It also helps relieve stress, allowing you to live a more peaceful and productive life.
I’ve developed a few techniques to help the to-do list. Many times when I arrive at my desk, early in the morning, with my notebook in hand, my to-do list can be a bit overwhelming. I find myself saying “You’ll never get all this done today.” My heart may start to race.
To avoid panic and paralysis that often follows, I quickly pick out an easy task – an extremely easy task, like sending an e-mail to an editor or calling the local hardware store to check on some building materials. Or, I may tackle one important e-mail or all my e-mails. E-mail responses can be pretty easy.
Tackling an extremely easy task or two revs up my engine. A half hour later, when I finish my e-mail, I’m up and running. I then often pick another relatively simple task, and then another. Soon, I begin to ease into more difficult work. Before I know it, the day’s over and I’ve checked off every single item on my list – or a good portion of them. Those I didn’t finish are quickly shifted to my next day’s to-do list.
To make life easier, when I prepare my list I frequently place the easy stuff on the very top. If there’s a task that’s particularly enjoyable, like watering my vegetable garden or feeding chickens or my dogs, I enter those tasks on my to-do lists after a few work-related tasks. That way, I have something to look forward to. I find myself eager to get the work done so I can head out for a few minutes to take care of my chickens or fix a fence or water the garden. Such tasks provide a respite from my desk.
So I don’t get carried away, I usually time myself, allotting five to ten, sometimes even fifteen, minutes to complete the task, then it’s back to work for another 45 to 50 minutes of paying work. At the end of that period, I head out doors or down to the barn for another little outside treat…I mean job.
Sprinkle fun things in your list as tiny rewards. You may find yourself working harder than normal and with more alacrity for the “real work” so you can get up and away from your desk to take care of more “fun work” – tasks that involve a bit of time outdoors and on your feet.
Sprinkling your to-do list with fun tasks relieves the tedium of long hours in an office. It helps you exercise a wee bit or stretch and relieve tension on your muscles and eyes, fighting carpel tunnel syndrome and eye strain.
If you work in an office building, you might get up and walk a memo or report to the boss to get away from your desk for a while. Or you might simply stand up in your office or cubicle and stretch and bend your body. Take a quick trip to the water cooler or coffee pot or walk around the building, if your boss doesn’t mind. Break up the tedium with little rewards.
You can tell I don’t work in an office or have a boss to worry about. Maybe some of you could share your ideas for breaking the tedium in the comments section?
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Contributing editor Dan Chiras is a renewable energy and green homes expert who has spent a lifetime learning life’s lessons, which he shares in his popular blog, Dan Chiras on Loving Life. He’s the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design. Contact him by visiting his website or finding him on Google+.