Here's how I get stuff DONE!
Thursday, June 06, 2013
Do you ever find yourself thinking; "I want to do this, but doing that means doing this first, and to do that I have to do this...." And before you know it, you're doing a dozen other seemingly unrelated things with no clear and defined way to achieve your original goal?
I do that all the time, mostly with housework. I devised a way to NOT do it ages ago which works wonders for me, but I never actually implement it. So here we go; I want to share it with you all now :-)
First step: identify your goal.
I want to - Sort out the living room.
Horrible goal! Anyone who's ever done goal setting has probably heard of "SMART" goals; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. So let's be SMART about my goal.
Specific - I consider the living room to be "sorted out" when;
1 - The only things on the sofa are the cushions
2 - The big black table is dismantled and in the garage
3 - The floor is clear of everything that's not supposed to live on it (cat's litter tray, wii fit console, and a couple of things that honestly do live in a corner)
4 - The floor has been swept and cleaned (with a wet cloth and soap, not just a dustpan and brush).
5 - The living room table has been cleared.
6 - The living room table has been fixed (there are currently some loose nuts and bolts, making it wobble).
7 - The assorted "stuff" laying around the room has been dealt with; shoes in the hallway, pan of things to return to the kitchen returned, etc.
8 - The guinea pig cage has been wrapped in roofing felt (at the moment, she's kicking straw and poo everywhere; lovely!)
9 - The walls have had the final coat of green paint.
10 - I've finished painting the ceiling white
11 - I've done the skirting boards
12 - I've re-tiled the floor.
Wow! That's actually quite a big job all of a sudden. So, let's look at each of these goals to apply the other SMART criteria.
How will I know when each task is accomplished (i.e. how will I "Measure" it)? Well, this is pretty easy; these are the kind of tasks that when they're done, they're done; I'll know I've successfully cleared the sofa, for instance, when there is nothing on there but the cushions. This is the beauty of being Specific; specific goals are easy to Measure.
Next, is each task Attainable and Realistic? Well, yes and no; there's nothing impossible in the to-do list, but some things do have pre-requisites.
- I need to make sure I have a small box for the screws from the table (there's nothing wrong with it, and I may wish to sell it or re-use it one day) and that I have the right screw-drivers to dismantle it.
- Things like clearing the table and floor may require finding new homes for certain items, or finishing half-done tasks; for instance, I have a pile of crafting paper on the table I was using to make labels for dry mixes in containers; I have done all but three, and need to finish those before I can put away the crafting paper.
- I can't clean the floor or fix the table until I've cleared them.
- I need to make sure I have roofing felt or something similar (which I'm currently not confident of) before I can seal up the piggie box. Alternatively, I can put her outside for a while until I can afford to buy roofing felt in a few weeks; this is pretty easy since it's currently very warm, and I do have a shed I can put her in for shelter if necessary (though that itself would require me cleaning the shed out.
- I can't tile the floor until I have A) bought more tiles and B) re-done the skirting boards. I can't re-do the skirting boards until I have finished the walls, and I can't finish the walls until I've done the ceiling (which in turn I can't do until I've cleared the living room, as painting the ceiling will require a lot of moving and covering of furniture; a nightmare job is everything's covered in junk!
Make a list of the pre-requisites, put them all in order, etc. So that you have a more comprehensive list of specifications. Suddenly, my list becomes a little longer;
1 - Clear the sofa; the only thing on there should be cushions and designated blankets.
2 - Collect a small box for the screws from the table.
3 - Dismantle the big, black table, label the box, and put it all in the garage.
4 - Put away everything on the floor that currently has a home.
5 - Collect all the floor items that don't have a home yet, and find or make a home for them.
6 - Put away everything on the table that currently has a home and doesn't have any out-standing tasks associated with it.
7 - Collect all the table items that don't have a home yet, and find or make a home for them.
8 - Make a to-do list of all the half-finished jobs I still need to complete using the table items I have not yet put away.
9 - Complete the outstanding tasks on the table, putting away everything associated with that task as I go.
10 - Fix the living room table.
11 - Sweep and thoroughly clean the floor.
12 - Deal with the assorted "stuff" laying around the room.
13 - Check if I have roofing felt. If I do, wrap the piggie cage. If not, take the piggie outside.
14 - Finished painting the ceiling white.
15 - Finish painting the walls green.
16 - Thoroughly clean, repair and paint the skirting boards.
17 - Buy the remaining tiles.
18 - Re-tile the floor.
Finally, what's the time scale on these tasks? What may have started out sounding like a one-day job ("sort the living room") has actually become a lot bigger! Let's assign a timescale to each of these tasks.
1 - I can clear the sofa today; it should only take a few minutes.
2 and 3 - I can dismantle the table and get it into the garage today; it may take up to an hour, but I can do it.
4, 6 and 12 - (Put away stuff that has a home) - Definitely realistic. Again, it might take an hour (I have a LOT of stuff lying around!) but there's nothing stopping me from doing this today.
5 and 7 - This is trickier; I don't know yet what needs re-homing, so I'll have to re-assess how long it will take when I've done steps 4, 6 and 12.
8 and 9 - Similarly, I don't know yet how many jobs I have out-standing or how long they will take me; it may be a few minutes of work or a couple of weeks, I really don't know yet.
10 - A 10 minute job, but not one I can do until I've completed 8 and 9.
11 - A 2 hour job (yes, I mean it) I can't do until I've finished several other tasks.
13 - A job that will take no more than an hour to do, and isn't reliant on anything else; I can do this today.
14 - Whilst technically I could do this today, my life will be easier if I get everything else done first.
15 - Can't do this until I've done 14.
16 - This actually needs to be broken down into three parts; cleaning the skirting boards (which I can do today whilst cleaning the floor), repairing the skirting boards (which I need to wait at least 24 hours to do, as they'll be wet from cleaning) and painting them (which I can't do until 15 is completed, and have to wait at least 24 hours for the repair putty to harden).
17 - I can't do this for at least 8 days, when I have money next. Even then, it's a pretty low priority next to food and rent (both of which I'll struggle with this month).
18 - I can't do this until I've done 17.
Excellent! Now we have an idea of what we can do and when we can do it. My preference now is to make two lists; one is a to-do list and is chronological with estimates of time taken to do each task. This is my list for today/right now. The other list is a "pending" list for all the tasks reliant on the completion of the first to-do list tasks. You may find yourself expanding or compacting some jobs; that's fine. Here are my two lists:
1 - Sweep the floor as best I can' just because there's rubbish around the corners doesn't mean I can't sweep the main bit I'll be working in! (5 minutes)
2 - Clear the sofa; the only thing on there should be cushions and designated blankets. Put everything else (books, laundry and unauthorized blankets) away. (15 minutes)
3 - Collect a small box for the screws from the table and label it. (2 minutes)
4 - Dismantle the big, black table, label the box, and put it all in the garage. (Up to 60 minuets)
5 - Put away everything on the floor that currently has a home. (30 minutes)
6 - Put away everything on the table that currently has a home and doesn't have any out-standing tasks associated with it. (30 minutes)
7 - Deal with the assorted "stuff" laying around the room. (15 minutes)
8 - Check if I have roofing felt. If I do, wrap the piggie cage. If not, take the piggie outside. (60 minutes)
9 - Sort out the stuff on the table and floor that doesn't have a home. Make a list: what are the requirements of it's home, where might I put it, etc. Create a "re-homing" to-do list. (60 minutes)
10 - Make a to-do list of tasks I still have to complete on the table, the same way I've made this one. (60 minutes)
11 - Re-assess the "pending" list. (30 minutes)
1 - Completely finish clearing the table and floor
2 - Fix the living room table.
3 - Thoroughly sweep and clean the floor.
4 - Finished painting the ceiling white.
5 - Finish painting the walls green.
6 - Thoroughly clean, repair and paint the skirting boards.
7 - Buy the remaining tiles.
8 - Re-tile the floor.
Finally, decide what tasks you will set yourself today. My total to-do list has 11 items on it and could take me up to 6 hours to complete. You can just keep working through it and see how much you achieve, if you want, but I find a great way to do it is to do a "good, better, best" system like on a computer game; if all I do today is sort out the sofa and dismantle the table, that's "good" and I can live with that. If I get the table outside and guinea pig cage outside, that's better. If I can put away everything that has a home and do the computer-based assessments for everything else, that's best. That way I have realistic goals I can achieve, but motivation to do more. As with all things, rewards are good; chilling with a cup of tea is a reward for "good," 30 minutes of Skyrim is a reward for "better" and having an evening (i.e. 3 hour chunk from 7:30 - 10:30) completely to myself with no stresses or obligations from anyone else...that's my reward for "best."
Above all, make sure that your goals are realistic for you. What I can achieve today (whilst my son is at school and I have no obligations other than to him) is very different to what another person with a baby and a full work-load will achieve, or what a highly motivated person with no child might achieve. Also, the good-better-best system works for me; a time system (i.e. 30 minutes of work = 15 minutes of chilling) or a "just get on with it" approach may work better for others. Whatever gets it done for you, that's the way to do it!