Takin’ down the ‘to do’ list

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At book club the other night we got into a deep discussion on the dreaded “to do” list which has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.

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I was shocked to learn that not everyone keeps a running “to do” list…mine is running because I don’t think I’ve ever actually COMPLETE my daily list. It just runs on from day to day with some chores in danger of never getting done.

“Wash the windows” has been on the list for four years. Pangs of guilt strike every morning when there it is, facing me again.

I also have a monthly “to do” list, a yearly “to do” list and a “bucket list” of what I’d like to accomplish before kicking the bucket.  Enough already!  My obsession with lists is probably preventing me from getting anything done …it’s just too overwhelming.

Sometimes our lists include basic chores that must be done. In other cases, it’s the boring part of an otherwise interesting project.  The latter is my problem.

Here are a few strategies you can use to make bad tasting tasks a little more pleasant according to an article by Scott Young.

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The first is simply to focus on it. You might have noticed that you chew a lot more when you don’t like the food in your mouth. This is probably an instinctive reaction to force you to carefully examine what you’re going to eat before you swallow.

Supposedly, you can do the same thing with the work you don’t like. By focusing on boring or awful work, it is easier to overcome your reflex to spit it out and work on something else.  You can even turn it into a sort of art.  (Weeding the flower bed can become fun if you take your time and feel a little charged up each time you get one by the roots.)

“I’ve often found that focusing on work intensely can even make me like tasks I once hated. I normally hate cleaning, but if I invest 100% of my attention towards it, the chore becomes a lot more fun,” observed the writer.

Normally, the first reaction to unenjoyable tasks is to “get it over with”. Finishing as quickly as possible so you can move on to something better. However, with this attitude, it is a lot easier to never get started at all, and procrastinate forever.

I have begun putting off making my bed in the morning.  Why do I feel it necessary to place two dozen pillows on the bed? It takes a long time to pick them up off the floor and put them back in perfect formation. So I put off the chore until I can’t stand it anymore – sometimes waiting until 4 p.m. which is craziness since I’ll be ripping them off again in a few hours!

I’m going to try  taking a reversed approach. The next time I have an activity I hate, I will commit to focus on it completely. Invest all of my mental energy and concentrate on the activity until there is nothing else in the world.

While mulling over this problem with “to dos”, I had a light bulb moment.  If I spend more time on each item, I won’t get as much done, but what I do get done will be done more effectively and maybe I can develop a sense of pride about my performance and the results.  Does that make sense?

beforeIn the meantime, I’m going for a minimalist approach on my bedding and chucking the frou-frou pillows.  They are so “nineties.”

They will be replaced with one long pillow, and I figure I’ll have an extra 40 seconds each day to do something fun.

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