Cracker Crumbs and To-Do Lists

We take comfortable beds for granted, until there are cracker crumbs between the sheets. And like cracker crumbs under the covers, sometimes your to-do list can feel gritty and uncomfortable. You know you need to get some things done but you’re procrastinating and you need some fast motivation.

The solution for the crumbs is to wash the sheets, and there are also some quick fixes for the tasks that are bugging you.

The first thing is to reduce the discomfort and smooth the way. Minimize the things that are scratching and getting in the way.

What are some of the crumbs in the sheets of your to-do list?

  • Feeling intimidated by a big project
  • Getting distracted by the internet: Pinterest, Facebook, reading blogs…
  • Continually “getting ready” instead of getting to work
  • Getting overwhelmed by having too much to do
  • Avoiding a job because it’s hard
  • Dreading a task that’s boring
  • Having other people pile on the to-do’s with emails, private messages, calls, etc.

How can you brush away the scratchy feelings of guilt and procrastination?

A good start is to figure out the issues that are causing you to put off getting started. Then find a way to drastically reduce or eliminate the issue.

Break a big project into really small tasks. Instead of listing “Clean bedroom,” write things like “Clear dresser top” and “pick up dirty clothes.” Be sure to draw a big, satisfying line through that item on your list when it’s done.

Get rid of distractions. Turn off notifications, set an alarm to check email only at certain times. Clean up your work area to remove visual clutter, but don’t turn it into an excuse to put off your to-do list.

Set a timer to focus and work on one thing. No fair using the time to “get ready.”

Besides strategies to help you get started, it’s helpful to analyze why you feel stress about your to-do’s:

Avoiding a job because it’s hard is another form of fear. As long as we avoid and don’t look at the issue it has power over us. Bring it out into the open by sitting down with pen and paper. List the steps to accomplish the job. Write down “what’s the worst thing that will happen if I don’t do this perfectly?” Write about your purpose for doing the task, the big “why.” Figure out the underlying reason for avoiding the job. Shining a flashlight in the dark corner will remove the unknown and you can see it for what it is.

Dreading a boring task makes it easy to put off. Everyone has something they don’t want to do because it’s boring, but if your boring task is essential, it’s time to find efficient ways to do it—and to make an attitude adjustment.

Email and phone calls can be a way for you to take on other people’s priorities. Of course there are important and necessary last-minute tasks that originate with other people, but often we jump at the first hint of a request because it’s more fulfilling and straightforward than our own task list. Don’t bow down to every command of the inbox. Decide when to fulfill requests and move forward with your own stuff.

It’s quick and easy to brush the crumbs away on the sheets but it’s not a long-term solution. In the same way that there’s no replacement for washing the sheets, it’s better to look honestly at what’s stressing you about your to-do list, and figure out solutions.

In the meantime, try some quick fixes to get going again. And don’t eat crackers in bed.

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