Let’s face it: there is no perfect task management system. Most of the books about productivity seem to be written for business people or super-organized Moms, not for the rest of us. And I’m a firm believer that we should find ways to work with our personality and life situation. What works for me in this season of life wouldn’t work for my daughters who have small children.
However, there are general principles that tend to work for most people when it comes to managing all the stuff they have to do. Actually we don’t manage tasks, we manage life. And in managing life, it’s important that we manage our energy. That’s really what we’re spending as we go about our daily tasks. We start our day with a certain amount of energy, both emotional and physical. When it gets used up, we’re not going to get much else done.
That’s why it’s so important to monitor where we’re spending that energy, whether it’s mindless scrolling through Facebook or negative blogs or staying up too late.
So start with awareness of your energy, and then use these two better ways to get stuff done:
1) Do it EARLY
2) Do it TOMORROW
At first glance these tips may appear to contradict each other, but let me explain.
Do it early means that, as much as possible, get as much done ahead of time as you can. When you spread out preparations, the work seems to almost do itself. Getting things done early leaves room for creativity and excellence, while a last-minute rush leads to getting by with as little as possible. It feels good to have something done ahead of time and to be ready just in case. It’s satisfying and powerful. Most of the time, the things we save for “later” end up causing more stress and worry than they would have if we had just done them right away or ahead of time.
Here are some examples of doing-it-early:
- Start packing for a trip several days ahead
- Write blog posts several days (or more) ahead of time
- Make ahead and freeze meals or ingredients such as browned hamburger
- Plan meals and buy ingredients to have on hand
- Put gas in the car when it gets to half a tank instead of empty
- Have kids take a shower and wash hair the night before instead of leaving the house with wet hair the next day
- Do laundry before every piece of clothing in the house is dirty
- Make bill payments early instead of late (your credit score and nerves will thank you)
Do it tomorrow means that the tasks that come up during the day–the ones that weren’t on your to-do list–get put on a list to do tomorrow. Do you really need to run to the store or spend time searching for an answer to that email TODAY? Do random tasks pop up and crowd out the ones you had planned to do today? That can make you feel frazzled and frustrated. Calmly assigning those tasks to another day or time, rather than impulsively responding immediately, can help you regain a sense of control. Start a list for tomorrow or later so it’s not lurking in your head, then get back to what you really wanted to do.
Meanwhile, don’t take responsibility for someone else’s lack of planning, as much as it is within your power to avoid it. Sometimes it can’t be avoided when the someone is a spouse or child, but even then it might be a good lesson for them.
Do a quick assessment to make sure you’re not stuck using old ways of getting things done. What used to work for you may not work now, as your situation and responsibilities have changed. Nobody gets it perfect, but mindfully consider better ways to get stuff done for YOUR life, not some expert somewhere.
Hey, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not getting all of my stuff done! But I’m always learning and improving. Do you have any “better ways” to share?