Successful strategies to attack your to-do list
There are apps that help people spend less time on their devices
Our issue’s theme, “Get It Done,” isn’t like talking about kitchens or backyards, where we can discuss hot new products that make for stunning results. That made writing this issue’s column a little tricky, but not impossible. It’s just a column more about ideas and action than stuff.
Reducing interruptions and distractions
A 2013 study published by Cubesmart, Inc. said we experience interruptions every eight minutes, and that each distracts us for five to fifteen minutes. It doesn’t take a math genius to see how much time gets eaten up when we don’t do anything to control how often we’re pulled off task. These days, it’s not just noisy coworkers that divert our attention; all it takes is a buzz of the phone, the ding of Snapchat notification, or a click on a YouTube link.
Worse? Because we tend to “kill time” on our phones, we don’t use downtime to get things done either. Got fifteen minutes to kill before your ride arrives? In the past, we might have picked up the living room; now, we wait on our phones. Hobbies have also taken a hit because, for many, phones make a perfectly good pastime.
So, what to do? Reducing electronic time seems obvious, but it’s easier said than done. One easy way to reduce time is to turn off all notifications; the lure of those little red circles can be more than some people can stand. Leave your phone in another room when you set to perform a task that will take under an hour; better yet, make it one of several phone-free periods of the day. Check out QualityTime (for Android) or Moment (for iPhone) to monitor how much time you spend on your phones, and set goals for reduced usage.
But what about the internet, the alluring time-suck and enemy of productivity? Ironically, the problem is also the solution. Sites like SelfControl and StayFocused allow you to set parameters to limit the amount of time you spend on certain sites. Focus Booster and RescueTime help you set goals for productivity and time use.
However you do it, reducing interruptions and distractions will result in more time to get it done—whatever it is.
The National Association of Professional Organizers (napo.net) has grown to more than 3,500 members since it began in 1983, with no slow-down in sight. A quick search found four members within fifteen miles of my home. Decluttering, cleaning out, getting ready to move—those chores are never on anybody’s Most Fun Things To Do list, and having someone to keep things on task (think personal trainer) is an increasingly popular option in the quest to get those things done.
The less you have, the less there is to do in the way of home tasks and maintenance. Nobody’s saying you need to buy a tiny house or pull a personal Thoreau, but if you Google “simplify your life,” you’ll find nearly eighteen million results and life hacks to help reduce stress and the length of your to-do list by making things easier in every area of your life from cell phone use to streamlining your wardrobe. The results of voluntary simplicity? Advocates say it reduces stress, debt, boredom, and feelings of being overwhelmed, and helps you reconnect with the things and people you love.
Services, not stuff
More and more, working folks are finding that jobs and obligations render them too busy for things like cooking and shopping, let alone cleaning out the garage. On cue, services have jumped in to solve the problem—for a fee. Instacart allows for timely grocery store deliveries, Skip The Dishes lets you order from myriad restaurants beyond pizza and Chinese, and a host of operations will clean up just about anything. Business Insider reported in June 2017 that millennials are less into stuff and more into experiences. That translates into using money to make life easier and more fun, a trend that’s catching on.
Yep. Google it; it’s a thing. And it relies on a degree of self-deception to turn our procrastinating weaknesses into strengths that actually get things done—although not necessarily the things you need/want to get done, or in the proper order. The point is that stuff gets done. Which is our goal, right?
Find what works for you
Ask around and you’ll hear lots of advice on how to get things done. Some people wake up early. Some make lists. Some hire people. Some use an app literally called Get It Done. If nothing here seems right for you, go Google “how to get things done” and you’ll be hit with a deluge of tips, tricks, ideas, life hacks, and ways to not only start what you need to do, but finish it. Just don’t spend too long researching… pick a method and get it done.