There are so many times in life where simplicity seems to be the answer to our most complex problems.
One tool I use to keep me on top of my to-do list is the Trello app. I strongly and heartily suggest you download the Trello app immediately. You can use the Trello app on any and all of your devices, and any information you enter into the Trello app will be synched across your devices.
I first learned of the Trello app from the Zen Habits blog. I figured if the blogging king of simplicity, Leo Babauta, uses the app, it should be good for me too. And it is. I have a view of everything on my plate on one screen. I also have the capacity to slice and dice my to-dos until they are in shreds.
The app is designed with simplicity in mind. Your screen view will be of white vertical lists arranged from left to right. You get to decide how many lists you want to keep. You get to decide how to categorize them. You get to decide which order to you keep (or don’t keep) them in. Within each list, you will keep individual “cards,” each indicating a single task (or event or thing to remember or whatever). You get to decide how to prioritize and to organize each card.
Whenever I try to describe how well-designed the Trello app is, I get a little frustrated. My descriptions inevitably end up being more complicated than the actual process you will go through when you get your hands on the actual app and play with it. And it is like play. And who wouldn’t want to inject a little more play into their work?
If you’d like to get a more detailed look at how the Trello app looks and works, please read my recent Lifehack article. For some great ideas on how to use the Trello app to its potential, please read this piece too.
I hope you get as excited about the Trello app as I have been. Do you have any suggestions for other apps I should try? Do you have simple solutions for your own work that you’d like to share?
One of my personal specialties is pretending I don’t have real problems with Procrastination. One of my oldest tricks in getting people to believe this and in actually getting some work done is partnering with a friend or colleague (or total stranger) in order to get stuff done.
Step of the Day: Partner with Someone
The tremendous variety of benefits of finding other people to work with include:
- reducing your own fear
- sharing the actual workload
- learning new writing and working techniques from your partner
- being more inclined to meet your deadline
- getting support for the work
- being able to brainstorm together for higher-quality ideas
- doing the work in a faster amount of time
I think we often mistakenly believe our work is ours and ours alone. It’s as if once we receive an assignment, we feel we have to hole up somewhere without social contact until we’re done. We worry if we ask for a partner to help us do the work, somehow our work will be considered less than good, and that would of course be disastrous #tongueincheek.
If you are still hemming and hawing, here’s a kickstarter list of areas in your life in which you might benefit from finding a partner:
- project planning
- doing chores
- envisioning a new book
Try to see where you might find a way to ease your work burden today, by finding someone to help you make it through to the end of your project, task, or assignment.
- great authors have great editors
- great therapists have great supervisors
- great singers have great coaches
- great athletes have great trainers
- great people have dogs #justsaying
Some of my own best work has been through collaboration with others. Some of my best friendships have been forged in the fire of hard work. Some of the work partnerships I have gotten into have enabled me to triple my productivity. Don’t be shy about it and don’t delay — find a partner today!
If there are areas you would like more help with, please feel free to let me know by commenting here.
Sure, I’m up for being grateful each day as much as the next person. And I do believe whole-heartedly in the benefits of having a sense of appreciation for the things we are, have, and experience.
I also believe in the power of focusing in on what is bugging us. And so, the “Anti-Gratitude List” was born. This doesn’t have to take the form of a list, just as a Gratitude List doesn’t need to have a nice journal to work. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- a drippy faucet
- a fix engine light on
- the way you feel after binge-watching television
- the clutter in your bedroom
- the unease you feel because you haven’t started an application
- the discomfort you feel when you look at your bank or credit card statement
Dig deep into your mind to find the things that upset you before you go to bed or in the middle of the night. Look more on the surface to find the things you dread or are anxious about during a regular day. Download it all onto your list. Then assess it. What can you tackle first? What steps do you need to take to handle the annoyance? What bugger gets to see you in action today?
Feel free to add to the list above by replying with your anti-gratitude sentiments here.
Part of my laundry room refresh project involved purchasing a small piggy bank to help manage the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters that seem to hold meetings and conferences in my laundry machines. Why is this relevant, you say? First, it solved my problem of loose change flying everywhere. Second, it was a very sneaky way to trick myself into being more careful with my dollars and cents. Third, it was easy as pie to implement and gives me a chuckle every time I look at the thing.
What I’ve learned from this venture in organizing is:
- organizing doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated
- you can actually trick yourself into taking care of more minor, irritating matters, like loose change
- it is worth the time to figure out ways to get rid of minor, irritating matters
- you can structure your organization plan to be in line with your larger goals, such as saving more money
I’m planning on having two more piggies come stay at my house because there are more coin conventions downstairs and in the front entryway. I am also trying to figure out more of these sneaky organizing techniques as I go along. I really recommend you do the same for yourself. Have fun!
I would love it if you would share your own simple, but useful organizing techniques here. Feel free of course to share pics of your piggies too.
One of the most defining things about Procrastination is that it is isolating. When we begin to Procrastinate, we take ourselves away from other things we want to be doing and other people we want to be with. And so, it makes sense that one of the best actions you can take to fight Procrastination is to take a step away from what you are avoiding (you read that right) and put your energy into taking care of something or someone else.
Step of the Day: Take Care of Something or Someone Else
I’ll start with some suggestions for things to do to take care of something:
- Schedule your car maintenance appointment for the winter
- Go to the post office to get some stamps
- Write some notes of thanks in honor of Thanksgiving Day and the people in your life who have helped you the most this year
- Donate, recycle, or throw away ten items you have been living with but no longer need
- Replace your fire alarm battery and make sure the alarm works
- Return DVDs or books that are overdue
- Order the new book you have been hearing about and want to read
Here are some ideas for things to do to take care of someone else:
- Offer to do an extra set of chores for someone else to ease their burden
- Give someone positive feedback and encouragement for a project they are starting
- Call or visit someone who has been going through a hard time or who could use your company
- Plan an activity for the winter holidays with friends or family
- Connect with an old friend just to catch up
Though it might seem ironic that I am suggesting you move away from the activity you are trying to avoid, I have found this idea really works. I guess what is important is the idea of free, unencumbered movement. If you are not moving in one way, move in another. Ease your stress, reduce the isolation, and try again. Enjoy and appreciate the reality that you are of free will and that you are connected to other people. Both are the among the most powerful messages you can remind yourself of.
Procrastinators tend to be involved in messy situations. Maybe not so much illicit affairs as much as having one project blend into another, and another, and another. There are many reasons for this, such as:
- problems setting start and finish times
- difficulties wrapping things up
- starting new projects before completing old ones
- being over-eager
- being over-committed
So often, it is helpful to take a breather, even for just a few minutes. When you allow yourself to take a break, you allow yourself the room to evaluate how things are going and how you are doing.
Step of the Day: Allow Yourself Some Breathing Room
You may be so used to going, going, going, that you may have forgotten what a good break looks like. You may feel so guilty about your Procrastination that you never allow yourself even the thought of taking a break. You may think of yourself as being constantly on a “break,” and therefore also do not know what a real break looks like. No matter what your current style of not breathing is, it is possible to learn how.
Here are some suggestions for establishing good breaks for yourself:
- Take a look at your daily, regular routine. Determine where the transition points are, e.g. the five minutes in between classes or the 30-minute commute between work and home.
- Observe how you behave and feel during these transition times. Are you harried? Overwhelmed? Stressed?
- Decide to turn these transition points into good breaks for yourself. When you determine these times will be used to refresh your mind and spirit, there will be less of a chance you will feel anxious. Use these times to remind yourself you are grounded no matter how many projects you have going on.
Once you start finding break points during the day, they will be easier to find. And the more you use them well, the more useful they will be. If you feel absolutely crazed and unable to follow the steps I suggested above, then take advantage of the time just after you wake up to take a break. Roll right out of bed and onto the floor. Don’t handle your smartphone before you hit the floor. And don’t take me literally about hitting the floor. Sit for a few minutes in a relaxed position and breathe. Five minutes will do. Have fun breathing again.
Please feel free to share different ways you have been able to design good breaks for yourself here.
Our capacity to focus is a precious and limited resource. One way to protect your ability to concentrate on larger issues is to take care of more minor issues that have been sticking around on your To Do List for quite some time. This may seem counterintuitive as we believe we need to devote all of our energies to the larger issues and ignore the smaller ones in order to stay afloat. We may even feel like we are wasting time when we bother to take care of the small stuff. The potential problems with ignoring smaller matters are many:
- smaller problems may quietly lead to other problems, like overdue fines and missed enrollment opportunities
- the list of smaller matters becomes too large to keep track of effectively
- you will start to get a nagging feeling
- actual people will begin to nag you
And so, the Step of the Day: Tie Up a Loose End
Here are some suggestions for some loose ends you might want to tackle today:
- return your library books
- write a thank you card
- call your medical insurance company to inquire about your benefits or a claim
- mail a gift
- send a reply to an invitation
- give your pet their monthly medications
- draft a letter as part of your neighborhood volunteer work
Yes, you may have caught on that I am heavily borrowing from my own niggling To Do List for today. But you know, I am writing this post happy to know that Patch is protected from heartworm and fleas this month. And I don’t get a guilty feeling every time I look at his pretty face. Take some time today to make yourself or someone else happy. Have fun with it!
Which loose end will you tie up today? Notice how you feel once you are done, then repeat.
I guess one thing we can always rely on is we will always have laundry to do. There. I said it. It’s the truth. Can’t believe I just typed that.
Given laundry is an everlasting affair, I decided to lend some encouragement for how to get some of it done without drama, denial, depression, or stress.
Step of the Day: Do Your Laundry
Laundry may be the perfect storm for any Procrastinator. It involves coordination, planning, forethought, and feels like a huge waste of time. Oh, and we have to handle dirty and wet also. And, we can always put it off one more day. I think if we can tackle the Laundry-Procrastination dilemma, we can tackle any other part of our Procrastination problem. Look at it as a microlab for working on your Procrastination issues. If that little suggestion didn’t sell you, try these other ideas:
- Speed it up. Gather your clothes to be washed while under a timer for fun.
- Keep your perspective. Laundry will not kill you. Take down your complaining just a notch.
- Stay positive. Avoid feeling like you are suffering during the time you’ve designated for laundry. Be grateful for even this opportunity.
- Think clean. Heck, depending on how big your laundry resistance is, you may be saving the planet by getting your wash done.
- Enjoy it. Call your favorite person while you’re waiting for the spin cycle to finish. Bring some upbeat music along. Decide to appreciate laundry time as alone time.
- Speed it up (again). Fold your clothes with the idea that one load takes only 2 minutes to complete. Try this to see what I mean…
- Remember beginning-middle-end. Get into the habit of thinking of laundry not just as the wash-and-dry process, but also as the process of putting your clean clothes away. Doing this will prevent you from cluttering up your living space.
When you tackle laundry with a can-do attitude and do it over and over again, you will eventually learn at least not to hate laundry. And that may be a big win for you. As with all things, perfection may not be the best goal, but completion may be a worthy one.
You may have come across a recent article “What a Messy Desk Says About You” in The New York Times on the debate about clean vs. cluttered desks. Where do you fall on this continuum? I, am a bit messy. This article made me feel a little bit better, because it says people with cluttered desks tend to be more creative in problem solving than those who work with everything in order. However, I still crave a clean desk. Just do. It would be nice not to spill things on important papers sometimes. Just sometimes.
And so, the Step of the Day is: Declutter Your Workspace
You may not even work at a desk; you may hop around when writing or creating. Not a problem. There are a few things to keep in mind when doing a check-in on your workspace:
- Do you have what you need to work readily available and within reach?
- Are you comfortable?
- Is there enough light?
- Is it quiet enough for you?
- Are there distractions on or around your workspace that take your attention away from your work?
Do yourself a favor and take twenty minutes today to pay attention to the quality of your workspace. Do one thing to improve the overall function and feel of the place. Here are some to-do suggestions:
- do a quick sweep and toss anything expired, junk-like, or ugly
- clear the rest of the items off the surface of your workspace to work from a clean slate
- replace only what you will need on a daily basis
- sort the rest of the items into piles using Post-It Notes to keep track of the piles
- designate a location for these items, e.g. file cabinet, trash, mailbox, urgent file
- add a nice light, plant, or piece of artwork to brighten the mood
I also recommend you visit the website and blog of my friend and colleague Diane Lazor Elkins, the host of Positive Workspace. Her website is a trove of useful information on productivity, simplicity, and organization, and her words are always wise. Get inspired and enjoy your weekend!
With this post, I am introducing the first of what I hope will be a very long line of “Steps,” each of which I think you can do in one day. As Procrastinators, we tend to get lost in thoughts of how things are just not doable. My goal is to help you break out of the cycle of non-activity, in different areas of your life.
Step of the Day: Pay Down Your Debt
We might as well start with one of the hardest topics to take on — debt. Debt is Procrastination in the form of money. It represents actions and items we have chosen to remove from the present-day view by telling ourselves and others that we now “owe.” Debts, whether they be large or small, have a way of locking our thoughts about our future into submission.
We will say —
- I can’t leave this uninspiring job because I owe so much in student loans
- I can’t reconnect with my grandmother because I haven’t started to pay her back
- I can’t begin to imagine a different course of action because I wouldn’t have the funds available to support my plans
One of the most debilitating characteristics about having debt is it makes us feel we are unable to fight against it. It makes us forget we get to make choices about our money. It makes us forget how to take a closer look at how we purchase things. Very interesting. And in forgetting to do those things — would you believe it? — our debt grows and our our confidence and trust in ourselves shrinks.
So for today, start to reverse the debt cycle. I swear, this does not have to feel painful. In fact, it will probably feel like a relief, a no-brainer even. Here are some suggestions for what you may want to do as your first step:
- set up an automated payment with your credit card company or through your bank and avoid future late payment fees
- call someone to whom you owe money and discuss how you will begin to pay that debt in increments
- if you are already making payments towards a debt, increase that amount as even upping it by $10 will help you to get in a better mindset
None of us enjoy having debt. All of us would enjoy having less of it to worry about. We can become overfocused on the actual dollar amount of the debt. Although the dollar amount is real and has meaning, it is only one piece of your debt. Another major piece is how you are behaving towards having the debt and paying it off. So, do yourself a huge favor and turn your attention towards paying down your debt today.
I invite you to share your debt-defying actions here. Congratulations on making your move!