Recommendations

A Simple Task List Hack

Recently I came upon the Autofocus System of task tracking by Mark Forster.  I went to YouTube to see if I could find a video to give a good visual explanation of it, but I ended up watching a video about Forster’s “Final Version” method instead.  And it’s a variation on this that I’m going to suggest as a task hack today.

The system is extremely simple.  Essentially it is a running list of things that you need to do.  Every time you think of something new that needs doing, it gets added to the bottom of your list.  Every time you finish an item on your list it gets crossed off.  Recurring or incomplete tasks are added to the end of the list when you are done with them for now. It couldn’t be more straightforward.

I chose to trial it around the house in place of a set cleaning schedule and a specific de-cluttering task list.

Here’s how I have been implementing it.

I took my pad of paper and a pen, stood in the middle of my bedroom and took stock of everything that needed to be tidied, cleaned or removed.  I wrote down all the obvious things that needed to be done. Things like ‘put passports away’ were listed alongside ‘clean window sills’ and ‘vacuum the floor’. I moved on to my bathroom and by the end of that I had a full page of tasks to tend to.

Really? One page and I had only been through two rooms!  Holy moly!  Lots of work to get on top of.  So I started.

I started by reading through the list I had made and, driven by my need to get some small wins under my belt, I chose smaller tasks that maximised visual impact.  I cleared up ten out of the sixteen tasks in the bedroom and five out of fourteen tasks in the bathroom.

The following day I re-wrote the list for the unfinished items in the bedroom and bathroom, then went on to add items for the living room, dining area and kitchen.  At this point I stopped when the list had reached two pages long!

By day three I was able to get enough tasks completed that I could add another two and a half rooms, plus note what laundry was waiting to be done.

Each day I was able to make small, but noticeable gains in multiple rooms, while maintaining the successes of the previous day. It was super simple to create the list – all of 5 minutes each day, and really encouraging to see the list shrink and the house become tidier and cleaner.

My big goal is to eventually get all of my household tasks on to the two pages or less.  I know that this will fluctuate depending on how much time I have to spend on these tasks, how much mess we make and what season of the year it is.  But I believe it will be possible.

Here are some observations about why I think this hack may actually work, even if it does fluctuate back and forth a bit.

– I organised the list of things to do in to logical sections – rooms.
– I split the jobs in to smaller parts – ‘put away passports’ instead of ‘clear up room’.

Both of these simple changes to the original idea of the “Final Version” long, rolling list, would fit nicely in many organisational guru’s toolkit.  They are forms of chunking; breaking things down in to small steps that the brain can easily deal with.  It reduces decision fatigue or overwhelm as barriers to achievement.
I also noticed that jobs can’t hide if you list them out this way.  “Wipe down the window sills” no longer hides somewhere in “Clean the room”, and voilà it doesn’t get forgotten or overlooked, or avoided.

– I wrote the list out by hand.
– I re-wrote the list each day.

Handwriting out notes is known to improve engagement with what is being written.*   Re-writing also serves this function, as well as ensuring that I see which tasks are being avoided as they reappear daily on the new list.

Like all organisational systems this one is not a cure all.  It still relies on the human trying to use it.  This human will have good days and bad ones, but on the whole I think that the act of creating the list each day connects to my nature as an obliger and a ‘list-ticking’ one at that.  I want to tick off the list and see it shrink.  I get pleasure out of the changing list and the changing environment that comes from it.  It creates a positive snowball effect.

And what gives us pleasure, we repeat.  Because we’re like that.

At this point I wouldn’t use this for organising my important tasks as I know that the list encourages my tendency to go for the ‘easy wins’ first and then work my way up to the bigger, more time-consuming or onerous tasks.  This wouldn’t be appropriate for me in a work environment as I would want the important tasks to take priority rather than the easy, feel-good ones.

If you give this hack a try, I’d love to hear how it works for you.  Thanks for reading.

 


* I know there’s a scientific study or dozen that backs this up.  If I find a reference to it (them) I’ll pop back and annotate this.

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Recommendations, Reflections

Word of the Day: Anhedonia

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-7-00-29-pmI was reading the New York Times today, as you do, when I was suddenly stopped in my tracks by an unfamiliar word. While the context and parts of the word indicated a similar root as hedonism I needed to head to the dictionary to get a proper definition.   My very spotty understanding and recognition of things Latin, Greek and what-have-you came in handy, but I wanted confirmation of the meaning.
Thank you online Cambridge Dictionary, you came to my rescue and enlightenment.

Today’s word in question is:

Anhedonia

noun
a condition in which someone is unable to experience pleasure

Ever met someone who always looks on the gloomy side of life?  Well, maybe I’ve found the word for you when you need to describe them.
I have to confess that you may see this word pop up now that I know it exists. It has such a nice feel to it.

1001 Books, Books

Book Review: Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

SAS2016 has been a fairly good year of reading for me so far.  Up until the end of this week I have managed to read thirteen books.  Considering I managed a rather feeble twenty books for the year in 2015, this is almost a blistering start.  I could not give a good reason for the change, other than the fact that I managed to get a bit of a roll on while on holiday back in March.  Also, I’ve decided that it is perfectly legitimate to add in my read-aloud kid’s literature.  I mean, when you are reading Carnegie winners and classics like Roald Dahl, how can you not include them in your official reading list for the year !?

Anyway, amongst the March books there were two re-reads for me.  One was a lovely visit back in to the world of Harry Potter, and the other was back to Regency England with Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

I’ve linked to the review I posted over on the 1001 Books blog.

To see what else I’ve indulged in so far this year, you can check out my 2016 Reading List page.

Happiness, Reflections

Gold Stars and Happiness Demerits

shooting-star-147722_1280I was catching up with my Podcast listening after the mayhem of February and settling in of this month.  It was while listening to my favourite ladies at the Happier podcast that it occurred to me some mindfulness would be a good thing to add to my life.  And, most importantly, it wouldn’t require a great deal of effort on my part to do.

I thought I would join in with their weekly gold star and demerits by doing my own here.  So, here’s my first entry.

We’ll start off the week with a Happiness Demerit.
Moving house is my demerit for the week.  Not the actual move, or the house, but the aftermath of moving and the sheer volume of stuff that gets accumulated.  Having that accumulated stuff sitting around the place waiting for a home is the demerit.  I’ve discovered that living in untidy or disorganised spaces really adds a large amount of stress to my life – and therefore makes me unhappy.

In the effort to get our home ed back in to a routine I reduced the amount of time I was spending on tidying up, finding new homes and generally getting rid of unwanted items.  And while it’s done a great job of getting our routines back in place, it’s done nothing to make me happy in our new home.  So this week I think I need to intentionally focus on clearing one room at a time, and encouraging everyone else to keep the usual clearing and cleaning workload to a minimum.

Now taking us up from that is this week’s Gold Star.
I’m giving my star to the new curriculum that I’ve chosen for our home ed this year.
It’s working for me on so many levels and the kids are engaged in all the aspects of it so far.  It’s also really nice to have a simple, clear plan of what to cover. Even nicer is the fact that it involves good quality literature, and I’ve been able to indulge in some Book Depository purchasing.  Thanks to the folk of Build Your Library for helping to make this year go along with a nice, gentle routine.