Update: I discussed this topic in more detail with podcast host, Amber O'Hearn of Diapers and Disciples. Listen to the episode here.
This post comes with a caveat: I am a recovering, chronic avoider (one who actively avoids what she is supposed to be doing). However, I have spent enough time with people (specifically my husband) who do what they’re supposed to be doing when they’re supposed to be doing it, and I envied their discipline, productivity and peace. I wanted what they have when it comes to getting stuff done.
During a particularly stressful period of my life within the last year, I found myself wondering how I could create realistic order and routine in my life that would last more than a day or two. I scoured books, the internet, and podcasts and haphazardly applied what I was learning to my disorganized life.
I found that I wasn't coming across anything new. In general, I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but I wasn’t committed to getting it done.
It all boiled down to commitment and diligence.
I could download all of the pretty PDF cleaning routines and step-by-step “makeover your life” programs but unless I chose to own it and do the hard work myself, I would fall back into my avoider ways.
In a fit of desperation, I decided the only way I could create order and routine in my life was by taking small, daily steps in the right direction. That was all I could handle. I quickly discovered how I could get stuff done without losing my mind. It is so simple but it continues to make an impact on my daily life.
Every day I simply tackle the task at hand.
It requires hard-work and diligence, but the amount of discipline, productivity and peace in my life now is remarkable. Instead of wandering through the day aimlessly, wondering what I’m supposed to be doing, I tackle the task at hand and move on to the next thing and I get stuff done. I have found that I really can’t mess it up.
To begin, I listed all of the tasks I need to do on a daily and weekly basis and in the order I wanted to do them. I am home full-time with my sons so my list leans heavily toward caring for them but this method can apply to anyone who wants to be more intentional about tackling the task at hand.
My list of Daily Tasks
Review dinner plan
Get ready for the day
Boys - up/dressed
Breakfast - make and eat
Breakfast clean-up/dishes loaded
Time with boys (or outing)
Chore (see weekly list)
Lunch - make and eat
Time with boys/nap prep
Naps (see weekly list)
Time with boys
Dinner - make and eat
Dinner clean-up (load/start dishwasher, take out kitchen trash, hand-wash dishes)
Boys' bedtime prep/bedtime
Evening (see weekly list)
By creating the list (above), I immediately felt like I had lifted a burden. Now, I prioritize "my" time at the beginning of the day. I also review the day's dinner plan in the morning, eliminating any surprises at the end of the day.
Two unexpected benefits to creating this list was that I found areas of our days that I could delegate to my husband. The list also clarified when I should focus on productivity vs. when I should be more intentional with my sons.
After creating the list, I simply tried to live it by beginning with the first task and I quickly found a routine that worked for me. I didn't include hours of the day because it was easier for me to move from task to task than be restricted by a timetable.
Some days I have trouble getting to all of the tasks listed (hello, exercise) but I give myself permission to attempt to make progress even if it's not pretty or perfect.
Interruptions and distractions are inevitable.
I have three young sons so the task at hand is usually interrupted. When I find myself wondering what I should be doing after an interruption or I find myself distracted, I stop and ask myself, what is the task at hand?
I remind myself to focus on progress over perfection.
More often than not, after identifying the task at hand, I find I have the direction I need to get it done. Upon completion, I have momentum to move on to the next thing.
If you have trouble getting things done, take it from this former (recovering) avoider: look at what needs to get done today and tackle the task at hand.
I know life can feel overwhelming and even the smallest steps are daunting. Commit to doing the one thing that is right before you. When you are done, move on to the next thing and begin to build momentum toward a routine.
I am excited to hear how it goes for you! Please leave a note in the comments about any victories you have today (no matter how small).
Remember, we are taking small steps focusing on progress over perfection. You’ve got this!