Time management Monday: Task-completion methods

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Do any of these sound familiar:

You walk into your bedroom ready for a good night’s sleep, and you see the picture leaning up against the wall that you’ve been meaning to hang for weeks now.

You show up at a meeting or event without things you were supposed to bring with you.

You forget bills due, or seem to be constantly behind on household chores (like that perpetual pile of laundry).

What you need is a method for getting these tasks done. There are several types of task-completion methods, each with their pros and cons. Which of these will work best for you in your particular circumstances:

Task list: Ah, the good old-fashioned to-do list. This is the classic way of remembering what you need to do. Write it down on a list. More and more studies show that writing by hand helps you remember. There are loads of ways to write task lists: master lists, categorized lists, etc. The most effective way to keep a list is in something that is easy to use and is with you all the time, like a pocket notebook.

Downside: First you must remember to write the task on the list, then you need to look at your list often so you remember to do your tasks at the appropriate time.

Visual cues: Put things where you will see them at the time and place they need action. For example, put that picture you need to hang in the living room or someplace you will see it when you are up and active, and will remember to hang it. Put things you need to take with you to meetings or events in front of the door so you have to see it before you leave.

Downside: This method may not be for people who don’t like things to be out of place. And yet, maybe it would spur you into action even more?

Routines: Especially for things that must be done every day, create routines that allow you to streamline chores and work. For example, run the dishwasher every evening and put the dishes away every morning. Check emails at certain times of the day. Group similar tasks together. Systems like Fly Lady and others incorporate routines to help you break bad habits.

Downside: It takes time to establish routines and make them stick. Until routines become second nature, it can be easy to slip back into your old ways.

The most organized people use all three of these methods, and know when it’s appropriate to use which one. Decide which methods work best for you. For example, some people get their laundry finished when it’s a routine chore that they don’t even have to think about doing. Other people like to write Laundry on their task list so the satisfaction of checking it off is their reward. Other people put the basket of clean laundry next to the couch so they can remember to fold it while they are watching TV. Do what works for you, then crank through those tasks!

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