One reason why you procrastinate is because you “don’t know how long a task will take and this creates anxiety, causing the thought of doing the task as more unpleasant than it really is.” In order to avoid this trap, try these three easy steps:
1). Realistic Estimates
It is very tempting to delay a task thinking you will have plenty of time to complete it and then end up missing your deadline or being late causing even more problems.
Try estimating how long a task will take. Remember that time in hours or minutes. For example, to iron one shirt it is estimated to take 5 minutes. Then do the task (iron the shirt), record the actual time (maybe it only took 3 minutes to iron the shirt), and compare the actual time it took to your estimate. In this example, it only took 3 minutes to iron the shirt instead of 5 minutes.
Now you have a better, more realistic idea of how long that task really takes. Next time you have to do this task, remember the actual time it took you last time. Now the anxiety of wondering how long the task will take will be eliminated/reduced.
2). One big project
If you see a task with many steps that is really a project. To make a project more manageable, break the project down into small “next” steps.
For example, if you were to do the laundry… Break it down into “what is the next step?” The following might be the steps to do laundry:
- Collect the dirty clothes
- Sort and separate colors and whites
- Put clothes into the washing machine
- Put clean clothes into the dryer
- Fold clothes
- Put clothes away
By breaking things down into parts that are easier to see and estimate (see #1 above), you will see that each task is doable and easier to complete. You may not get to each step but you would have made a good start in the right direction!
3). To-Do Lists
In order to remember to do a task, create a To-Do List. Be sure to only write on the to-do list what the “next” step is (see #2 above) instead of the project (“do laundry”). By doing this, it will help reduce the anxiety of wondering how you will get this project completed.
Then if you get interrupted on one of the “next” steps, write that “next” step down on your to-do list. Be sure to cross off each completed step from the to-do list so you will have that good feeling of accomplishing something during that day.
After a while, you will get better at just remembering what still needs to be done and what you accomplished by using your memory instead of having to do a to-do list. At the end of my days, I run through my mind all the tasks that I did that day and say to myself, “Wow, I got a lot done today!”
Written by: Teresa James, CPO®, ASP® with Organize and Stage Your Home
Certified Professional Organizer
Accredited Staging Professional
Call Today for help with Time Management at (901) 229-4570
Contact Teresa James
Organizing papers is a task that will inspire most of us to procrastinate. Breaking down any task into small manageable parts can take the dreadfulness out of starting. Don’t worry, I promise organizing your papers will be painless!
- Have a consistent landing place for the incoming mail. This can be a small decorative basket by/on the desk where the bills are paid. Keeping this routine, will help you and others always find that important bill without sending out a search party.
- If you are over-whelmed with the volume of mail, keep in mind you only have to make three decisions for each piece of mail. (a). Action – for papers to be acted upon: pay a bill, make a phone call, fill out a form, give to someone else to deal with, etc. (b). File – for papers to be filed away for reference. (c). Toss – for papers to be trashed, recycled or shredded.
- Now that you have three separate piles, the “Action” pile will not look so massive and will be more approachable. Place the “Toss” in the trash, recycle, or shred bins. Place the “File” in the filing cabinet’s basket/container to be filed later (hopefully once a week) when you have the time. The “Action” papers will be divided even further into these categories: (a). Calendar – i.e. Invitations, Appointments, Meetings, and Date/Time Events. (b). To Do List – i.e. Tasks requiring action like wash car, buy a calendar, etc. (c). Action Folders – i.e. Place bills in PAY BILLS folder/container. (d). Frequently Use Files – i.e. Accordion folder of tax-related papers, Project files, etc.
- Now take action on the Action Categories. (a). Go ahead and enter the calendar events into your calendar so you can toss and eliminate the now extraneous piece of paper. (b). When creating your To Do List, only write what the next step is, not all of the steps for this project. For example to prepare for a dinner party, the next step task might be Prepare Menu. (c). Select an action folder that you want/need to work on now. This will be determined by where you are located, what you have access to (phone, computer, files, etc.), the amount of time available, priorities, and what you feel like. (d). Any files that you are consistently using during the week need to be stored close by your work station. These Frequently Use Files could be Project Files, Accordion Folder of Tax-Related Papers, and Action Folders. You want them close by for easy access. After using them, place them back in their folder so you can find them when you need them the next time.
- The key to maintaining organized papers is to regularly process your papers. Don’t let paper accumulate into huge, unmanageable piles because you may end up postponing it indefinitely. The best way to start organizing paper piles is to pick a stack, any stack. Don’t worry about all the other stacks – we will get to them one at a time (remember small manageable parts). Pick a time of day when you can focus on this task. Review your To Do List and if a task has a target/deadline date put it on the calendar now. Be sure to prioritize this list. Be sure you are filing those papers into your filing reference cabinet at least once a week, to prevent piling up here too. Every so often, once a month, once a year, or when you pick up a thick file folder, purge papers that are no longer needed.
In Summary, process incoming mail immediately. Open and toss extraneous material. Sort and put the rest in your action or reference file folders. Act on your To Do List and also the papers in the action file folders every day, or at the least, every other day to avoid not taking action indefinitely. Add calendar events and tasks to your To Do List. And purge and maintain your papers.
If you need help with your piles of papers and setting up an easy paper system, contact Teresa James, CPO® with Organize and Stage Your Home at (901) 752-5522 or Teresa@OASYH.com for paper and time management.
Contact Form: (If you need to contact Teresa James)