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Getting through your to-do list


My entire reason for living is to check things off of to-do lists; I’m a David Allen groupie, and I recently stuck a mini whiteboard to my car’s dashboard so that I can write lists on the move. (I know, not the safest addition – but it beats searching for a pen and a slip of paper while driving.) I live for the exilhirating moment when I get to strike a nice thick line through a task. Even if that task is something inconsequential, like “write a blog post about your unhealthy addiction to list-making”.

Right now, we’re staring down a to-do list that’d make even the most seasoned fixer-upper twitch a little. It’s the “if we get these things done, the inside of our house will look like a normal house instead of a construction zone” list, THE LIST if you will, and it has a permanent home right next to the coffee maker. It has lots of scribbles and highlighter marks, and an ever-growing number of things checked off. After 2.5 years and more lists than I’ll ever be able to count, it amazes me that we’re finally whittling them down to something almost manageable.

Over time, I’ve gotten very good at tricking myself into starting things on THE LIST. If you’re thinking about buying a fixer-upper house, you’ve got to develop your own tricks for getting things done. Because at some point, the excitement will wear off and you’ll still have a whole bunch of things that need to get finished. Things that bore the crap out of you, or are a giant pain in the ass, or just plain make you want to poke your eyes out. (Rewiring electrical outlets comes to mind…)

ZenHabits just posted a new article about how to execute your to-do list, with some great ideas. You can read it here:
How to Actually Execute Your To-Do List: or, Why Writing It Down Doesn’t Actually Get It Done

Personally, I have problems starting a task. I get overwhelmed with the idea of having to do the whole thing all at once, or within some self-constructed timeframe. Once I’ve started, I am a productivity maniac.

The easiest way for me to get over the pre-start jitters is to tell myself I only have to work for a little while. I also use this trick to get myself to the gym, and it works wonders. I bargain with myself – “I’ll get my paint clothes on and get the trim on one window painted. After that I’m free to clock out.” By the time I’m dressed and painting, I realize I might as well keep going. Usually, the work isn’t half as bad as I’ve built it up to be in my head.

What mind games do you guys play to keep yourself moving?

Comments, Thoughts, and Feedback

Trissa had this to say on 07.11.07:

Lists help me a bunch as well. I also throw something in that I really want to do for motivation at the end, or for breaks in between. (Maybe sitting on the porch and reading a book, or going for a walk.) Other times I look back over the pictures of what we’ve accomplished & as always if I sit down and read about what my favorite house bloggers are doing, that usually gets me ready to work.

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