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The Secret to Getting Icky Things Done

Posted Nov 22 2009 12:58pm

Sometimes household chores stay on my “to do” list for weeks.  Every time I think of them, I wince…..”Oh no, I’ve got to do X.”  The longer it’s been on my list, the more punishing the thought is and a feeling of overwhelm or dread washes over me.  Sometimes it’s very mild, sometimes it’s spicy hot.

A case in point.  I’ve been meaning to rake the leaves, mow one last time, and sweep the leaves and nut shells off the deck before it turns cold.  Oh yes, and sweep the stairs going down to the basement (dirt, leaves, cob webs, dead crickets, etc.)  In other words, yuck. 

In the back of my mind, these tasks have been taunting me, “you never have enough time, you’re not very well organized, you’re lazy, you should have done this sooner.”  There’s always a little bit of truth to the voice that taunts – just enough truth that I can choose to feel bad about myself.  Or I can shush that voice because it clearly is just speaking up to cause trouble.  Any bit of truth it speaks is just a tiny bit of the whole truth.  That same voice speaks to you.  The whole truth is that everyone is busy, everyone has tasks they don’t want to do, and everyone does their best…even if it isn’t very good at times.

Sometimes making a to-do list works wonders, and sometimes it’s the kiss of death for the tasks.  Once the items are grouped into one big, long list, the self-talk can get really ugly.  Negative self-talk saps energy and momentum, so I caution you not to get caught up in it.  If it speaks up, tell it to hush up because you’ve got a plan.  A plan??  Yes, a plan. 

This is what I do when my to-do list isn’t working.  I just do the task.  I don’t look directly at it and just do it.  Oh, I’m raking the leaves.  Oh, I’m sweeping the steps.  In other words I start in, not thinking about the dreaded task.  I do the first thing that comes to mind like grab a broom.  That step is pretty easy.  And then I just flow with it moving from sweeping to raking to mowing–not thinking, but doing.

When I feel like I’ve had enough, I stop.  But I don’t stop when I “think” I’ve had enough.  That little devil on my shoulder often pipes up when I’m close to finishing a task.  She says, “Just go and have a cup of coffee, you can finish this up later.”  I used to fall for it and stop before finishing.  Now I ignore the voice because I know I’ll feel much better finishing the task now.  There’s nothing like a finished task. 

Now I’m sitting on my tidy deck with a cup of coffee surveying my success.  Yesterday I raked and mowed.  Today I swept and straightened.  This coffee sure does taste great!

In summary:  Do “the thing” first, before doing what you want to do like drink a cup of coffee, fire up your computer to check emails, call a friend, or turn on the TV.  Do the thing first.  Don’t put it on a list or shove it to the back of your mind to do later, do it first.  Do it now.  The rest of your day will go much better, you’ll feel good about yourself, and you’ll enjoy the fun stuff more.

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