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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

One thing is for sure.  Life can be overwhelming and it’s hard enough just to get through each week to attempt some relaxation and fun on the weekends.  Who has time for overhaul-type re-organization?  I try to do a major purge twice a year, and with the fall time-change coming up this weekend, it’s that time of year again.

Plan well:  I start with a list of all that I’d like to accomplish.  It is easier to prioritize and stay on task with my thoughts written down and formed into a game plan. 

Two small kids don’t allow for much focused project time, not to mention two working parents that want to savor some family down-time each weekend, and big projects can often get put off for so long that before we know it, it isn’t worth putting the summer clothes away anymore because it’s almost spring again!

Break it up:  The key to successfully tackling a big project is to break it up into manageable pieces.  When I make my list of goals for my semi-annual purge and re-organization, I leave room under each goal to break it up into smaller tasks that can easily be completed in about 20 minutes.  The length of the task could vary, depending on what kind of time increment works for you, but the idea remains the same. 

I have found that doing the same with the weekly household chores works better for me than trying to barrel through all of them at one time during the week.  I end up frustrated because I get interrupted after about 20 minutes every time.  Incidentally, this is how I settled on 20 minute tasks.

Factor in the follow-through:  When planning or breaking up tasks, remember time needed to clean up from an involved project, time to take donations to their destinations, or any other important parts of the project that might get neglected.  The hardest for me is when I have a pile of little things leftover from cleaning out a drawer or cabinet that I don’t quite know what to do with and I’m too tired to make good choices.  I’m likely to just stick them somewhere random.  I gather up these leftovers and put them in a basket to deal with as a separate task when I’m fresh. 

Reward yourself:  For me, continued motivation to complete the big project is dependent on my ability to get a sense of accomplishment from conquering the small tasks along the way.  I consider this sense of accomplishment in planning tasks, because I know that if a task is lacking in reward, I will procrastinate or not do it at all.  If a task has no silver lining, reward yourself in a different way, such as allowing for some guilt-free alone time with a good book or a special family activity.

Don’t let your expectations outpace reality:  This one is always a challenge for me.  I have a lot going on in many areas of my life, and I expect a lot from myself.  If your planning reveals 65 20-minute tasks to get through a big project, don’t expect it to be done in a week.  This is another benefit of writing down your goals, along with the tasks involved.  You can not only have the satisfaction of physically crossing off items, but you also have a reminder of what is still left to do and you can re-adjust your expectations as life bumps your projects to the back burner.  

How do you get through big projects on little time??

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