This week I tested whether Mark Forster’s concept of Little and Often could help me get more done. I used this concept in conjunction with Do it Tomorrow and Routines, deleting tasks more than 3 days past due.
How Little & Often Saved My Sanity This Week
- Enabled me to finish projects I’d put off . I cleared my backlog of a project I’ve felt guilty about not doing for over a year. Where the Guilt Hour failed, Little and Often succeeded. There’s something about having to do the smallest thing to move a project forward that works like magic on my procrastination.
- Prevented future overwhelm. I’m amazed by how many things I finished well ahead of time that normally came down to the wire. As I keep moving projects forward little by little, well before they are due, I know my stress level will remain low into the future.
- Helped me establish new habits. I learned I was avoiding some of my routine tasks (especially in the evening), because I felt they had to be done completely or perfectly to count. This week, I gave myself a gold star on my HomeRoutines app if I did anything at all toward that task. The great thing is, of course, that once I started, I usually did more than one little thing. The big surprise for me is that all of these benefits made me feel better about my time usage and put me in a great mood.
How Little & Often Made Me Crazy This Week
- Uncertainty about deleting tasks. I wasn’t completely sure how I would handle deleting (and reinstating) routine tasks when I hadn’t done them in 3 days. I didn’t know if I missed a daily chore if I had to spend three times as much time on it or if doing it once out of the three days counted. Not knowing made me anxious. I ended up failing to do any of the special chores I have assigned to Saturdays before they were more than three days overdue. I deleted them. But then I wondered what to do with them? I decided that as long as I have done a daily chore at least once within that 3 day overdue time frame, it can stay on my list. Special chores assigned to a certain day can be reassigned to the day you actually move them forward. This rule will apply to tasks deleted from my ToDoist list. If a task gets deleted, I can add it to tomorrow’s list if I do at least something on it today (which I will have to do just by remembering to do it). If I work on my deleted Saturday tasks on Sunday, I can add them to that days’ list. My rationale is that this will add tasks to the list on days when they are most likely to be done. Further, taking action should be rewarded by allowing a project to be added back to the list.
- Can feel scattered. A little and often approach means I am juggling lots and lots of balls. Sometimes that felt a little scary. I kept waiting for something to fall. It didn’t. While I didn’t get to spend as much time focused on singular pursuits, for my lifestyle, this is a benefit. I don’t have just one hobby with a very defined job. Little and often in that situation could be quite crazy-making. But if that were my lifestyle, I wouldn’t be doing this series!
Did Little and Often Help Me Get More Done?
YES! Of all the approaches I’ve tested so far, this one has made the most significant impact on my productivity. What’s more, I love it. Applying little and often to my routine tasks has helped me get control of that aspect of my life, too. When I start to expect too much of myself, deleting tasks seems capable of keeping my life in balance. I get up every day excited to see what I need to do to move things forward and keep projects from the chopping block.
This week I’ll be testing a problem-solving approach. I’ll primarily use Scott Young’s idea of writing to solve personal problems. If that doesn’t work, I’ll work through Mind Tools’ productive thinking model.
The concept. We all have unique problems to solve with respect to our productivity. Unless those specific issues are addressed, changing apps or to-do lists are unlikely to succeed in improving your time management. In fact, much of our time is wasted pondering these problems, which may have little to do with work itself. If we have a relationship problem, we may keep rereading the same paragraphs over and over as we fixate on what so-and-so said. If unrealistic demands are being made of you, using Google Calendar won’t fix things right up.
Using a problem-solving approach takes it out of the realm of the personal and the emotional. When I was in practice, I often had my clients write down everything that was bothering them. Adjacent to each problem, I would have them write down a potential action to take. Even if no action was taken, the process of writing out the problems often freed my clients up from related anxiety. My approach was similar to Scott Young’s, except he advises us to write until we feel like we have a solution. MindTools, on the other hand, would have us treat problems in a very objective way. One of the most helpful steps in their process is to get input from others. Problems that seem impossible to solve because of our connection to them, may offer easy solutions to others.
If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Keep track of personal and professional problems you are having. Take Scott Young’s approach and write about them until you feel like you have an answer. As a Christian, I prefer to combine this process with prayer. If you are still struggling, work through Mind Tools’ steps, taking advantage of many of the helps they offer. If you’d like a fresh perspective on the area where you’re struggling, feel free to comment here, on the Facebook Page, or on Google+, referencing me with +Melanie Wilson. I’ll be looking for advice for areas I feel stuck in as well.
Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far: