18 Ways to Catch Up on Work

12/06/2010

No theme except "excess"

Urgency Day 261

500 Things Items 228-245: 18 Assorted Cast-offs


Neglect is a terrible way to say thank you.

And I have been neglecting this space since Thanksgiving. Today, I work my way through this slight with a massive purge of 18 items. The effort also got me thinking about my strategies for catching up on work when it gets overwhelming. So in honor of un-possessing 18 things, I offer:

18 Ways to Catch Up on Work

  1. List list list. The overwhelmed person’s version of “location location location.” There is simply no better way to get started than to see what needs to get done.
  2. Cut the list in half. Just as with the advice that when you lay out your clothes for a trip, you should put half away; once you’ve made your to-do list, you should cut the list in half. How? Ruthlessly prioritize and see #12.
  3. Set a deadline. Deadlines create urgency; just don’t make the deadline too far off. Remember college term papers? You’ll don’t want to end up needing to…
  4. Pull an all-nighter. Some people swear by them; I just end up swearing. But the fact is, at three a.m., the phone probably won’t ring, the kids probably won’t argue and the dinner probably won’t have to be started. If you’re a night-owl, I say use your powers for good.
  5. Work in short bursts. It’s so much healthier—and at my age, more likely to happen– than staying up all night. Set a timer for 10 minutes. More can be accomplished in 10 minutes than you think at the beginning of the 10 minutes– and those minutes add up. And sometimes you get so involved, you work much longer than 10 minutes.
  6. Work through lunch. Lunch is short, so this qualifies as a short burst. Honestly, though, I think France would like my French name back for recommending this, it is so anathema to the French. And to most civilized people.
  7. Offer yourself a bribe. It works on kids and politicians, so secretly shake on it: Once the work gets done, you can have some chocolate or an endorsement from the pharmaceutical lobby. Xanax, anyone?
  8. Dock your pay. Instead of a bribe, caution yourself that if you don’t get the work done, it’s coming out of your compensation. No wine for you tonight.
  9. Enlist help. When I ask for their help, I continue to be delighted with the quality of work I get out of my darling husband and son, and baffled why I don’t ask them more. But they do have to be asked. I keep forgetting to put Install mind-reading ability in family on my to-do list.
  10. Do it right when it occurs to you. I said this to my Sam yesterday. “Don’t put things off.” It’s the old stitch-in-time idea. Plus, for me, this suggestion often revolves around an urge to…
  11. Be grateful. My friend Sydney calls them “love spasms,” those times you get an overpowering urge to say “wow, thank you” or “I love you” to your mom or to a friend or to the teacher who just wrote your kid the most heartfelt letter of recommendation. When you are overtaken with this desire, immediately drop everything, and do it! You won’t necessarily make progress on your list, but your life will improve.
  12. Cheat (a little). For example, count the set of 8 placemats as 8 individual items in your Getting Rid of 500 Things Project. Your cheating may differ from mine– but the point is to cut yourself some slack where appropriate.
  13. Narrate while you work. In your head or out loud: it’s better than whistling. Sometimes I’ll adopt a Julia Child accent and pretend I’m explaining for my TV audience how to clean a toilet. Or maybe I’m doing Dan Ackroyd doing Julia Child. I’m pretty sure I’m not doing Meryl Streep doing Julia Child, although I did give my Oscar speech for Best Duster as Meryl Streep.
  14. Randomly stop working and cha cha cha. Or sing or laugh. These distractions are similar to the goofy narration trick. It’s a way to re-energize and keep you plowing through your list.
  15. Disable the solitaire game. Electronic solitaire doesn’t energize, it enervates–better than hot milk or turkey, and I don’t believe that simply because I’m a post-Thanksgiving lactose-intolerant vegetarian.
  16. Don’t make the bed. When there’s a real need to get things done, some things can be left undone.
  17. Make the bed. Or… if you are the kind of person who needs order in order to be productive, make the bed with hospital corners.
  18. List list list. This may seem like cheating (#12) but for me, there simply is no better way to accomplish work than to list list list it.

And perhaps even laminate the list.

Cha cha cha.

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3 Responses to “18 Ways to Catch Up on Work”

  1. kara Says:

    Thanks! I needed the motivation!

  2. melanie Says:

    Great post. #13 – now that’s a speech I’d love to hear. And coincidentally,#17 I DID make the bed today in an effort to establish today as a productive day. Now I’m in need of #12, cheating!


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