William James once said, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task,” and I couldn’t agree more.
I make mental “to-do” lists… you know, things you need to do, but you just haven’t taken care of them yet. They actually weigh me down… until I complete them. I try to take care of things that I can accomplish immediately. When I receive an email asking me for a piece of information, I try to respond and provide it right away… or it will get added to that mental to-do list. When my husband asks me for a favor, and I don’t handle it immediately, it also gets added. When I collect papers from a class that I need to grade, and I put them in my “to be graded” file and don’t take care of them immediately, some how, they multiply… like dirty laundry.
I have heard that the first Wednesday in September has been named “Do it Day” or “Fight Procrastination Day.” That’s next week! Let’s all fight procrastination together and lighten our mental loads! Here are a few ways you can Just Do It… NOW!
- Do the next thing. Elisabeth Elliot always said that when everything is confusing and you are overwhelmed, just do the next thing. What can you accomplish with what is right in front of you at this moment that will eliminate a future task or an addition to your mental to do list? It can be something as simple as the folding and putting away of a load of laundry or scoring that stack of vocabulary quizzes.
- Get some help. Too often teachers try to “go it alone” entirely too often. Delegate the tasks that you can get off of your own shoulders! If you want to score a simple homework assignment, collect them, then redistribute them… and have the students check each other’s. Be sure to have the checker sign the bottom and put whatever score you need at the top, whether the number wrong or the number correct. Ask your partner or your kids for help with the dishes, laundry, or housework. Do the work together – it will get done faster, and it won’t seem as much like work.
- Make it fun. Whatever you need to complete, make a game out of it… even if it is just for your own motivation. How many emails can you answer in the next 10 minutes? Once you have taken care of them… delete them from your inbox! This takes care of the task AND the clutter!
- Eliminate distraction. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE! You know I don’t mention this so that your fans won’t call you… I tell you to do this so that you won’t be checking Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media outlet to which you subscribe… or should I say, to which you are addicted. They are the best/worst time wasters ever! Turn off the television! I know, many people have the TV on just for company, but you walk by, get engrossed, and then end up watching three episodes of NCIS before you know what hit you. If you need company, turn on music. It can play in the background and there is no visual stimulant.
- Make a physical to-do list. Sometimes just writing it down will encourage the completion of a task… and it feels so good to cross it out! Keep that list in a prominent place. If at work, put it on a post-it note on your computer. If at home… the refrigerator? I remember trying to teach my son to write things down and organize himself when he was in high school, and his response to me was always, “I got it, mom, right up here” pointing to his head. Well, in college he learned that there were just so many different things that all needed to be done, that he just couldn’t keep it all straight. So, he put each task on an individual sticky note and put them on his bookshelves above his desk. When each task was completed, he would remove the note. The satisfaction of removing the note, crumpling it, and then trashing it kept him moving through his tasks. Yes, he took a photo of his colored notes and sent it to me.
I would put money on the fact that my little missive has brought an uncompleted task or two to mind. Go do it (them)- and enjoy the lighter load of your mental to-do list!