Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Plan a Get-It-Done Day

Tip of the Week, March 20, 2011

While I'm generally pretty good about tackling the tasks that require my time and attention, there are some notable exceptions, like those shoes that have been lingering in my front hall waiting for repair for longer than I care to admit and the art print I've been meaning to get framed for what we will just gently call a long time. These tasks tend not to get done because they're not critically important, and because they require planning and coordination it can be hard to muster in the course of a busy week.

So I'm inspired by an article by Danielle Claro in the latest issue of Real Simple, in which she details the "Unprocrastination Day" she undertook with a friend to knock off a bunch of these same kinds of tasks. What a great idea: enlist a buddy who also has stuff lurking on his or her to do list for a day of no-excuses, no-holds-barred get-it-done time.

If, like me, you'd benefit from a burst of productivity on the tasks and errands you've been putting off, here are some pointers on planning your own Unprocrastination Day.

  1. Find a partner. While it's possible to have a solo get-it-done day, you'll almost certainly find that it's easier and much more pleasant with someone else. Look for a friend who can help keep you motivated and on track, and who has his own stuff to accomplish so that the support goes both ways.
  2. Choose a date. If your schedule is flexible, try planning your get-it-done day on a weekday, when there will likely be fewer distractions clamoring for your attention and smaller crowds at the places you need to visit to tackle your errands. Weekday not feasible? Aim for a Saturday or Sunday that's as free as possible of other events and obligations.
  3. Make a list. In the lead-up to your Unprocrastination Day, create a running list of all the things you'd like to take care of. For those that require help from someone else--say, getting shoes repaired or a piece of art framed--do some research before you set out so you'll be faced with as few obstacles as possible on the big day.
  4. Deal with logistics. To keep your get-it-done day as distraction-free as it can be, aim to enlist others to take care of things like caring for kids or pets while you're out and about. Even if you're planning to spend part of the day taking care of tasks at home, it's well worth finding ways of keeping potential attention-grabbers at bay. Also, be sure you have any gear or supplies you need to get things done, whether that means a car large enough to hold the stuff you'll be schlepping around or folders and labels for setting up that filing system you've been avoiding.
  5. Devise a plan. Just before your get-it-done day, come up with a game plan: when and where you and your friend will meet, which tasks you'll tackle first, when you'll take breaks throughout the day, and so on.
  6. Start your day with motivation. To kick things off on an up note, consider meeting for breakfast or coffee before you begin.
  7. Be ready to roll with the punches. As ever, your best-laid plans may be foiled by forces beyond your control. Not being able to finish every last task you set out to do doesn't mean the day is a failure. By the same token, though, don't let one hurdle (like unexpectedly discovering that a store you planned to visit is closed) derail your whole day. See if you can find an alternate way of completing the task at hand, and if not, simply move on to the next one.
  8. Review and celebrate when you're done. Finally, at the tail end of your day, take some time to review what you've each accomplished, along with any facts you picked up throughout the day that might be helpful in the future. (Your local shoe repair guy offers pick-up and delivery for a few bucks more? Good to know!) Then enjoy a glass of wine or a dinner out as you admire how much you've wiped off of your to do list.

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