Wednesday, January 06, 2010

It all comes back to focus, and lists.

After thinking further about my last couple entries, I think I've struck on a good way of playing this all out. See, you have to understand that I come from a family of pack rats. My father is the messy sort with everything he's ever owned stashed somewhere in the house he shares with his wife and their adopted daughter. From broken ship models (casualties of a brief foray into cat ownership years ago) to the original patio furniture he had when married to my mother, it's all there. My mother is the neat sort of pack rat, the sort who keeps things for years but who can also get rid of things when she recognizes that it's time — though sometimes the "getting rid" involves sending the box of old childhood trinkets to me.

What this means is that I have lots of stuff and sometimes forget to get rid of or organize stuff. And when you have a kid you acquire more stuff on a regular basis, from new craft kits to school homework. Having so much stuff makes it very hard to focus sometimes. It's easier just to stick your head in the sand and look at something else than clean up that pile in the corner you meant to tackle months and months ago.

Tackling this stuff down the line is one reason I've decided to start small as I said in the last post. But there's a bigger picture here, and that bigger picture is actually about how to tackle the small picture. And it comes down to lists.

I'm not talking about that big honking To-Do list we all tend to make — the grocery list of everything we're supposed to get done. Too often things get dropped off such lists or pushed to other lists, because it's easy to do this. I was recently reminded of something I learned years ago during the emotional havoc of my divorce — make small manageable lists.

When you make a list, only put on the items you know you can accomplish in a give time frame, be it a few hours or two days. Then tick those items off in the order that makes the most sense. I tend to knock off the small ones first and move to the biggest ones last — kind of the snowball method of Getting Things Done. That way, by the time, I get to the biggest items on the list, I don't have small stuff to worry about. I've also usually spent some part of my other productive time thinking about what's coming up — a design project, a blog post, making dinner — so that taking the larger items seems like less of a chore.

If all goes well and I keep making these little lifehacks into real habits, my plan is that I will eventually tackle the big items that keep getting pushed off because I'll actually have made the time to do it.

How do you keep yourself organized and disciplined when it comes to the things that just pile up in life? And, mind you, I'm "speaking" tangibly and metaphorically here.