All content on this blog from Tim McGhee has moved to the Tim McGhee Substack, and soon, Lord willing, will be found only on that Substack.

Monday, March 23, 2020

How to defrost a To Do list

Contrary to the opinion of some, being thrown off work that requires in-person interaction is not limited to blue collar work, and certainly not racially based. It can hit a lot of people, all while defying expectations, bias, and prejudice along the way. Plenty of people don't want work that can be done from home.

Nonetheless, as many have become homebound, we would do well to do what we can to find work and other things that can be done from home. Don't want on Congress to meet your needs.

For some of us, there have been several things we've wanted to do from home for some time. If we knew we could turn them into self-sufficient work from home we would, but our confidence level has not been there to fully focus on trying to make that option work.

Now, given circumstances beyond our control or choosing, we're at home with a golden opportunity to focus on those things we've wanted to get done, maybe for years. Time to put the news away for part of the day and get to work.

The question then becomes, Where to begin? The To Do list has a lot of things on it. Some of them are quite large, and need some extended focus time. They've been frozen there for a long time. Which ones do we take on first?

I took a few steps today that I found helpful in this regard.

Step 1. Background: I once read about writer Raymond Chandler who had an interesting approach to handling his tendency to procrastinate. He came up with a system that proved quite effective. He would set aside time to write, and had two rules. 1. He didn't have to write anything. 2. He couldn't do anything else. It made him immensely productive in writing. Notice, that approach starts with freedom.

After having done some morning routine things for a few hours this morning, I needed to take a break. Then I decided to take this approach. It's amazing how fast 15 minutes can disappear when checking Twitter, and how long 5 minutes can seem when I'm just sitting there doing nothing. I sat there for upwards of 10 minutes until my energy levels balanced out and I felt like thinking about doing something again. I almost missed this as step 1 in thinking about writing this, but it's an important step.

Step 2. I decided to put Siri to work on getting me thinking about my To Do list. Without even moving from my chair, from across the room I asked Siri to read me items on the Reminders app. There were about 40. Siri ready them to me about 5 at a time. Each time it asked me if I wanted to continue, and I said, Yes, for the whole list.

The first thing I noticed is that some things were already done. Last week I got all my taxes done, and those could come off the list right away. Second, I realized there were some things I wanted to do, and others I didn't want to do, at least not today. For some it was because they were shorter, and for others they were things like longer writing projects I am not yet ready to tackle.

Step 3. I took out a full-size piece of paper, and put two headings for half-page columns at the top: Things I want to do, and Things I don't want to do. And then I just rewrote my To Do list putting the remaining items into their respective columns. For some things I wasn't sure, so I started a mini column in the middle called Not Sure.

There's nothing quite like separating out things I don't want to do in order to make other things more attractive to get done now. This makes it much easier to get moving on the things I want to accomplish today.

As anyone who has ever overcome procrastination can tell you, that's the most important part: get moving on something. Productivity begets productivity.

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