How to Stay On Top of Things

Ever feel as if you have way too many things happening? If you’re an adult with any sort of work schedule and goals, you probably definitely do. I’d like to talk a little bit today about strategies for getting on top of all of the things you need to get done and organizing your schedule into a manageable to-do list that you can actually accomplish.

I can’t think of much else that is worse than knowing you have multiple things to do during the day and then getting to the afternoon with very little to show for the morning. Either you procrastinated, something popped up or you just didn’t have a plan which now leaves you scrambling to have anything to show for your day.

Granted, there will be days when you will choose not to do anything. But those days need to be purposeful and planned out in their own way.

I think the moral of the story here is that you should try to be purposeful in everything you do. Have a reason for your actions.

So how do you start organizing your tasks?

  1. Figure out what you need to get done this month/week/day
  2. Figure out what is most important
  3. Figure out if anything doesn’t actually have to be done.
  4. Get your crap done.

Number one – figure out what you need to get done this month/week/day. This doesn’t take a lot of time. If it is a monthly task (pay bills, tell your dad happy father’s day, book a flight, etc) you already have it in the back of your head. For me it helps to have a designated day that I will do these things. I always pay my bills on the 1st of the month. It is a recurring event in my calendar that I don’t even have to schedule, my app does it for me. I see it and I’m already mentally prepared when the day arrives. No stress, just pay bills like you do every month. These big, once a month items are generally fairly straightforward. Just plan ahead for exactly when you are going to do them, make it a routine as much as possible and then do them.

But what about weekly/daily tasks? These are things like laundry, meal prep, house cleaning, getting gas, grocery shopping, etc. We both know that I could list so many things here and the more we talk about it the more overwhelming it will become.

Once you know what you have to get done, your next job is to figure out what is most important. Sometimes this means choosing between doing laundry and getting groceries. If you have no clothes left and you have to go to work tomorrow, laundry is going to be important. Same for if you have no food left in your house. In this case, personally, I’d start the laundry and then go get groceries while the machine is going. But if you have to go to a laundromat to wash your clothes then this might not be an option for you. But basically, figure out what is most important and if other people are relying on you (e.g. need to pick up dog food so that the dog can eat tomorrow) then you need to consider them as well when putting priorities together. Sometimes you just might have a really busy day because so much stuff needs to get done. So be it. This is part of being responsible for yourself.

Thirdly, figure out what things don’t actually have to be done right this moment. Chances are your lawn can go one or two more days without mowing it. You could probably also push off getting your hair cut or cleaning the bathroom if there are more pressing matters at hand. You need to be flexible and you need to be able to let go of tasks that just aren’t going to get done. Don’t let them hang over your head and don’t regret them (unless you had time to do them and decided to be lazy instead). Obviously move them ahead to another day of the week so that you can get them done, but if you legitimately do not have enough time in your day to get to some tasks that can be moved to later, just move them and get them done later.

Lastly, GET YOUR CRAP DONE. I know I struggled with this when I was younger and I still do to a point. I’d have a to-do list. I’d have it all organized and then I’d be sitting in front of the TV and just…I don’t know, I just wouldn’t do anything. The next thing I knew I’d be ordering some sort of delivery food and nothing would be done on my list. It took me awhile to understand that I’m never going to just feel like accomplishing a list of chores. I’m never going to wake up and say “I’m so glad I have so many things to get done today!” I’m never going to just enjoy doing these tedious things. I just have to do them. Plain and simple. Someone has to get into the car, drive to the grocery store and get the food. Someone has to sort the laundry, put it in the washer, move it to the dryer and fold it. There is no one else that is going to do that except me.

And no, there isn’t usually a feeling of accomplishment when I do these things because they’re just things you have to do. It’s like rewarding someone for eating their vegetables. You don’t do that (unless you’re 5) because it’s just something you need to do to stay healthy and happy. You don’t get rewarded for just being responsible.

So, figure out what you have to do. Figure out what is most important. Figure out what doesn’t really have to be done and don’t feel guilty for moving some things around and then, JUST DO YOUR CRAP. You’re an adult, act like it.

Sorry to belabor this point but if you’re choosing what to do based on how you feel about doing it, that’s idiotic. You’ll never get anything accomplished. Sometimes you have to do stuff you hate because it’s stuff that has to get done. Does anyone enjoy doing taxes? No. And if you avoid doing things because you don’t like it (which SO MANY PEOPLE DO) you’d be in jail for tax evasion. Do you think the people who have huge muscles enjoy working out all the time and never wish they could sleep in? If it were that easy we’d all be huge gym nerds and all have massive muscles.

Take control of your crap, people. Geez.

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