Monday, August 4, 2008

How to Get Things Done

So this week I am taking a vacation with my family to Portland, OR. We’re meeting up with another family from the old country—Pennsylvania. We’re flying out later today so of I have bazillions of things to do still. Like my own laundry and packing (everyone else in the fam is ready), I need to buy more dog and cat food, run to the Credit Union to make a deposit, work stuff, and more. Why is it that it always seems like a last minute rush no matter how far ahead you plan?

I think it’s fortunate that I’m a list maker. My husband would disagree, he thinks I’m obsessive. But if I’m going to get anything done I need the List. Like any tool a List can be ineffective if used incorrectly. Some people just like to see things checked off and make “to-do” lists of things they’ve already done. I’ve been guilty of that, but I think it helps give you a sense of accomplishment that can then catapult you in to actually doing something.

Lists that don’t work are full of tasks that are to general, vague or overwhelming like “Get in Shape”, “Clean the Garage”, or “Free Tibet”. These are projects, not tasks. To make a successful “to-do” list you first need to look at your projects or goals and break them down into tasks. Then each day add a task from each of your goals to your List.

So it might look like…

  • Go for a run

  • Clean up paint shelf

  • Meet with President HU Jintao

The same thing goes for financial goals (ah, you’ve been wondering how I was going to turn this around to the subject of money—weren’t you?) If you’re goal is to “save money” think about how you’re going to do that. Simply writing “spend less” or “add money to savings” isn’t specific enough. You must get very specific. Try something more like this:

  • Open an IRA

  • Set up automatic transfers of $50/month to IRA account

  • Transfer $21 into primary savings account through online banking, then pack lunch for work 3 times this week. (I know it's long, but notice the deposit before the action, that’s a more motivating.)

Where should you keep your list? My favorite place is on my forehead. That way whenever you see someone they will say, "Deposit $21 into your savings account." Then you'll say "hey, thanks" like they're some kind of mind reading genius. Just be sure you also write "wash your forehead" on there too. Or if that doesn't work for you, you could try a list on your desktop, or online lists or a PDA or even some good old fashioned paper on the fridge.

Okay, first thing on my list today...make the List.

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