Now that we’re moving into the busy season of a-million-things-to-do-before-Christmas, it seemed a particularly opportune moment to think about how I could organise my time a bit better. I had three key goals:
- To get some tedious tasks done out of the way
- To avoid procrastination
- To factor in time to do some things I enjoy
When I have a free day, (I reasoned to myself) I could perhaps spend all of it doing the dreary things that need to be done: sorting out accounts and admin, cleaning and housework or organising my clutter. But, of course, I don’t want to do those things so none of them even get started. Alternatively, I could plan to spend the whole day doing something I enjoy: seeing friends, reading or watching a film, immersing myelf into a craft project. I don’t do that either, though, largely because I feel guilty about not doing all the dreary things.
So what tends to happen is I wallow around in a nothing-sort-of-day when little gets accomplished that’s either useful or enjoyable. The realisation of this made me decide to try a new way to organise myself. I would divide my next free day into hour-long slots and allocate one activity for each hour. I would use a timer and be strict about breaking off from each activity when the hour was up.
I wrote myself a plan which looked like this:
9.00 – 10.00 Accounts and emails
10.00-11-00 Vacuum and dust downstairs
11.00-12.00 Begin making Christmas cards
12.00- 1.00 Reorganise my wardrobe and throw out unwanted clothes
1.00- 2.00 Lunch break
2.00- 3.00 Catch up on TV while sewing a few repairs
3.00- 4.00 Exercise then phone a friend
4.00- 5.00 Bake cakes and plan dinner
At first sight this plan doesn’t look like anything out of the ordinary, but don’t forget that each of the listed activities encompasses one or more things I’d been needing or wanting to do for a long time. For instance, “accounts and emails” involved about ten small chores that I’d been avoiding for days. And I’d been telling myself that I didn’t have time to make Christmas cards, even though I wanted to do this.
Anyway, having written out my plan, I stuck to it faithfully, breaking off from each activity and moving on to the next one as soon as my timer went off. I swept through all the admin tasks in my hour and motored through the housework quickly when I didn’t allow myself to be distracted by anything I found lying around. I then started cutting card and gluing fabric for my Christmas cards. It was hard to break this off after only an hour, but my ideas were now all in place and I was able to leave the task at a point where it would be easy to pick up and continue another time.
Perhaps surprisingly, the most pleasurable activity of all in the morning was decluttering my wardrobe – something that been nagging away at the back of my mind for months. It took less time than I would have anticipated but just felt so satisfying once everything was organised and tidy! In fact, by lunchtime I was feeling quite elated at everything I’d achieved and I was keen to go on with the rest of the plan.
I had deliberately kept the afternoon shorter than the morning and I’d planned easier activities – even the exertion of exercise was followed by the relaxation of phoning a friend. Later in the day, baking cakes didn’t actually take too long and planning to try a new recipe for dinner felt like turning a chore into something stimulating. It’s funny how in both cases writing down what I intended to do meant that I actually accomplished both tasks, whereas usually the idea of making some cakes might hover in my mind for weeks before they actually get baked.
At the end of the day I felt quite tired since, apart from the lunch break, I had carried out the activities energetically and hadn’t allowed myself to pause for breath. It made me realise how much time in the day gets wasted by pointless mental activity such as being distracted, finding ways to avoid what needs to be done and thinking about what to do and how to do it.
Nevertheless, I also felt exhilerated. I had accomplished far more than I usually do and I was very happy with the balance of necessary chores and more relaxed activities.
Would I want every day to be like this?
Maybe not, but I’d certainly settle for one day a week. I’ve repeated this plan successfully on other occasions and I now start mentally preparing tasks or activities which will be suitable for my next activity.
At this rate preparing everything for Christmas should be a breeze!
You may like to use this Word document to plan similar day: