In the land of perennial starters, who finishes first? Or maybe the question should be who finishes at all? Does anyone? When you’re juggling a lot of projects, you can learn how to stay on task with these 4 techniques so you’ll be able to get all of your projects done.
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I love to start new projects. There’s just something about a new project that energizes me. It doesn’t matter what the project is either. Whether it’s cleaning the kitchen, putting down a new garden or decluttering the basement, all generate the same enthusiasm….in the beginning. I’ll plan it out with lists and timelines and even start, but fizzle out somewhere along the way. Until a shiny new project starts to tempt me.
Even classes or courses that I pay for get the same treatment. Enthusiasm at the beginning, fun doing any lessons or exercises associated with the class right up until the moment I stop. There are all sorts of excuse: like getting bored or something more important came along. But isn’t it funny how we stop when it starts to get hard? (Or is it that we stop when it starts to get real?)
You know that spot, it’s where the heavy lifting gets done. Or when it’s time to part with something that you know you don’t need anymore but for sentimental reasons–you really don’t want to let it go. Or that part of the course you are taking where it asks you to dig deep inside to address a weakness. That’s when everything comes to a halt and you look for something new to do.
That’s where I am today.
As I revealed previously in My Life Changed Drastically Last Week, I’m taking a severance package in the spring which will allow me to try to earn a living from writing. We’ve decided to sell our condo and move in with my mother. Part of it is to save money, but it’s also because she’s 97 years old and refuses to move out of her house. (If you ever wonder where I got my stubborn from, look no further than my mother.) This means that for the second time in my life (read about the first time here,) I need to downsize my household into two rooms. Since it’s not the first time, I have experience. And I learned after the first time, so I don’t have any knick knacks or dust collectors. But after 10 years of living in one place and after gaining a husband (and all that he brought with him,) there is still a lot to go through.
All of which caused me to feel overwhelmed. And when I feel overwhelmed, I become a non-starter, never mind a finisher. But I’ve taken some ideas from other people and had a big realization which helped me to move forward. Here are my 4 techniques for staying on task.
Make a List
It can be as simple as that. Just make a list of all the things that need to be done. I’m famous for making lists—I love To-Do lists. But this one is different and I learned it from a co-worker. She and her husband are selling their house and they went room by room and created a list of things that needed to be done. Each room has its own list and it includes everything such as cleaning out a closet, painting a wall, replacing a door or selling a table. The list is then taped to the wall (use painter’s tape so you won’t have another section to paint.) Then each time you walk into a room, you can look at the list and determine if you have enough time to do something on the list. For instance, if you have 20 minutes, you might not be able to tackle painting the wall, but you could clean out a junk drawer.
Set a Timer
I love setting a timer, especially when a project is too big (or just seems too big!) The Pomodoro technique calls for 25 minutes sessions followed by a 5-minute break. After 4 sessions, you get a 15-minute break. Now if that seems too rigid to you, it doesn’t really matter what time you set as long as you work until the timer goes off. The key, though, is setting the timer. You can use this cute Pomodoro (tomato) or a timer on your phone. The second part of this technique is to have some sort of break or reward after the timer goes off otherwise, you might become overwhelmed again with the thought of just working, working, working.
This might seem foolish to some but think about it: If someone else was following up with you and checking in on your progress, wouldn’t you want some sort of progress to show them? It’s the genius behind mastermind groups or Facebook groups. Gather a bunch of people with the same goals and they will self-regulate each other (as long as the people are participating.) So find a friend or a relative or a business colleague who is going to help you stay focused on the job in front of you. They can do it by calling you, emailing or texting you or by showing up to see the progress. For me, it’s best if someone looks at my progress. Not only because I can’t lie about where I am if someone else is looking at it, but because they might also find a solution for something that’s holding me up.
Go Help Someone Else
Seems silly, right? How do I have the time or energy to help someone else when I can’t even finish what I started at home. Makes sense. But in helping others, you might find the solutions that you need. This was my big realization that past weekend. Even though I love to start projects, I was struggling to start this one. It seems more overwhelming than the last time I downsized. So I went to help my brother. Before I can even move into my mother’s house, we need to clean out the upstairs bedrooms. My brother previously lived there with his wife and left a lot of things at the house. He was using it as extra storage, but no longer.
This past weekend, with a little help from his daughter and a couple of nephews, we started clearing it out. At first, it was overwhelming. There was so much, he didn’t know where to start and declared that he wanted to save it all. But slowly, after picking up one thing at a time, we were able to start sifting through. Packing those things he wanted to keep and throwing out what he wasn’t going to use. Doing that made me realize that I need to start in one small corner too. Just pick up one item and determine if it stays or if it goes. Then move onto the next. (I think the timer will help with this.) One of my nephews kept asking “Are you going to use it?” and when my brother would reply that it still worked, my nephew would ask again, “But are you going to use it?” If you’re not going to use it, then don’t keep it. Give it away, sell it or just throw it out, but don’t keep it.
These are four techniques that I plan to use to help me stay on track. If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.