Sunday, August 15, 2010

Just Do It!

Not long ago I read an article titled "Secrets of the Organized" by Jill Cooper. (If you want to read it (it's excellent, by the way), you can find it at under the heading "Today's Frugal Living Tools.") Tip number five jumped out at me and triggered memories of doing chores on the weekends or during summer vacations when I lived at home growing up.

On any such typical morning, while I was enjoying the tart-sweet tang of a ruby red grapefruit, or the smoky flavor of sizzling bacon with a dropped egg on toast, my mother would sit across the table and begin orally reciting all the chores I was to do that day: make your bed, then dust your room, don't forget to clean the mirrors, empty your wastebasket, vacuum the floor, and then mop it. Be sure to let the floor dry before putting your throw rugs back down. Oh, and change your bed before you begin cleaning, and bring me your laundry so I can get that started. When you finish your room, you can start on the bathroom, then help me bring in the laundry off the clothesline, help fold it, and put it away. No matter how many times I had successfully performed these tasks in the past, she felt it necessary to give me detailed instructions on how to accomplish them.

Sometimes, there were other chores: washing the windows, taking down the drapes so they could be cleaned, brushing down the ceilings and walls, and other monthly or seasonal chores. Since I liked to iron and she didn't, that often fell to me, too. And, of course, sometimes I helped with the baking, which I also enjoyed.

It always seemed to me that by the time breakfast was over, I was exhausted. It took me several years to realize why. With my mother's rehearsal of tasks, it felt like doing the work twice. And sometimes, she'd go over the list a second or third time to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything, and that I knew exactly what was expected. I realize, now, that this was her way of organizing her day; but it often left me feeling totally depleted of energy.

Talking about your work before doing it isn't the same as making out a "To Do List." The list is a guide you write once, then check off as you go. It's a great way to have a visual aid to what you've accomplished, and gives you a feeling of achievement. Nor am I talking about procrastination, which is a delaying tactic for putting off your tasks as long as possible. What I'm talking about is over-thinking what has to be done and mentally wearing yourself out before you even get started.

Since my strength and energy are limited now, I can't afford to waste either on just talking about what needs to be done. Sometimes I make a list; other times I don't. But when the energy is flowing, I've found the best way to get something done is to just DO it! Dive in, make a start, and keep going until it's finished.

Do you have a hard time getting things done because you think or talk about them too much first? What helps you get your tasks accomplished? Do you make a list? Do you have a household "chore chart"? Do you set a timer or put on some music? Or do you just dig in after you have that morning cup of coffee? What works for you? Please share your comments and thoughts below.