Photo by AdsitAdventures
Every now and then I take a long look at my to do list and I realize that drastic action is called for if I am gong to significantly cut it down. I schedule a “clear the deck” day, usually where I work a half day from home and then spend the rest of the day knocking out tasks.
I never thought this would be a useful method for anyone, until I ran across the article over at Pick The Brain,Triple Your Productivity Tomorrow. Scott Young outlined something very similar to what I do, and I thought I would lay out my version of this very productive method.
What I Do to Have a “Clear The Deck” Day
For me, the most important part of clearing the deck is to have no distractions. This means partner and child must be out of the house, and interruptions from the fur-beasts have to be minimized. Interruptions of this kind lead me off the path of what I want to do most willingly; for after all, isn’t playing a game with your child more important than doing something that has been on the list for months? Important, yes, but at the same time, it doesn’t lead toward the goal.
Shut the office door
You may think that since I am home alone, shutting the door is not necessary. What I find, though, is that if the door is open my thoughts will drift to the rest of the house, and I will find myself drifting into an unplanned household task. Yes, the sock drawer may need to be reorganized, but not today!
Turn off distractions
Along the same lines of limiting distractions, I make sure I do not have email running, and I do not get onto the Web unless it is crucial to the task at hand. This keeps me from yak-shaving.
Put on peppy music
Peppy music, regardless of the type, will get me working faster. I type faster, think faster, and move faster.
Close the list
I make a written list of everything I want to do. Normally my lists are kept on the computer. But I find that writing them out makes me look at them in a new way, and putting it on paper solidifies my commitment to getting it done that day. I try to vary my activities, making sure I have ample opportunity to get up and move around. I group this list by context, putting all computer tasks together, all household tasks together, etc.
I work with a timer on me. I do 15 minutes on one task, and when the timer goes off, I switch to another. I keep this up all day, taking one 15 minutes every two hours just to do something fun. The key is that when the timer goes off, I have to move on. If I don’t, I derail myself and my energy flow.
I Get Rewards
At the beginning of the day, I plan my reward for the work. It can be something I want to buy, or even just watching a favorite movie. Every two hours, I also get to do something fun. This keeps me motivated and working.
I find that clear-the-deck days are not frequent. The last one I did concerned the waist-high weeds in my garden last summer. By following the above rules, I managed to turn under the entire garden, mow the yard and do some weeding, all in about four hours.
But as I get better at managing the contents of my to do list, I foresee that the clearing the decks will probably need to be done less and less.