If you’re like me, your “to-do” list is more like your “to-don’t” list. There are certain things I just hate doing, like paying bills, sorting snail-mail (ever wish there were spam filters and mail rules for snail mail?), and doing certain little random tasks (like getting the debris from the remodel two years ago out of my garage).
On “accounting day” (when I paid bills, etc), I would be in a reeeeally bad mood, to the point that I had to learn to not answer the phone or I’d be mean to the caller, no matter how close a friend. I realized something had to change.
So, I implemented a new system: I figured that I could handle 15 minutes of bill paying a day. I was right. It’s amazing what you can do in 15 minutes a day. I just stack the incoming mail on my desk and have a special email folder for incoming bills (“your online statement is ready”, etc). I wrote up 2 lists that are taped to the wall in front of my desk: One shows the “process flow” (order in which I do things), the next shows a list of bills, how they come in (mail versus email), and what needs to be done with each (needs to be paid online, send an online payment through my bank, auto-paid, etc). (I printed the lists not because I like paper, but because it makes getting into and out of the 15 minutes very easy – nothing to find or open, just sit and start).
Process flow looks like this:
- Paper Inbox (stack on desk)
- Incoming Bills email box
- Download Bank Statement into Quicken
So, at the start of my day I just sit down, note the starting time, and start with the first thing on the top of the stack. When 15 minutes is up, I stop and get to more important things. (Maybe you want to pick a time after work instead :).
The system’s worked so well that I added a second 15-minute chunk to my day (mine goes right after the “accounting” chunk): The to-do list. This is very different from the to-don’t list. Items on this list get “processed” in order during that 15-minute chunk of time. I’ve made a covenant with myself: During that 15 minutes, I’m in what I call “execution mode” (’cause I’m a nerd) – I do not think about the list, I just start at item#1 and start processing. Doesn’t matter if that processing is just taking inventory of the crap in the garage – it’s the first step in the task, and after 15 minutes I stop. Next day if the task is still there, I continue it. Of course the other side of this self-covenant is that I carefully think about what goes on the To-Do list. It’s actually a separate list in my calendar named “To-Do”. There are other “to-do” lists on my calendar too – things that are good ideas, might be good to do, etc go there. But when something gets to the To-Do list, it’s special. It will get done. And it does!