Learn 3 simple ways to get tasks done so you can spend time on what matters most.
If I could pick one word to describe being a single mom, that’s the word overwhelmed. When Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory came out with the book Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore your Sanity, I’m pretty certain I was one of the first to sign up to be on the book launch team. I was only a few chapters in when I went to my Small Group Coordinator at church and offered to lead a women’s small group diving into it.
And that group filled up fast.
It’s. Not. Just. Me.
So many of us struggle with that feeling of being overwhelmed and how to get tasks done. Where do I even start with this? Overwhelm can apply to a lot of things in our lives—our clutter, our calendars, our projects that need to be tackled on top of daily necessities, or our daily necessities!
When my husband was alive, we could divide and conquer. And if I was just out of steam, he could cheer me on to finish or begin a task that needed to be tackled. He helped me with motivation and I helped him. (Ever seen a husband’s face when you hand them a Honey Do List on a sunny Saturday? That’s encouraging them to be productive, right?)
So what’s the secret to tackling the must-do-but-not-fun-to-do things when you are the grown up and there’s no one there to help you get motivated? How do you persevere to complete the things you’ve been avoiding once you realize YOU are the grown up?
How To Get Tasks Done
Microsteps for the Win
In Overwhelmed, Kathi and Cheri talk about microsteps. It’s such a simple concept, really, but one that we often forget. I even forget to use it when trying to get my kids to do their chores or tackle their odious tasks. Microsteps are simply breaking the big task down into smaller pieces and then breaking those pieces into smaller steps.
There’s a psychological payoff to this that might seem silly, but has been proven. When you accomplish something and put a little check mark by it on your list, you get a bit of a mental rush. “Yay! That’s done!”
Recently I needed my kids to step up and clean up the house for my son’s graduation. Company was coming and I’ll be honest—I’m not the best at housekeeping. I can let it go for too long until it’s a whole lot harder. Tackling this kind of huge cleaning project often led my kids to losing momentum and devolving into whining and complaining. Instead, I put this micro step plan into action.
I didn’t say, “You clean the bathroom and you clean the living room.” I wrote out all the things that needed to be tackled in each room we were cleaning. Then I said that anyone could tackle any task, just let the rest of us know what you were working on and put a check with your initials when done. The bathroom list, for example, included:
- Clean outside of the toilet.
- Clean inside of toilet.
- Clean mirrors.
- Wipe down tub.
- Sweep floor.
- Wipe down floor and baseboard.
- Pick up dirty towels and take to laundry room.
You get the idea.
It was an amazing change. The house was cleaner than it had been in a long time. No one fought. And only the littlest one ran out of steam before we were fully done.
Make a List and Check it Twice
Santa’s not the only one who likes lists. Writing down the steps of tackling an overwhelming job can help you feel like you’ve got a plan. It lays out for you in black and white exactly what needs to take place and lets you mentally follow the progress and celebrate each step accomplished as you get tasks done.
Set a Reward
Kids aren’t the only ones who like a reward for finishing something loathsome. My reward for my kids when we tackled the whole house was a promise of no one having to get up early the next day (teens love their sleep) and no one having to do any chores either.
But what about you? Do you give yourself a reward for finishing the grown-up list that you need to tackle? Maybe it’s getting to binge watch your favorite Netflix or Hulu show for a bit. Maybe it’s going to coffee with a friend. Maybe it’s doing your nails or some other type of self-care pampering. You may not need a trip out for ice cream, but setting yourself a reward for finishing a task is a mental motivator that shouldn’t be overlooked.
We all have those things that we hate to do—cleaning, running errands, making appointment calls, balancing the checkbook…. I could go on for a while. But we all have to get tasks done so sometimes we need to just do it. Help yourself by using micro steps, making a list and rewarding yourself to make it fun.
Now go out there and be productive! You can do it!
Jenn Buell is a writer, speaker, radio DJ and widowed mom of four kids who lives in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. She loves using her superpower of encouragement to cheer on other Christian single moms through her blog and podcast, “Right There With You.” You can connect with Jenn at JennBuell.com.