A ton of people have written tons of books about how to be more effective at getting things done. One such popular book is titled Getting Things Done. I have not read any of these books. I don’t know if what I’m about to say is consistent with the best recommendations out there, or if it flies in the face of all the “experts.” However, here’s my take on one way to keep from falling behind with the “little things” that tend to accumulate.
Don’t put off the “little things” until you have time to do them all at once. Just do them a little at a time while on the way to do something else.
The “trick” to this is two-fold: one, you have to be observant so that the “little things” don’t go unnoticed. Secondly, you have to learn to accurately assess what qualifies as a “little thing.”
Take household upkeep, for example. When you’re walking through the house, pay attention to the state of things. Notice a dusty shelf in the hallway? Instead of adding “dust the house” to your to-do list, just grab a dust rag or feather duster and dust that one shelf. Don’t worry about the rest of the house right now. You can dust the TV later when you happen to be in the living room. The key here is that you take care of one “little thing” right when you notice it, without allowing yourself to get distracted and coming off of one task to start a different task. Stay focused on the task at hand, but just allow yourself some leeway to do a little something extra on the way. Don’t stop what you’re doing in order to do something else, but when you’re on the move, take notice of things that need to be done, and just go ahead and do one of them, provided it won’t interfere with something more important.
Apparently, people have done studies and determined that multitasking can actually make you less productive than if you just stay focused on getting one thing done at a time. I’m not advocating that you jump from task to task or try to do two tasks at the same time. I’m talking about utilizing “transitional time” to squeeze in one or two little things. If you’re supposed to be writing a paper, don’t get distracted by organizing your desk. However, when you get up from your desk to get a drink, take some of those old papers to the recycling bin while you’re at it. When you have to take a bathroom break, go ahead and wipe down the toilet, or do a quick scrub of the toilet bowl, or clean the mirror while you’re in there.
I’m not saying that you always need to be doing something either. If you want to sit on the couch watching TV, that’s fine. But when you go to the kitchen to get a snack, grab a few of those dishes on the counter and put them in the dishwasher.
Use your “walking through the house” time to look around and see what you can put away, clean, or fix in a minute or two. If you do this regularly, it doesn’t mean you won’t ever have to schedule an extended time to do some thorough cleaning or organizing, but you can manage to do a lot of your regular upkeep without needing to set aside specific time for it.