Getting off the couch & getting going – Part 1

Worry, Worry, Worry!
. . . The agony of agonizing

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Time & Task Management Series:

Let’s Get GUI!
Looking at Good, Urgent, and Important

When I first began to blog on the topic of organization and task completion, I was initially daunted.

It seemed to me that productivity, accomplishment, follow-through and planning were such HUGE topics for anything less than entire books — difficult to handle briefly, even in an entire Series of posts on each topic!

While most of what I read on the inter-webs focuses on Tips and Techniques, I wanted to explore underlying principles, and I wanted to share them from a brain-based perspective.

QUITE the challenge — especially since I knew that most readers wouldn’t have my background of information, so I had to include an explanation of terms before I could move on even to underlying principles, much less sharing techniques that many have found helpful.

Don’t miss: Getting Things Done-101

The extent of the challenge stopped me for a while, I must admit, and it took me some time to begin to figure out how best to do it without wearing people out.  Long-time readers may have noted that my earlier articles are much longer than the ones I have been posting lately.

Whittling things down remains a challenge, but I don’t let that keep me from trying to be helpful in as brief a manner as I believe can get the job done for most people.

Moving along anyway

I am inspired by the malaise that seems to waft in with the summer heat, and I want to explore more about Getting Things Done. I plan to continue to whittle things down to a size we can manage in two ways:

  1. Dividing this topic and this article into parts, and
  2. Using language and examples that will relate primarily to those attempting to Get Things Done at home, whether the tasks are personal or professional in nature.

Let’s start by thinking about how to tackle a number of different kinds of tasks by throwing them into a few metaphorical “task bins.”

Getting GUI

Take a look at your task list every day (which implies that you make one, right?)  Separate the tasks that would be good to get done from the tasks that are URGENT and IMPORTANT.

Good to get done tasks

Good to get done tasks help you move your life forward – without the not-so-subtle pressure that normally accompanies a To-DO! List.  This category is for the “treadmill tasks” of life: the recurring chores that really don’t need to be done at a specific time or day, as long as they are done fairly regularly.

These are the tasks I keep encouraging you to put on autopilot:

  • Figure out a reasonably effective way to do them
  • Do them the same way every time so that they can become habitual.
  • Put them on auto-pilot. “Auto-pilot” habits don’t debit cognitive resources!  No deciding, no agonizing, and your conscious mind is freed for more important work.

Urgent Tasks

Urgent Tasks are two-fold, both of which you are going to work toward eliminating from your life as you learn more about what you need to be intentional about getting things done.

Type 1 Urgents are those items that carry a monetary, legal or emotional penalty for remaining undone — many of which are the result of not getting out in front of them earlier.

Taxes, license renewals, bills, birthday cakes, presents and cards all fall into the Type 1 Urgent category at the beginning.

Don’t beat yourself up about your struggles with this category — or ruminate over the fact that you “should” have taken care of whatever it is before it became a problem that had to be handled immediately (or else!)

Simply identify the items that belong here to make sure you don’t drop those balls in the future.

Many of us with Executive Functioning issues have developed the unfortunate habit of using the adrenaline rush that accompanies urgency to be ABLE to focus with intentionality.

Adrenaline is an endogenous psycho-stimulant (produced within).

It does work; we tend to get more done. But it comes with a high price tag.  There are healthier forms of energy that will help you get things done — more about those to come.

Bona fide Emergencies

Bona fide emergencies generally won’t make this list at all. They are the things that you rarely have time to put on a list in the first place, nor do you need to.

Fire, flood, illness, accidents and broken bones, necessary and well-maintained equipment that suddenly gives up the ghost  — things that it’s unlikely you could have predicted but MUST be dealt with immediately — ALL fall in the category of bona fide emergencies.

The only way to plan for bona fide emergencies is to leave a bit of ease in your schedule every single day so that you stand a shot at getting back on track when you have to stop to deal with them.

Type 2 Urgents are the things that you are going to practice saying no to: that means setting boundaries.

My favorite quote that describes this category perfectly is this one:
“Lack of planning in your life does not constitute an emergency for me.”

Many of the items in this category wouldn’t be on your plate to begin with if you would get the time and energy vampires off your neck.

Other items pop in here when you say yes because you can’t imagine how to say no.  You would not find yourself rushing to buy a hostess gift for a party with that couple you don’t enjoy, for example, if you hadn’t said yes in the first place!

We have a tendency to say yes to these items we really don’t want to do because it requires little of our decision-making power to respond in “emergency mode” — it feels like MORE to do to refuse to play, so we play.

It feels great to put out a fire — not so great to prevent one.

I’m not saying that setting boundaries is an easy fix, but it is a simple one, and the only one that will ever work to get Type 2 Urgents out of your life forever.

Unfortunately, until we learn to set and protect boundaries around what we allow others to push onto our plates, our behavior teaches those around us to do exactly what we do NOT want them to do.

To begin with, demote the Type 2 Urgents:
Don’t say no, say LATER.

Take a baby step toward teaching your family and friends that ONLY when you’ve accomplished what is IMPORTANT will you be able to focus time or attention on Type 2 Urgents.

They may never understand that you have more important things to do than pick up the pieces of somebody else’s dropped ball or help them handle their over-commitments or lack of boundaries, but it is essential that you understand that reality yourself.

When you say, “Not now,” show any whiners and complainers your list of what needs to be done first and tell them to get them workin’ on it if they want you to be finished faster.

You probably won’t be able to count to three before you hear (with attitude, no doubt), Oh, never mind!

[More about this in an earlier article: Priorities-101:Yes means No]

So what’s IMPORTANT?  

That’s a VERY good question.  What IS “important” to you?  I’ll give you a hint with another favorite saying:

Nobody ever said, at the end of life,
“Darn!  I wish I’d spent more time on my chores.”

Remember that you can always check out the sidebar
for a reminder of how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

HOVER before clicking – often a box will appear to tell you what to expect

START SMALL – low hanging fruit

Experts in the area of “procrastination” say that in order to get yourself started on a task, it works best to lower the “barrier to entry.”

Research shows that even the worst so-called procrastinators find it much easier to activate if they choose a simple action item or one of the steps of a larger task to get them started.

In other words, make the threshold for getting started
so low that you are positive you can be successful.

Give yourself something easy to do to get you up off the couch, off your smart phone and away from your computer so that you can get into action in a direction you really do want to travel.

Take a couple of deep breaths, calm down and recenter first.  Know that merely starting, in and of itself, further reduces task-anxiety and gives you some wind beneath your wings — a small sense of accomplishment that feels good.

You’ll feel a lot better after you’ve done something,
even if you haven’t reached your ultimate goal
(and don’t make yourself wrong about what’s left to do!)

Tackling a Portion of a Larger Task

Let’s say that you really need to clean out your closet, but you’ve put it off for months because it seems like such a gargantuan task.  But it’s important since it is becoming increasingly more difficult to get to work on time because getting dressed is such a hassle.

For example: This time, instead of moving “clean out and organize closet” to yet another day on your to-do list, tell yourself, “OK, today I’m just going to walk into my closet and line up my shoes. That’s it. Shoes only – out of the pile and into a line – in pairs!”

If anything on the closet floor is in the way of “Shoes in a line!” handle it as quickly as possible without adding significantly to the task.

You don’t have to organize everything you come across, but you do have to get it quickly out of the way, even if that means throwing everything else currently on the floor of the closet into a box or clean trash bag to go through later.

Or if the bigger problem is finding a clean shirt that goes with what else you’d like to wear, pick a color and move all of them together on the rod – or separate them by type.  While you’re at it, toss anything that needs laundering into the hamper and move the empty hangers to the end of the closet pole.

Making a dent in the task sure works better than giving in to those “mood fixers” that rarely really work — such as grabbing a snack (or a drink!), updating your FaceBook profile (again), spending time you don’t really have trolling through Pinterest for closet organization ideas — or any one of a bazillion things we do attempting to recenter from a serious bout of task anxiety.

Dent Making-101

Anyone who is struggling with activation can make behavior changes and kick themselves into action by breaking down the task until it feels DO-able in any number of ways, such as:

  1. Picking something tiny to begin with, like hanging up the outfit you tossed on a chair when you changed into your pajamas and fell into bed;
  2. Focusing on a smaller portion of a task, as in the closet example above;
  3. Chunking Time — setting a specific time limit and allowing yourself to STOP when the time is up.

We’ll handle the third item in the next article.  Meanwhile, if you need a bit more wind beneath your wings, check out some of the articles linked to this one. They’ll pop out as you run your cursor over the greyish links, slightly lighter than the rest of the text – and most will give you a hint about what you’ll find when you click if you’ll hover just a bit before clicking.

If you’d like some personalized attention to your current challenges with organization or task completion, I currently have several openings in my coaching schedule.

Get in touch if you would like to hire me to personally coach you in a you-specific manner, holding you accountable in a way that will really help you get things done. I’d LOVE to partner with you

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IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come.

If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this article (either for your own life, that of a loved one, or as coaching skills development), click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

76 Responses to Getting off the couch & getting going – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Developing those habits | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Moving Past Task Anxiety to stop “procrastinating” | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Christy B says:

    I’ve gotten better at saying “no” as I’ve started to recognize the value of my time. It also has helped that my self-esteem has strengthened so I’m not always a people pleaser 😉 Not having to buy a bottle of wine to go an event i don’t really want to attend is nice xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • At the end of our lives, I’ll bet most of us would like to have that time we spent where we didn’t want to be BACK!

      I’ve had to teach myself not only to say no to more, but to leave early when I must – comparing what’s going on to what’s on my plate otherwise. (And it only took 45-50 years to do so – lol!)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Chunking TIME to get you going | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  5. Interesting and thorough post, Madelyn. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tina Frisco says:

    This couldn’t be more timely for me, Madelyn. You always break things down into manageable pieces. Dent Making-101 is priceless! Thank you for your ever-encouraging posts 💛

    Liked by 1 person

  7. dgkaye says:

    This is fabulous. Helping to declutter our clutter is a great idea. For many of us, seeking out the ‘real’ priorities becomes lost in the abyss of all the to dos. Nice breakdown my friend. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. John Fioravanti says:

    Reblogged this on Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti and commented:
    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie encourages us to quit unproductive worrying and work on the tasks that need our attention. Please, read on…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You are so right in categorizing tasks this way. We have taught kids in my school to categorize and prioritize, although we named the categories differently (more kid-friendly, I suppose), but to train adults to tackle Task #1 – to categorize their tasks into GUI – is a task in itself. It is especially evident when a person with OCD perceives anything he/she impulsively grabs as URGENT and becomes obsessed with it to the total neglect of everything else.
    I am sure I am not telling you anything new – great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I imagine you understand all of these dynamics better than I, Dolly, having taught them to children. Kids are amazing teachers of what works and what doesn’t, aren’t they?

      My hat’s off to you for finding ways to work “live” with OCD children – it takes a great deal of love and understanding (and energy!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • My hat is off to you (and I actually wear one all the time!) for training adults! Kids are pliable, even kids with the alphabet soup attached to their paperwork. But adults? You truly deserve a Purple Heart Medal for bravery!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank for the kudos, Dolly, but it’s not as difficult as you might think by the time they come to coaching. The going is often slower (more “bad” habits to undue), but not so dangerous. 🙂

          I, too, am a hat person. RARELY seen without one from my rather large collection, no matter the season. I took my dermo at his word after he removed a melanoma from my back: “NO sun!” was a super excuse for a hat collection – lol.


  10. Great post again Madelyn. We affectionately call it our do/due list and could have three meanings tangled in. We use to believe we could maintain the list in our brains but quickly realize we can’t. There is something rewarding when the end of the day comes and we can see from the check marks why we are exhausted.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh, I love this piece. Especially…the low hanging fruit, and the idea of “making a dent”. Thanks, M.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so welcome. Some days since my move here (maybe most days – lol), chunking is the only way I get the new “to-dos” picked off. I keep systematizing, but changes in circumstance means setting up new systems. After things are on autopilot it’s cake once again — for a while! 🙂

      Here’s to a week of lovely “dent making” for both of us!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. DC Gilbert says:

    Reblogged this on Patriot Warrior and commented:
    Great Post! Spot on!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ‘It feels great to put out a fire — not so great to prevent one.’ Man. I love that.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Lucy Brazier says:

    This is great! I am reading this on barely three hours sleep, having been up most of the night over-thinking nonsense and worrying about nothing. It’s amazing what things seems critical at 3am! But I have come to a conclusion – I probably just need a holiday 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  15. love the GUI plan and I totally agree with this quote about the important things… another gem what gets a place on my desk ;o)

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great words, Madelyn and you have so rightly pointed that why worry for anything and one must always start from small and reach slowly and steadily wherever we want to go. Superb share and thanks so much for your encouragement and inspiring post.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I love reading your articles, Madelyn. I always note that I am the complete opposite. I chunk time to an extent that there is no free time in my day ever and I am a complete workaholic. I have recently discovered that this results in complete exploitation in the work place and have created my own cross to bear. I am remedying that by taking a 6 month sabbatical (during which time I plan to finish my two adult books) and then starting over next year.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: Get Off That Couch. Get Going. Part 1. – The Militant Negro™

  19. Mr. Militant Negro says:

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

    Liked by 1 person

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