The power of ticks

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Ever sat in front of your computer skipping from project to project, or perhaps from project to Facebook to Youtube… and then back to Facebook? Then suddenly before you know it, schools out, the kids are back, and your working day is over, with nothing meaningful achieved.

This is one of the most frustrating feelings that a work from home parent can experience. It ruins your day, and it can quite possibly ruin your family’s day too, because you spend the rest of the evening in a bad mood, kicking yourself for having wasted a day and being unfairly short tempered with the kids.

One little tactic that can help avoid this situation is to create a to do list, with little squares next to every item.

Every time you complete an item, put a big happy tick through the box.

Now here’s the trick!

Write two to do lists. The first one is a list of all the things that you want to get done today.

Highlight two of the jobs on your list. First, find the easiest job. A job that can be done quickly. Second, find the most uninviting job. Not necessarily the biggest job, but the one you have been avoiding for the last week. (For example, I have one now which is to sign some documents, scan them and email them to an associate. It will probably take about 15 minutes once I start, but it’s a pain because I need to get the scanner set up and go through my draws to dig out the documents etc etc… perhaps your uncomfortable job is to reply to an awkward email, or to put your receipts into a spreadsheet.)

Now, beside each item on both lists, draw an empty tick box. When you first start work, grab that first easy job, and knock it over as quickly as possible. Great you have a TICK! Feels good 🙂

Now get stuck into that nasty job. If you can get that one done, then you will have really achieved something! A second TICK and you’ll be on a roll. Grab the second list and get going!

I know this sounds a bit silly…

Obviously this is a bit childish and simple, but the truth is it works. There are two important things here:

  1. Ticking boxes makes you feel like you are achieving something, and that in itself is a great motivator. It is a good way to build momentum, and turn a normal day into a day where you really get through a lot of work.
  2. In most “to do” lists there is usually a “blocker”. That is, a job that you are avoiding, for whatever reason.  This job sits in the back of your mind and distracts you from doing other work, because deep down, you know you should be doing that job instead. You might find yourself not doing other work because you know you should be doing the “blocker job”, but then you don’t want to think about the “blocker job” and suddenly… you are back on Facebook thinking “how did I get here again?”.

Right… I’m off to find those documents and get that scanning done! 🙂