My Number One Secret to Productivity

When we used to take road trips to visit my Grandma, I would read whatever issues of Ladies Home Journal she had gotten since our last trip. Yep, I was a high-schooler reading Ladies Home Journal. And the funny thing is, there was a tip I read in one issue that has stuck with me ever since. I’ve made a yearly practice of it, and it’s the number one way I get at those tasks that have lingered on my to-do list for way too long.

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The magazine shared a story of two friends who realized that they kept moving the same tasks to their next day’s to-do lists again and again. You know the kinds of tasks they’re talking about. I can name several on my own list right now: update my pension plan, re-paint the roof of the porch, call to get the gutters cleaned, drop off a bag at the thrift store. I remember one of the women in the article needed to fix a lamp. The other had something going on that would inevitably mean she was on hold with a customer service rep much longer than anyone should ever be. These are the kinds of tasks that we don’t want to do, nor do they need doing under a specific deadline, and so they sit and sit and sit. I don’t know about you, but for me, I feel a looming sense of despair as those kind of tasks build up on my list.

Until Thing Avoidance Day rolls around again. Yep, Thing Avoidance Day. Scheduling this day once a year is the best tip I ever got from Ladies Home Journal and my number one secret to productivity.

The idea is that you devote an entire day to crossing those tasks off once and for all. Yes, it involves arranging for child care, or taking a day off work. There’s no doubt that’s a challenge, and a sacrifice. But having practiced Thing Avoidance Day once a year, for several years now, let me attest to the sky-high feeling you’ll experience if you take the time to pull one off. Bonus points if you find a friend (a sister?) to do it with you and hold you accountable.

(Cute notebooks for your lists are a must-have. Image via.)

Three tips I’ve learned with each additional Thing Avoidance Day I’ve celebrated:

  1. Of course there is never a perfect day for Thing Avoidance Day. There is always something or someone that needs to get pushed back to make it happen. So you have to claim a date, maybe far in advance, and stick with it firmly.
  2. When Thing Avoidance Day occurs, put your blinders on. You are spending this day in attack mode. It’s too easy to think it’s a relaxing day, and sure you can check Instagram a little more often, or just watch one episode of a show. But we all know how that ends, and it’s not pretty. On Thing Avoidance Day, try giving yourself small rewards as you accomplish what you set out to do, but don’t let them distract from the main tasks at hand.
  3. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. I know that to paint my porch ceiling in a short amount of time, I’ve got to make sure I have the paint already, and wipe the ceiling down the night before. If it’s not realistic for me to do that before my next Thing Avoidance Day, then painting the porch may not be a realistic to-do for me at all. I may need to think about calling someone to ask them to do it.

While nothing you’re doing on these days is glamorous or exciting, I promise the high you’ll be riding after crossing off so many nagging tasks will make the whole day worth it. What do you think? Would you try clearing your calendar for a Thing Avoidance Day?


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