5 Tips to ‘Do It Now’ When You’re Super Busy

posted by Andrea | 05/15/2014

do it now

Several weeks ago, I shared a post about my time management rule of “doing it NOW”. That post generated a lot of emails questioning how I could possibly “do it now” all the time with a toddler, an infant, and an at-home business.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those questions these past few weeks. I know that I really DO “do it now” most of the time… but I also know that there are plenty of times when I don’t literally do it RIGHT NOW because Simon is crying, Nora is making a mess or getting into trouble, someone calls or stops by the front door, I lose track of time, etc. etc.

So over the past month, as I went through each day, I paid attention to times when I wanted to “do it now” but couldn’t for various reasons — and then also what I did in those situations.

Here’s what I realized:

#1. I take notes:

There are many times during the day that I can’t literally “do it right now”… so in those situations, I usually make a note of the things that need to be done.

I often keep a pad of Post-it notes with my planner (right next to my computer) so any time I think of something that needs to be done but I don’t have time at that exact moment to do it, I’ll jot it down. Then I’ll try to cross off all those things later that day, once Dave is home from school or after the kids are in bed (see #2 below).

I also have a pad of paper inside our pantry door. I use this to take note of any food or miscellaneous items I need to buy. I can grab this list when I’m making my grocery list for the week and this way, I can still shop only once a week, but hopefully remember all those little things I needed throughout the previous week.

#2. I get organized the night before:

As I mentioned in a post a couple weeks ago, I almost always take the time to get organized and plan ahead at night — leaving me more time during the day for unexpected “do it now” type of tasks.

By getting all those little household chores, maintenance, and other menial tasks out of the way before I go to bed, I don’t have to worry about them the next day when I’m dealing with 2 kids and trying to catch up on work when one or both of them are napping.

#3. I break my to-do’s down by time:

This is something I was REALLY REALLY good at… until I had kids. I knew exactly how long it took me to do all sorts of household chores, how long it took me to run errands, make meals, do yard work, get groceries, etc. and I would use those time estimates to squeeze in little projects here and there based on how much time I had.

For example, if I had an extra 10 minutes, I knew I could clean out the dishwasher and reload it again before heading out the door. If I only had 5 minutes, then I’d pull the dry clothes out of the dryer and put the wet clothes from the washer into the dryer.

When I had kids, all those exact (and super efficient) time estimates flew out the window :)

Since Nora was born, I have learned to create new time estimates — and although I’m not nearly as fast as I was before, I still try to break my tasks down by time and then use those time estimates to squeeze small projects into the little pockets of free time I might find during the day.

It might not seem like I’m accomplishing very much at a time, but as I mentioned last week, “progress is progress… even if it’s only 5 minutes!”

#4. I’m always thinking “what’s next?”:

There is always more that needs to be done… ALWAYS! And while I realize I can’t do everything, if I’m constantly in the mindset of “what could I do next?” I get a lot more accomplished during the day.

I don’t push myself to the point of being stressed out, but I just keep tabs on what needs to be done during the day (usually with some type of list as mentioned in #1 above) and then constantly revisit my list to see if there is anything I can cross off right now (see #3 above).

Then if I’m blessed with small pockets of free time, I know what I can do in that amount of time and I’m ready to do it.

#5. I enjoy being busy:

Yes, I take time to relax and do other things I enjoy too — but for me, many of the things I enjoy are actually “chores”. I absolutely LOVE organizing anything, and for the most part, I enjoy cleaning too.

I love bringing order to my home, I love planning ahead, and I love doing anything NOW that would save me from doing it later.

This is how I’ve been wired from the very beginning – and yes, I do realize not everyone is wired like me (oh what a crazy world that would be!)

I will admit that being the way I am is a huge help when it comes to “doing it now” but I feel strongly that it’s not essential to being able to “do it now” most of the time. I know plenty of people who have learned how to be more proactive when it comes to “doing it now” — and to be perfectly honest, Dave is one of them!

A few more thoughts about “doing it now”:

  • Don’t waste too much time thinking about time management techniques. If you feel like you’re spending lots of time reading books and thinking about time management, try actually implementing some of those ideas instead.
  • Whenever you say “yes” to something, you say “no” to something else — so when you say yes to house work, you might be saying no to family, and vice-versa. That’s just how life is, I don’t necessarily think you need to feel bad about that.
  • For me, it all comes back to my to-do list. The most important things I MUST get done each day go on my list. As I go through my daily to-do list, I’m constantly on the look out for little things I can do along the way. So if I’m in one room doing something and will be heading upstairs to do something else, I quickly glance around to see if there’s anything in my current room that might need to be brought upstairs. If so, I bring it upstairs and QUICKLY put it away — or just leave it at the top of the stairs if it can’t be done quickly. Then I get right back to my list.
  • Yes, there are always more things to do — so I literally don’t do everything “now” — just the things that are most important for me. I hate trash so I’m big on emptying the trash when it’s full. I hate clutter, so I’m always picking up and putting things away. I’m always clearing off and wiping off surfaces.

If you are not naturally a “do it now” type of person, it will take time to change your habits — so don’t get frustrated if you aren’t magically super productive after a couple of days. However, I hope some of the tips I shared today (and use in my own daily life) will help you to start making progress.

I can attest that life really is so much simpler, less stressed, and more organized if you “do it now” most of the time!

Do you have any other tips for “doing it now”?

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17 comments

  1. Deni

    05/15/2014

    Thanks to you, I have been making a daily list of my top five things that I need to do each day. I recycle used envelopes and write my to do list on the back of them. If I get distracted or sidetracked, I go back to my list to get recharged. I love checking them off as I do them, which encourages me to keep moving. Being organized, controlling clutter, and getting things done allows me time to enjoy the things that are important. Thanks for all you do!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay! I love love love the top 5 lists! So glad you are working for you too!

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  2. Evie

    05/15/2014

    DO IT NOW is really very good, but I’ve always struggled with getting going with tasks that were not fun. Luckily, my parents were both super efficient and organized, and they taught me early on how to talk myself through things that I didn’t really want to do. Even now, faced with folding a huge load of laundry or some other unsavory task that I truly want to DO NOW but at the same time really don’t want to do at all, I use self talk to encourage myself. I mean, I’m always thinking things like this:
    “Getting started is the worst part.”
    “That’s not so hard!”
    “I know I can do it!”
    “I bet I can do it faster this time than I did the last time.”
    “No time like the present!”
    “I will feel so GOOD when this job is finished!”

    Visualizing the end result before starting the job helps me a lot, too. When I visualize a finished task, I automatically think of something my father taught me as I totally suffered over algebra and geometry homework, “The only way to it is THROUGH it.”

    By trying really hard not to think defeatist thoughts and by keeping my eye on the prize (the good feeling of being finished!), I can keep my days more productive and my mood more pleasant.

    [Reply]

    Corinne Reply:

    Evie, I really like these ideas you learned from your parents!
    I struggle with getting things done too and desperately want my kids to learn organization and productivity earlier than I have. I will talk to my kiddos about visualizing and use some of those same encouraging phrases you learned. It may stick for them and be helpful to me too!
    Thanks for sharing!

    [Reply]

    Siobhan Reply:

    Thanks Ladies!

    Great advice from all of you. I’ve visualized the end result with larger accomplishments in my life( finishing college, running a marathon) but didn’t think to apply it to daily chores. My children are really young but visualizing, being productive and keeping themselves organized are tools I intend to teach them as the grow.

    Thanks again for sharing :)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow — such awesome tips! Thanks for sharing Evie — I do many of these things too, but I’m glad you wrote them all down for others to read :)

    [Reply]

  3. Cathy

    05/15/2014

    I like the tip of if you say yes to something say no to something else.
    We think of that for items–if you buy something get rid of something–but obligations or tasks could be the same.
    I tend to take on too many personal obligations or work projects.
    I think this is something I will try to incorporate more–if my days are already busy I can’t take on something new until something goes :-)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Cathy! I have to constantly remind myself about some of this all the time as we only have so much time, energy, space, and resources. If I say “yes” I have to realize that I’ll be saying “no” to something else.

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  4. Lauren

    05/15/2014

    What planner are you using now? I know you posted about it awhile back, are you still using that one?

    [Reply]

  5. Heather

    05/15/2014

    One thing I always do is a mad dash right before I leave for work in the morning. I only have a set amount of time (or risk being late for work), and something about that pressure of short time coupled with the desire to come home & be able to relax for a few minutes really gets me flying. I can get three times as much accomplished in the 10 minutes before I leave for the day than I can in the first 20 minutes after getting home. I think this is all probably mind-set, but it works for me. I absolutely HATE coming home after a long day to clutter or messes – it makes me feel defeated before I even begin the evening responsibilities (dinner, laundry, etc).

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  6. Chalyse Meiklejohn

    05/15/2014

    Your original “do it now” post has completely changed how I live day to day – definitely my favorite post of yours to date, and I love a LOT of them!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Chalyse! So glad to have helped!

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  7. Julia K

    05/15/2014

    If I find I’m dragging the chain getting started on something – I set a timer – it really gets me moving. I sometimes use a work for 20 mins – then a 10 min break – or – work for 45 mins and take a 15 min break. I am constantly AMAZED at what can be accomplished in a short amount of time once I am FOCUSED and ENERGISED to do something.
    Yesterday afternoon I was feeling really sluggish. My husband had gone to take the children to soccer training and instead of zoning out in front of the computer I set the timer and in 45 mins I accomplished the following:
    1. Wiped off counters in kitchen,
    2. Handwashed a few plastic items / lunchboxes etc that had been sitting on the countertops,
    3. Cast my eye over the meal plan and realised I needed carrots and beans.
    4. Jumped into the car and whizzed up to the shops to get the items I needed – plus a bottle of wine and stopped by the post office to post a letter on the way home.
    5.Came back home and assembled the ingredients for dinner
    6. Made the beds in 3 kids rooms and did a quick pick up of toys/ clothes etc in each of the three rooms.
    7. Wiped up the plastic containers that I had washed and put them away. Wiped down sink.
    8. Straightened the cushions in the living room and put away a few items.

    I was ASTOUNDED by how much I achieved in 45 minutes !

    My neighbour uses a similar system to help her ease into her study workload. She starts with only 10 mins of working and gradually increases the length of her sessions till she is doing an hour – 1 1/2 hours at a stretch.

    [Reply]

    Debby Reply:

    Oh I love this!!!! I am going to try it tomorrow. I kinda do this now with HGTV. Tell myself to work 30 minutes and then I can watch a 30 minute show with a fresh cup of coffee. Hey whatever it takes to get it done! :-)

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    Andrea Reply:

    yup, I say “the 15 minute rule” all the time — it’s honestly amazing what you can accomplish in such a short amount of time (especially if you’re competitive and racing against the clock!)

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  8. Natalie

    05/17/2014

    Thank you Andrea, these are great! I really like the idea of taking notes – I’d like to implement it… I already do think about What’s Next and do things the Night Before.

    My biggest tip is doing small things around the kitchen while waiting for the water to boil or something to heat up on the stove or the microwave… I usually rinse the dishes, wipe the counters or put the dishes away, sometimes I get all the dishes done that way (we don’t use the dishwasher).

    Another tip is to Stay Flexible – you have to, if you want to keep your sanity. I always remind myself that I do my best to get things done but they don’t have to be done in particular order or be perfect. The work done imperfectly is better then none at all :)

    Thank you for sharing – you are such an encouragement and inspiration to me…

    [Reply]

  9. Weekend Reading: May 30, 2014

    05/30/2014

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