Themed Days Get Those Little Tasks Done

You know how sometimes you have so many little to-do items nagging at you, or errands that never get crossed off your list, or repairs that need doing, or piles of old papers that need processing, or mail that’s accumulated, or the sense that you should be performing routine home maintenance?

Here’s where “themed days” come in: days when you schedule, carve out time for, and commit to getting those things done and off your mind. By “batching” these tasks into single days, you’ll achieve some economies of scale, feel great afterward and help to keep your life running smoothly.

What kinds of themed days might you try?

Mini-Task Day

On this day, tackle all of those little, bitty tasks that have been neglected because each one is a low priority and no big deal on its own … but taken together, have been creating clutter in your mind and in your space. 

Besides living by the “Do it now” motto if something can be done in a couple of minutes, the answer to conquering these little tasks may be to pool them to complete them all at once. To qualify, a task should take fewer than 10 minutes so that you don’t get distracted with bigger projects. Candidates include making an appointment, filling out a form, paying a bill, sending an important email, doing quick research, sewing on a button, treating a carpet stain, taking out the recycling, putting away some laundry, loading the dishwasher, changing the kitty litter, brushing the dog, putting a few things away where they belong, shining a pair of shoes, cleaning your glasses and so many more.

When you’re finished, reward yourself for doing the equivalent of one giant task! Also notice and appreciate the big differences that these small improvements will make in your life, which may motivate you to do them more quickly in the future – or schedule another Mini-Task Day in a month or so. Then keep a running task list so that you’ll be ready to go next time. Knowing that you’re planning to do these tasks on a specific day – versus procrastinating – will make a positive mental difference. 

Errand Day

Similar to Mini-Task Day, this is when you pool all those errands you’ve been meaning to do. Make a list of everywhere you need to go, plot a time- and gas-efficient route, and review what you’ll need to take along, such as library books, coupons, receipts, prescriptions, checks to deposit, packages to mail, clothes to be dry cleaned, and items to be repaired.

Errand Day allows you to avoid making a special trip every time you need to do something, but if an errand can’t wait for Errand Day, see what else you can accomplish quickly while you’re out. And if possible, delegate errands to others, and take advantage of home deliveries.

Home Maintenance Day

We’ve been doing Home Maintenance Days at my house for years, and when my kids were young, my plan was that we’d all pitch in according to our abilities to get seasonal jobs done all in one day, then celebrate our hard work. “We” soon became “I” – with my husband completing the tasks that he excels at – but nonetheless, Home Maintenance Days ensured that each season’s list of indoor and outdoor chores got done, and scheduling one day for them allowed me to focus and feel good knowing that we were ready for that season.

Fix-It Day

Maybe some of the items you interacted with on Mini-Task Day or Errand Day would be more useful if they were repaired, and this is your designated day to make that happen. Getting them fixed will reduce the clutter they’re causing and may even improve your living conditions because sometimes people get snarky when broken things go unrepaired for too long.

As with all of the other themed days, make this one a priority by scheduling it. By the end of the day, your goal is to have made the rounds to repair shops, bought the supplies for and completed the do-it-yourself jobs, scheduled appointments with repair professionals who will fix things for you, and tossed or recycled whatever you can’t or won’t be fixing at all. (Sometimes giving up is the best choice.) If you have a handy friend or relative, perhaps you can barter repair services for something you’re better at doing or enjoy more.

Piles-of-Paper Day

If you have piles of paper that stare at you, make you feel bad and cause you to worry that important matters are languishing, schedule a day to deal with them. I suggest turning the piles upside down so that the oldest stuff will now be on top. Those items will probably be the easiest to toss, recycle or shred because many of them will have become obsolete, and letting them go quickly will produce visible progress and create encouraging momentum. 

Administrative Day

And what about those papers that aren’t quite so old? If you can’t manage daily “administrative sessions” to deal with the paper – and electronic information – that comes into your life, then schedule frequent Administrative Days to give yourself the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re on top of things. Make these sessions more pleasant with beverages and music; then go to it! (And avoid merely shuffling papers and delaying decisions – actually complete the tasks.)

Themed days liberate you from so many small tasks that can add up to become psychological and physical burdens. Schedule them to make them a priority, get help if needed, stay focused, remain determined, reward yourself at the end and maintain a task list for next time. You’re going to thank yourself afterward!

Paula Apfelbach, the former owner of Breathing Room Professional Organizing in Madison, is now the copy editor for the Peninsula Pulse and Door County Living magazine.