Eliminating the “sticky points” of the day

Do you ever feel like you’re sprinting around simply dealing with one “sticky point” after another?

I’m not just talking about the literal stickiness . . . like orange juice on the kitchen tile or jelly smeared through someone’s hair.

I’m talking about the behind-the-scenes problems that prevent you from accomplishing what matters most – the “little things” that frustrate you and keep you from enjoying the moments with your family.

Maybe your son’s globe nightlight needs a new bulb, and he complains about how much he misses it every time you try to sing lullabies.

Perhaps the door on the clothes dryer keeps popping open, so every time you run a load through, you have to stack heavy boxes in front of the machine, which then impedes the flow of traffic coming in from the garage.

Maybe you’re totally out of plastic spoons, so your children keep taking “real” ones to school in their lunch boxes.

The details in your home will be unique to your family, but everyone has to deal with “life.”

And what ends up happening is that we get so busy with the daily routines and trying to keep our heads above water that we put off taking care of these relatively easy-to-handle “sticky” points.

We wait until the little things become big things, and throughout the whole process, our energy is zapped as our inner voice shouts, “Why can’t you pull your life together?”

We, as mothers, have high hopes, and we’re doing good work. We want to take excellent care of our families, be there for our neighbors, pursue our passions, volunteer in the community, and curl up next to our honey with a fantastic book or a favorite TV show at the end of the day.

We just need a simple, effective way to smooth out the flow of our family lives and give us more energy to devote to our highest priorities.

My life used to be overwhelming (and sometimes out of control), but the process I’m about to share with you has transformed my family experience. I can’t wait for you to give it a try.

Step One

Make a master list of everything bothering you.

This will be an ongoing process, but whenever you start feeling cranky, sit down and identify the things that are bothering you (that you can control . . . that’s the ticket).

Here are some things that have graced my own list in the past few months:

• The snow cone machine our family loves just broke, within the 90-day return window, and I have the receipt in my planner. I need to make the exchange soon because we like to use it every single day, and everyone keeps asking me about it.

• My daughter’s black dress needs to be mended, and she really needs it back in her wardrobe. (She borrows my clothes when I say I haven’t gotten to it yet!)

• I’m always texting friends at the last minute, trying to coordinate carpools for our kids’ weeknight activities. I need to set up a better system.

• One child is extremely drawn to screens and computer games. We’ve got to come up with some alternatives.

• We’re paying for Netflix but keep forgetting to order the DVDs…and I think we lost one behind the TV.

This is pretty typical, right? So what do we do?

Step 2

Identify the Next Action associated with each item on your list.

I learned the term “Next Action” from David Allen’s best-seller, Getting Things Done®. It’s defined as “the next specific, visible activity that will move a task toward completion.”

Many of the “sticky points” you’ll have on your list will only require one step. For those that require two or more associated tasks, you just focus on the very next one.

Let’s go through my five items from above and quickly identify the Next Action.

• The snow cone machine: Take it back to the store.

• The dress requiring mending: Get out my needle and black thread and sew the little sequins back on.

• The carpool dilemma: Call Deb and see if she wants to trade drop-offs and pick-ups each Thursday.

• The screen-addiction: Sit down with my husband and identify a list of alternative activities our son would enjoy.

• The lost DVD: Get on the Netflix website and find out what the “lost DVD” policy is.

That wasn’t very painful, was it?

Step 3

Write the Next Actions on context-based lists.

For years, I scribbled long lists of tasks into spiral notebooks and tried to earn as many check marks as possible. It was stressful.

Now, I use five contexts to track the “specific, visible activities that will move my tasks toward completion.”

1. Computer
2. Errands
3. At Home
4. Phone Calls
5. To Discuss (Agendas)

I keep one list in my planner to track things that need to be done this week. It looks like this:

Then I keep another set of lists – one page per context – at the back of my planner, where I record tasks that can wait a bit, but need to be done as soon as it’s convenient.

(There are also plenty of smart-phone apps that can be organized this way.)

Once you’ve decided how you want your lists to look and where you want to keep them, you just place each “Next Action” on the appropriate list.

• The snow cone machine: This Week – ERRAND

• The dress requiring mending: As Soon as it’s Convenient – HOME TASK

• The carpool dilemma: This Week – PHONE CALL

• The screen-addiction: This Week – TO DISCUSS

• The lost DVD: As Soon as it’s Convenient – COMPUTER

Step 4

When you’re in a specific context, work from the corresponding list(s).

When I’m on my way to the store to buy cleaning supplies and toiletries, I check my errands list and remember to grab the snow-cone machine.

When my daughter is sitting at the kitchen table doing her homework, I can check my “home” context and gather the supplies needed to mend her dress. (She’ll be so happy!)

When my boys are happily playing Legos, I can check my phone list and get that carpool scheduled.

What I love about these context-based Next Actions is the fact that they help me use my time well. When a few spare moments pop up here and there, I know what to do with them. I can check my lists and actually move forward on eliminating the sticky parts of my life.

And then I can breathe.

We all have that inner desire to live a good story. There are exciting, meaningful, beautiful things to be done with our time and talents. Our children want to create lasting memories with us, and we want those memories to include a mother who really thrived.

So take some time today and identify what’s distracting you from living your best life. Figure out your Next Actions, and record them on corresponding lists that you can easily reference when you’re in the right context to do so. Because when you do this, your life is going to feel incredible . . . even when it’s sticky.

Note from April: This system of task organization is part of a GTD®-based program called Mind Organization for Moms, and I would love to give away 100 free programs (valued at $50 each) as a gift to the Simple Mom Community. To receive your free program, please click here.

Do you have a special method for organizing the “sticky parts” of your day? Have you noticed a difference in how you feel when these types of tasks are completed?

April Perry

April Perry is married to her soul-mate, Eric, and is the mother of Alia, Grace, Ethan, and Spencer. She co-directs The Power of Moms, blogs at The Power of a Family, and satisfies her insatiable love for organization through her GTD®-based Mind Organization for Moms program.

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  1. I tried to get the free program but the button didn’t work. I am about to go to bed and I see that you are only giving away 100 programs. Can you please contact me and let me know when it is fixed?

  2. These are great tips! Thank you for sharing!

  3. I’m also having the same problem…I would love to receive this!

  4. These are great tips. I especially like the use of paper and pen. Unlike apps, reminders that I can hold in my hand, stay on my mind.

  5. Shannon Moorman says:

    Same with me! …. I get some downloads but not the Mind Organization for Moms that you offer.

  6. I’ve tried but the button didn’t work. I would love to get it though.

  7. If you read my post from Friday, you’ll see how helpful this post would be to me. Although I am a single mom (well, my husband is here, but ill) and the stickiness is so huge around here, I can try to use some of these tips. Thank you.

  8. Same here! I’ve wanted to go through this program forever and was SO excited to see it offered here for free, but when I enter my info it says my name and email are already in use, which is true since I already subscribe to Power of Moms. Is this offer not available to those already subscribed? I sure hope we can still be included! 🙂

  9. Same issue as above. I’ve been wanting to do this program, but am already a subscriber to Power of Moms. Is this available to those already subscribed?

  10. The same – no “Mind Organization for Moms” to click! 🙁
    what do we do?

  11. Thanks so much, everyone! I’m sorry a few of you are having trouble accessing the program. I’m working with our tech support right now to figure out where the glitch is. If you register on the giveaway page, I’ll have you on the list, and you’ll definitely receive the free program. We’ll set up a temporary download page, and I’ll contact you when the download link is working. Thanks!

  12. I thought I smelled GTD! I love having a GTD program specifically for moms. I went through the process and the button appeared after I logged in, but when I press the button nothing happens and it does not get added to my programs. Help!

  13. Thank you for the free program access! I’m excited to check it out! To those above who haven’t been able to access it, I got it to work by following the directions in the email that was automatically sent. I logged into the http://www.powerofmoms.com website, then I clicked on “My Programs” in that same box once logged in. It wasn’t in my list of programs, so I went back to the email and looked at the link directly below the green box. It says “If, by some chance, you missed the Mind Organization for Moms download page, you can access it here.” I clicked on that link, and it added it to my programs page. So I went back to “My Programs,” and there it was! Now I’m going to go check out my goodies! I hope that helps. Thanks again!

  14. Really I’m very glad to read your excellent article and i want to follow your nice tips.

  15. Great post – I’ve learned to just get things done more and more. I love my Planner Pad organizer because it provides a clear way to set up master lists, daily to-do lists and schedule them. I especially love it because it’s not electronic so I can do my planning without being on a screen – no late night going to the computer.

  16. I would like to recieve the free program as well, but I get an error when I click on the link.
    I went specifically on the simple mom site to try to find advice in this area of “getting things together’. What a blessing to find this post.

  17. As for the Netflix issue, pick a night when everyone is home and ask what movies they want to request. Add a bunch to your queue and then whenever you send movies back, they’ll automatically send you the next ones from your queue. You don’t have to remember to go pick something. 🙂 Also, if you go to your rental history, you can report lost/broken/damaged DVDs. HTH

  18. I appreciate a different way to organize my day. I love reading how other people get through a 24 hour period!

  19. Thank you both so much for this. It worked for me, so hopefully it will work for everyone. Being a stay-at-home mom with both kids in school, the little things seem to never get done, even though I have the time. Hopefully this program will help!

  20. Great post. Love the simplicity.

  21. Very organized way of thinking of this topic. I’ve never thought of it that way. But of course my attempts at being this organized always seem to end horribly. I’ve adopted one simple method for dealing with the sticky point of my life and that is: JUST DEAL WITH THEM. Like right now. When that dryer door is just bothering me, I take a minute (while I’m stacking the books in front of it to keep it closed) to call the handyman to come fix it. I get anxious when my to do list gets too long, so for me just dealing with the stickiness in that moment is so very helpful to me. Thanks for sharing!

    • This is my issue. If I make too many lists, I won’t get it done! I like step 1 and 2. 1 list. Sometimes I forget why a “to-do” is important and needs action. So seeing both sides I think will help. But I like the “just deal with it” approach too.

    • Great point! GTD emphasizes the Two-Minute Rule, which says that if you can get something done in two minutes or less, just do it–don’t add it to a list. This type of list system works best for those tasks that are more than two minutes. Thanks!

      • Ha! I had to laugh. I, too, work well from a list, but I have a friend who is so list-dependent (and/or OCD) that if she does something that’s not on her list, she adds it on real fast so she can mark it off.

  22. I was SOOOOO with you on the “get the little things done before they become big things,” then on to step one: “write it down,” and even on the “now write down the next step” step….but then you kept going and the system got more elaborate and complex and my “overwhelmed” meter shot off the charts. While this system may be effective for some, I’m not sure that “simple” is the correct adjective for it!

    Having said that, I think it’s a fabulous _idea_ and it clearly works for you (and likely others). As for me, I will glean the bits of it that I can and use it to find a system that works for me. Right now that “system” boils down to “just do it.” If I see something out-of-place or that needs to be done, if I have the time to do it, I do it! As I go along, more and more things are getting done and staying maintained, which means that I can then go to the next level – like clean out the fridge or go through the pile o’crap on the counter (or the other one on my dresser) or…..whatever is next on the list of things I need to do.

    To each their own!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your perspective, Melissa! You’re definitely right that everyone has their own unique style of organizing. I’ve found that my brain works best with focused lists (because otherwise I worry about everything simultaneously), but for others, lists feel overwhelming. I love learning how other people structure their time and tasks, as it helps me continue to tweak my own personal system. Thanks for your comment!

  23. Thanks for such great ideas. I need to make a “bothering me” list.

  24. sparklybarclay says:

    I’ve just downloaded my free program! Thank you so much guys, I just know it’s going to work for me. Can’t wait for my mind to be uncluttered! x

  25. I like that this system allows you to grab a list depending on the situation you find yourself in.

  26. I did not go through your whole process, but lately, I have been consciously trying to just deal with something at the time I notice it even if it means a lot of extra steps, like taking things up and down the stairs or whatever, amazing how little time it takes to do the little annoying things compared to how much aggravation they cause………..

  27. I have a chalk board in the kitchen. I keep these “to do” things on a list there. Then when I have a morning or afternoon free I spend some time knocking off as many as I can. They don’t all get done but at least I make a dent. And if the kids are aorund, I delegate some of the jobs to them. Which keeps them off the screen time. So I manage to get 2 things done at once 😉 Stevie@ruffledfeathersand spilledmilk.com

  28. I also read David Allen’s getting things done and I love the way you’ve taken his basic methods and really tailored them for mom’s in a do-able (and interesting) way. I found these methods really helped me at work although I haven’t tried them at home.

  29. You couldn’t have posted this at a better time! I feel so overwhelmed sometimes that I have trouble sleeping. I’m sure this is going to help! Also, thank you for the free program! It’s very interesting as well.

  30. I love this blog! I’m not a mom but I am a fugal housewife and there is good stuff on this blog that my husband and I can use to manage our lives better (he actually introduced me to your blog). Like this post for example; what I simple way to address those overwhelming little things. I’m trying this. Thanks!

    PS I subscribed and followed 🙂

  31. Just checking, do we need a website required to post a comment? I put yours in there b/c I don’t have one.
    ALL I CAN SAY is Wow. This article was exactly what I needed for work. And home. But mainly work. I’ve been trying for weeks to figure what was wrong with my system here at the office, because I have so much to do, so many hats to wear, the office burial of Ty Johnson was near. My casket was the papers and files all over the place. So I’ve known about the GTD system, but the method needed to tweaked for my workload so I’ve realized that need to have the Context based folders in place which I’ve been doing, but I wanted a ONE PAGE see-at-a-glance what is in those folders at any given time. So everytime I tried to google search the issue, the results weren’t what I was looking for and I give up b/c now 1 or 2 hours has passed and I’m no closer to my goal. AND I’ve wasted 2 hours of my day – GONE (Then the guilt comes in). So I stop and look again another day, or another week, a month. And now TODAY, I stumble upon your blog/website: A true true blessing. When I saw your picture of “What is bothering me” written on what looked like a white poster board and read your article, (as Gru would say in the movie in Despicable Me ‘LIGHT BULB) I turned off my computer screen so fast, and wrote down what was bothering me and it was so clear… that I just wanted to applaud and thank you for helping me with such a simple idea that has fixed months of problems.
    Define the problem: What is bothering me? So simple…and I am the type that writes it down in order for it to stick to my brain. Thank you again.
    Also is the “Mind Organization for Moms” download still available? Have you hit the 100 mark yet? I’m in such desperate need for these tips. I’ve clicked the link on the registration page & the access link in the email as stated in prior post and neither worked. I’ve still sub regardless.

    • Tymiria, I’m so glad this post helped you! Thank you for sharing your story and your kind words. I can TOTALLY relate with how you’ve been feeling. I’ve been there–and that’s why I put together this program. So sorry the link didn’t work for you. Not sure why, as it’s been working for others. But you can email SimpleMomGiveaway@powerofmoms.com, and we’ll try again. If you still have issues, please email Webmaster@powerofmoms.com. Thanks so much!

  32. Thanks for the great tips!

  33. I’m definitely at that random spiral notebooks list stage. Even that has been helping me just to get my to do list out of my head and onto paper. That way whenever I have time I know exactly what needs to be done. Your tips really take it to the next step. Thanks!

  34. He complains about how much he misses it every time you try to sing lullabies.

  35. The kitchen tile or jelly smeared through someone’s hair.

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