Most of us joyfully said goodbye to homework when we left school. I certainly was glad to see it go, especially the busy-work stuff that didn’t serve any point except to waste a lot of time.
Recently, I’ve had a change of heart, at least when it comes to self-imposed homework. I’ve had some success with giving myself homework assignments related to my uncluttering and organizing projects. When I structure the homework more like a lesson plan than a to-do list, I can better remember why I’m doing work and stay focused on the end goal.
What I do:
- Identify the unit objective. What is a unit objective? In this case, it’s going to be the reasons you want to unclutter and/or organize. Your objective might be that you want to have friends come over unannounced and not have to worry that your place is a mess. Your objective might be that you don’t want to injure yourself constantly tripping over your child’s toys. Your objective might be that you want to downsize to a smaller home to reduce your mortgage and other expenses.
- Identify your deadline. Do you have a solid goal by when the work needs to be completed? If you don’t have a set deadline, can you create an artificial one to help motivate you?
- Identify current status. Where are you right now? This is a good time to photograph the room, desk, closet or area you wish to unclutter and/or organize to record your starting point.
- Identify action items. Analyze your current status and determine all the work that needs to be completed for you to successfully meet your unit objective. Be specific with these actions. “Organize shelf” is not specific enough. Use language that expresses exactly what you plan to do — “Pull all items off shelf, sort items into three piles (keep, purge, other), etc.”
- Create your timeline. Using your deadline as a guide, distribute action items onto your calendar. Do this in pencil or electronically, so you can easily move items if necessary. Always leave a few nights before the deadline open in case you fall behind schedule. If you stay on schedule, you’ll be rewarded by finishing the unit early.
- Do your homework. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Do the homework you’ve set for yourself for each night, and don’t make any excuses. You’re working toward a goal you desire and you want to reach.
- Assess your progress. Decide if you want to review your work daily, weekly, or only at the end of the unit. Personally, I like to give myself daily grades (my system is simple: A is 4 points=did the work; F is 0 points=didn’t do the work). At the end of the week I’ll see how many points I’ve earned and keep a tally (20 points is an ideal week, only working Monday-Friday).
I’ve started to think of my on-going house routines in this way, too. My objective is to keep the house running smoothly so I think less about chores and the state of the house, and more time on doing fun stuff with my family. To meet this objective, there are certain tasks I must do every day (homework) for this to happen. The chores are spread out over a week, and each day I can easily assess my performance — did the homework, or didn’t.
The reason I believe this method works for me is it keeps me focused on the objectives and it’s easy to see how the work I’m doing is directly related to those objectives. Chores and uncluttering and organizing tasks seem less like busy-work and more as steps to something I really desire in my life.
Could you use a little homework in your life? Share your reactions and methods you employ in the comments.