KS3 — Equalize your tasks by grouping & dividing your actions.

Keeping score task list example

Imagine a tally on which every task is worth five points. (Or go look at Keeping Score’s home page.) Writing a blog post is worth 5 points. Making dinner is worth 5 points. Having sex is worth 5 points. That is our eventual goal. So how do you get from where you are to where we’re going?

When you look at the long list you’ve created, you will immediately see that some actions are distinctly easier or harder than others. So make them equal. For a woman suffering from a long-term, low-grade depression, it is quite possible that a simple thing like brushing her teeth is worth the 5 points. For others it might be that brushing and flossing is good enough. For others, brushing and flossing twice a day would do the trick. For others, an entire morning routine – complete with tooth care, a shower, makeup, a coordinated outfit AND a quick manicure – would earn that same 5 points.

It is important, at this juncture, that you be clear-eyed about what comes easily to you. Don’t even consider how anyone else might score your activity, or the effort you put into it. In the first few weeks of Keeping Score, you may realize you under- or over- estimated your abilities, strengths, weakness, vices, energy, etc. During that time period, it is acceptable, even good, to rearrange, recalculate and readjust. (So don’t print a year’s worth of tallies just yet.) Once you get things set, you will be able to measure your progress against yourself … and that’s all that matters. After you’ve used the system for a while you’ll want to tweak things to reflect new realities. The seasons will change, and along with them, your schedule. Over time, some tasks will become easier with repetition, freeing up time and energy. You’ll gain new interests. Once you have a handle on the things you are already doing, you may even want to add big new goals. None of what you are about to do is set in stone, so don’t agonize.

So let’s do it, already:

It’s time to look at your list and group as needed. (you’ll divide other actions in a bit.) To establish your 5 point level, scan your list and find the mid-point activities – the place where an action seems neither too easy nor too hard to be worth (the admittedly arbitrary) 5 points. What takes about 30 minutes to an hour to do AND doesn’t make you cringe? What regular tasks do you almost always manage to find time for? What task do you rarely put off? Mark those actions. Use a highlighter or star them – whatever pleases you. When you find a string of actions that are usually contiguous, that can be combined into a natural feeling routine – and which together seem to require about 5 points worth of effort – draw some lines to connect them into a routine. An extension of the example above might be brushing teeth, taking a shower and getting dressed. Applying makeup might be worth 5 points on its own. Go through the whole list.

What remains unmarked is a collection of more difficult (for you) tasks and fun stuff.

The difficult stuff:

You want to assign a point value of 10 or 20 or 100 to the things you hate to do, or that require more time. Instead, break those tasks into useful sections. If writing a blog post is too time-consuming for a mere 5 points, then consider turning it into three five point tasks: 5 pts. for research & gather info for blog post, 5 pts. for draft blog post and let it sit overnight, 5 pts. for revise, edit & post to blog. The benefits of dividing tasks are many. Overwhelming tasks become manageable when you approach them just this one step at a time. One step in a process can fit into even a busy or stressful day. Slowing a project down will often result in a higher quality finished project.

It’s time to go back and break down those more difficult and time-consuming tasks. If a tough task doesn’t neatly break into pieces, give it a time block: ‘write fiction for 30 minutes’ (Or an hour. Or 15 minutes. What would be roughly equivalent to your other mid-point activities?) For something like ‘clean house’ substitute ‘clean bath tub’ and ‘vacuum a room’ and ‘pick up and put away all out-of-place items’. (A name like that will have to be shortened later, to something like ‘tidy house’ but it should have a very specific meaning to you before it gets abbreviated.) 

Remember, you are working with repetitive tasks here. It isn’t necessary to list all the steps of a finite project, like painting the bathroom, for Keeping Score. If such projects keep coming to the forefront of your mind, find an unused section of your notebook and make a few notes there, just so you don’t lose them. We’ll come back to finite projects in another section.

The fun stuff:

If you’ve followed my instructions exactly, all that’s left is the fun stuff. Except that’s not what you were thinking, was it? When you skimmed right past watching TV, or playing a video game, or daydreaming, or taking a nap, you saw them as time wasters. Or, maybe, you never even got as far as writing such things down. If you didn’t, add them now. Capture all your vices. Then highlight or star them so that they too are worth 5 points. Yes. You have just put watching Dancing with the Stars on the same playing field as washing a load of laundry. That’s intentional. Trust me.

Speaking of fun:

When you do Keeping Score, you are playing a game with yourself – take advantage of that. In the sample list at the top of this page, you’ll see a couple of tricks coming into play. Because I’ve done this before, I know that I will need short descriptions of tasks so that they will all fit onto a tally. Consequently, I was thinking that “shower” and “moisturize” abbreviate to S&M. This amused me. Then I was deciding if I wanted to attach “brush teeth” to that, which gave me a ‘B’. All I needed was a ‘D’. Voila! Drink a full glass of water – which is something I should do far more often than I actually do – fit the bill nicely. Now I can smile to myself whenever I check off  BDSM.

(Full disclosure: I don’t actually lump all that together – I bathe far more often than shower so I keep that seperate. I will be adding that full glass of water thing to my tooth brushing though. And that’s a trick in itself.)


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