Getting things done the dirty way

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Gettings things done: the dirty dishes method

I have recently been reading more and more about productivity and getting
things done (GTD). I belive this is out of necessity as I have a lot
on my plate just now and balancing them all can be tricky. There are
a lot of things that I have come across that work for me and other things which
do not. I will be writing more about this in the future.

I have come across a trick which consistently works for me and that is breaking
the job down.

dirty_wayThe dirty dishes method

Take any task and simplify it into different components. I will take
an everyday task as an example here; washing the dishes. It seems easy
enough but a lot of people are averse to washing the dishes and leave them
until they pile up and then you might need some mounaineering equipment to
get to the top of the pile. Obviously most people have a dishwasher but
the same rules apply.

Our brain looks at the pile of dishes and might think "˜that's
far too much to do, I'll do it later'. It thinks this way
as the dishes are usually disorganised and placed in piles that make it look
as if there are lots of dishes. Our brain immediately says "˜hey
this is going to take ages to get through this lot' and it immediaitely
switches off to the task. Picture in your minds eye that pile of disorganised
dishes. Now picture those same dishes organised into piles of dinner
plates, tea plates, bowls, pans, cutlery. It looks so much more neater
and it looks less challenging.

So the next thing we do is organise them into piles. This way the job
doesn't look so big.

Now to get started. To do this just tell yourself you will do the dinner
plates first and then you can do the tea plates later.

Once you've started the dinner plates you will automatically keep going
to the tea plates and you will have gathered momentum and continue until you

Breaking the job down

Do this with every single task in your life and you can get a hell of a lot
more done.

Some of the task I have done recently are:

Sorting out the mountain of paperwork I have at work. Using the breaking
up method, I look at what is most important, I then sort out the paperwork
into piles of priority, so I might have 10 -20 piles. I then work through each
pile in turn and devote 30 minutes of uninterrupted time per day to do it.

Other tasks include: visting clients, doing notes, decorating a house, daily
chores, going to the gym. We can literally do it in every area of our

To summarise the dirty dishes method:

  • Identify the task to achieve
  • Organise the task into smaller pieces
  • Take each piece in turn and work on it
  • Build momentum by continuing with the other pieces
  • Task completed

Let me know if this method works for you or if you try another


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About the author

Steven Aitchison

Steven Aitchison is the author of The Belief Principle and an online trainer teaching personal development and online business.  He is also the creator of this blog which has been running since August 2006.