A “One-thing-leads-to-another” day (#OTLTAD)

I thought it was going to be a day of quite specific activity. A fairly specific list had begun forming in my mind the night before and was starting to firm up as I gradually awoke (magnificent Bendigo spring morning). A very positive start was planned as I’d discovered that the outdoor pool was now open – always a significant point on my calendar.

So, still fairly loosely, there was swim, re-stock bare kitchen at Coles, bit of laundry, arrange a few things (Italian class, TICKETS TO MATILDA!!), then get on with the real challenges – the online photo book production and start the Medium Blog. I finally had a day to myself and these challenges needed time and focus.

Loz arrived while I showered, chat,chat. Tickets were booked spot-on 9am as bookings opened on-line. Off to Coles, run into neighbour Donna, chat chat. Morning mostly gone. That wasn’t specifically the plan.

Home and third load of washing attended. This is where I discovered that rather than a day of strict and specific attention to a pre-arranged to-do-list, this was actually a “one-thing-leads-to-another” day (OTLTAD). I love a #OTLTAD!

I’d had an inkling it might be a OTLTAD when I went to the study to print out the Matilda tickets. At that time I also decided to print out the Noosa Tri receipts. And the Italian Class stuff. And copy a couple of TAC forms. Those things weren’t on my specific list. It’s a slow printer and I noticed the enormous pile of filing-not-yet-done. I got onto the filing-not-yet-done (FNYD) even tho’ that task wasn’t on my specific list -and I completed the FNYD. It felt good. The FNYD had been bugging me for a while.

My timing in realising it might be a OTLTAD was crucial because if you think you’re on a day of specific tasks completion and you’ve ticked off very few tasks by early afternoon because you’ve been side-tracked by ‘chat-chat’, ‘oh I’d better get that Tri stuff sorted’, and ‘how come the one TAC form I need isn’t here in this pile of every other TAC form – I’ll have to download one’ – then the day rapidly descends into sheer frustration, chaos, self-reproachment and tail-chasing. It quickly becomes just another day of not getting anything on my to-do-list done.

I remembered completing the FNYD as I was in the laundry with the third washing load. I noticed the rarely acknowledged pile of hand-washing. I hate hand-washing. It’s an item that crops up often on a specific to-do-list day – and almost always becomes a carry over item. Right at that moment was when I realised it was simply a problem of #day-policy re-classification…

If I made today a OTLTAD, then the hand-washing could be completed immediately. That would see 2 annoying, frequently carried-over tasks completed already – both the FNYD and the perennial nightmare of the hand-washing -done! Brilliant!

A OTLTAD is a completely different day-policy from a specific list of tasks to be done day. And way more fun. This is how it works. You begin with a couple of tasks which do actually need to be done today – eg. Book and print Matilda tickets, do multiple loads of washing. It’s important that those tasks are not all-consuming mentally or time wise. Whilst in the process of completing those tasks and wandering to various regions of the house, it’s inevitable that you’ll notice stuff that makes you think – ‘heck, I must do that some time’, or the more common, ‘I’m so hopeless, how have I still not gotten onto that’. Here’s the thing with a OTLTAD – it’s the day you actually just stop and do that thing!

First – there are no ‘I must get this done-type tasks’. While there maybe one or 2 important tasks which start the day , as described above, this is a day where anything can happen. The tasks which do get done on your OTLTAD are celebrated for their diverse, unexpected, ‘that wasn’t so bad after all’ nature. These are tasks that were never so important that they warranted a spot on the specific to-do list. So if you get some done, heaps done, a couple done – it doesn’t matter as they were struggling to ever be done!

So it can be important to combine this day with another important day-policy – the “is there something I really need to do today, that if I get to the end of the day without achieving, I’ll be really cross’. Best get that done before embarking on your OTLTAD. Even better if it can be one of your lead-in activities.

So, As you go about your day – perhaps while hanging that hand-washing on the line, you notice the feral ivy creeper from next door that’s jumped the fence and is threatening to hang you alongside your delicates. You decide to take the few minutes to grab the secatuers and deal with the feral vine there and then. And while feretting around for the secatuers you scrunch thru the autumn leaves you’ve been meaning to sweep up in the garage and decide to do that job next. While emptying the accumulated mess in the bin up front you’ll notice the mail has arrived and you. grab that. The bureau of meteorology has obviously been maintaining its database and you’re on it – yep, ill order another weather calendar for 2016, do it now, and sign up for that extra one I’d been thinking of getting for Rumpole ( to celebrate his role as GORC Weather oracle).

These are the sort of things that can happen on a OTLTAD! One thing leads to another… The list is not pre-written, taunting you all day with its impossibility and your incredible inefficiency. Tasks present themselves serendipitously and you grab the ones you feel like.

But it’s vitally important to stick to the OTLTAD rules. You’ll see a few of the rules evident in the above tasks. Any activity embarked upon must take less than 30 minutes to complete. And it will be. complete. No carry-over allowed, or moving onto something else before finishing the task at hand.So choice is important as tasks present themselves. Do I want to do that? Do I feel like it? It’s ok to say no – these are jobs that have sat around un-done, sometimes for months (er, possibly years). By definition, not doing it today won’t matter. Usually however, even when it’s an under-appealing task, such as laundry hand-washing,, the fact that it’s relatively quick, achievably completable, has been bugging you for ages so will have a high degree of ‘yes, that’s finally done!’, will see you decide to go ahead.

Some common rookie mistakes on the OTLTAD are worth noting. Beware the task that presents itself as. belonging to the OTLTAD, but is so not a contender. When faced with a sense of open-ended, uninterrupted time it’s easy to get sucked into. the ‘big things I’ve got to get around to’ (eg. Clean out wardrobe now a new season is upon us). A rookie may not realise this is a whole different day-policy approach. That sort of task requires the ‘dedicated half day set aside with no guarantee of completion’ policy. It’s not a fun day. It’s unlikely to end with the sort well-rounded, happy list of unexpected accomplishments that is the hallmark of a OTLTAD.

Also beware of the task that morphs quietly into an infinite, unachievable sort of everyday grind. Yesterday, while stopping for coffee (I said this was a fun day), I realised the espresso machine needed a good clean, with a chemical soak of its bits. This could potentially fit the pre-requisites for a OTLTAD task. As a past master, I wasn’t misled. I know how these sort of activities work. You mess around trying to find the chemicals, you have fill the sink and wash everything first (leading you to just wash all those other bits and pieces on the sink too), then you realise you have to run the stuff thru the machine multiple times which takes ages… And really, the stove top should be cleaned as well as the cupboard fronts or what’s the point? And suddenly you’ve spent a few hours in the kitchen on boring daily grind stuff where there is no end in sight and a very tenuous sense of completion.

No, much better, while pulling the next load out of the washing machine to notice the poor old Kombutcha plant festering away and begging to be cleaned up. Yep – it’ll take less than 30 minutes, it’s been bugging me for ages, the whole job will be complete and then I’ll move onto the next. Hey, here’s all those batteries and aren’t we meant to change the smoke alarm batteries when we change our clocks for day-light savings. Now that’s an excellent OTLTAD sequence. Perfect!

So I had a great OTLTAD! And now the laundry is clean, filing is done, we’re safe from fire in our beds, I won’t be strangled at the clothesline, the carport is clear, Rumpole will enjoy a new weather-related photograph each month of 2016.

And here’s the other thing – a OTLTAD doesn’t have to be a whole day. Especially beginners may like to start with just a couple of open-ended hours and see what happens…

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