Getting Stuff Done

It’s good to tackle chores by order of importance or urgency.

Photo by Cindy Tang on Unsplash

When you’re feeling overwhelmed with ten million chores vying for your attention, how do you choose which ones to do first? You can use the S.M.A.R.T. strategy to set goals. I learned about this when I was studying for my CAPM (Certified Associate of Project Management) from the P.M.I. (Project Management Institute). The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

In this post I’ll tell you the story of my goal to make sure that I was protected by home insurance. There will also be some observations that I’ve made about goal setting.

If you own a home or significant belongings then having home insurance provides security in case of emergencies.

Since I’m house poor, I need to make sure that my home is protected by house insurance. I found out yesterday when looking at my online banking that my post dated cheque had bounced. It’s been a bad couple of years financially and emotionally. My mother broke her hip and moved into a nursing home. Then both of my adult children moved back with their belongings. A few months later my brother’s wife left him and their two dogs and cats. So money has been spent moving and stabilizing the family.

The cheque was for a large amount due to the escalating cost of earthwake insurance. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake with accompanying tsunami is looming possibly within the next 50 years. As a result the insurance companies are reticent to offer earthquake insurance so the cost has been escalating the last few years.

Combine the fear of earthquakes with escalating house prices and the associated cost of owning a home is high. According to the city’s property assessment my house is worth four times what I paid for it 19 years ago. Real estate prices started going up a few years before Hong Kong was returned to China’s rule from British. In preparation and a bit of fear, people who lived in Hong Kong who could afford it bought houses in British Columbia. It would be easier for them to enter Canada than the USA because of both countries belonging to the British Commonwealth. The trend of foreigners buying houses and leaving them empty has continued. Instead of not allowing that, the city governments are imposing an extra tax on empty houses. There’s also always been an influx of retirees from the harsher climate areas of Canada trying to escape Canadian winters. Even the homeless drift west for the same reason. Because there’s more money in real estate than renting there is a real shortage of rental properties. House values keep soaring. Pensioners are at a real disadvantage because of high house taxes. Those were due at the beginning of the month. So money has been tight because I just paid the house tax. I wasn’t expecting a problem with the cheque though.

The insurance company didn’t know that my cheque hadn’t gone through. I had found out when I looked at my online banking. I paid with a credit card because I was so nervous about my house not being insured. I told the agent that the bank had charged me almost fifty dollars because of a Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) cheque. He told me that usually the bank will waive the fine if it’s your first offence. So after I got a receipt from him, I wandered across the street to the bank. When it was my turn, and the teller asked me what she could do for me today, I said I’d like to have the charge reversed. It wasn’t a problem at all. She just advised me to be more careful in the future. I have overdraft protection but it had gone over it slightly. It’s bad when a bank charges people extra when they’re tight on money. Not so much for me because I’ll be okay but for others who are really struggling to make ends meet. I went back to the insurance agent and thanked him for suggesting that I try to recover that charge.

My stress levels dropped significantly after I got this important matter corrected. I’m very grateful that I had the means to take care of it.

So the steps to using the S.M.A.R.T. method are as follows.

Be SPECIFIC — Focus on one task to avoid working on something not as important

The temptation to do a multitude of other things is difficult to fight. My brother suggested just setting one important thing to do each day. That way you manage to accomplish what you need to, and in a month you’ll be able to see your progress.

Be able to MEASURE results — Being able to recognize when a task is finished makes you feel good.

A certain amount of stress comes from the guilt of procrastination when you try to ignore what you need to get done. In contrast, seeing a job well done makes you feel proud. You have to determine how to make the goal MEASURABLE so that you’ll recognize when it’s done.

Ensure the goal is ATTAINABLE — If You Don’t Finish a Task in One Day Then Break It Down Into Smaller Chunks

Celebrate any victories you have. Yesterday we put the doors on half the kitchen cupboards. It looks so much better having the resting spot for your eye rather than always seeing the cups and saucers jumble inside. Today we will put up the other half. We are still focusing on this task, and it will get done. To make it ATTAINABLE we had to break it down.

The goal should be RELEVANT — Is it important enough in your life that it needs to be accomplished right now?

I’m tempted to prepare my Earthquake Grab and Go Bag that I’ve put off for a year. Check out my interview with fellow Toastmaster, Patti L.L. about How To Prepare an Emergency Grab and Go Bag. At the moment though that’s not super RELEVANT to me. Hopefully I won’t stand corrected on that.

What kind of TIME frame does this goal need to be completed in? — If you don’t set when you need to have a task done then you may put it off forever.

Setting a schedule will also let you know when you can expect to have the job finished.

To review S.M.A.R.T. goal setting applied to my house insurance:

  • Making sure that my house insurance was paid was a very SPECIFIC goal.
  • Obtaining the new receipt from the insurance company was the MEASUREMENT that it was done.
  • Luckily I had a credit card to make this goal of paying the insurance ATTAINABLE.
  • Ensuring that my home insurance was active was extremely RELEVANT to my financial security.
  • My fear was that the insurance had lapsed when my payment fell through.I had to correct this in a very TIMELY manner.

I hope that you’ll find this post useful and that you can apply some of the tools that I’ve outlined.

Photo by Carolyn Pullman at Penguin’s Wanderlust

For an entertaining talk on Goal Setting and Planning that I presented at Toastmasters, have a look at my speech called “A Pirate’s Guide to Finding Treasure”.

Join the Penguin Huddle.