Some days are more productive than others; maybe we’re in a better mood or everything just seems to fall into place. Sometimes it’s also because the systems that help to run our lives run properly.
What happens though when we don’t maintain those systems? Our computer crashes, our car breaks down, we run out of _______.
So what does it take to keep things running smoothly?
Welcome to what I call a “Maintenance Day”. By grouping a bunch of similar tasks or chores together, I’ve discovered it to be much easier to accomplish them sequentially.
More than likely you already have a Maintenance Day of some sort, such as the day of the week you take out the trash or do the laundry. What I’m proposing is to convert those into recurring tasks that you check off from a todo list.
It’s a more systematic way to maintain your life, business, and the people and objects around us.
So Why Have a Maintenance Day Anyway?
- Reduced chance of procrastination
It’s much easier to get the ball rolling, especially when you start on a smaller task such as reading an article, checking your Mint.com account, or other related tasks. Once we get used to forming a chain of actions around the tasks it’s much easier to finish all of them at once than to do them independently.
- Boring work is easier when grouped together
Whenever you have to do a bunch of boring or menial tasks, it is inevitably easier to do them all at once. It establishes a mindset or a frame of reference for what kind of work you’ll be doing.
- Clear out mental clutter
It gives you a chance to clean and maintain yourself and your environment which leads to enhanced mental clarity and productivity for the rest of the week.
- Vacuum and learn!
Grouping a bunch of similar tasks together offers a chance to listen to your favorite music, podcast or audiobook. Once you’re able to justify the work as a learning opportunity, it’ll make it all that much easier to get started.
- Plan for the week ahead
It’s a great opportunity to plan out your week in advance. Check your calendar to see what’s in store for the week. What meetings, events or calls do you have and what do you have to do to prepare for them? Are there any scheduling conflicts that need to be solved? I also take the opportunity to check my Todolist and plan out the Todo’s I plan to conquer each day.
Here’s what my Maintenance Day looks like
I use the popular todo-list, Todoist combined with an incredibly effective workflow. In regard to recurring tasks, I ended up creating a project called “Routines” which houses every recurring task no matter whether it’s every Saturday or even once a year.
The colored texts below the task such as “House” and “Personal” are labels which allow you to group similar tasks together. In my routine, I’ll assign a recurring item as either being something I accomplish on my “Computer” or my “House” if I need to be physically present. Then I’ll label it as either relating to my “Personal” self or the “Business.”
Utilizing the labels, I can then create a custom Filter within Todoist so that I can enter the “House Chores” mode or vice versa when I’m at my computer. Furthermore, if I’m traveling then I can easily skip the House-related tasks and only focus on the Computer items.
Here’s the Query I use for my House Routines filter in Todoist:
(overdue | today) & @house & shared
This view will show me any tasks that have the label of “House” and are either overdue or due today. Furthermore, the shared function will allow me to not only see my own tasks but those assigned to others, in case you have multiple members of the household responsible for different chores.
Now to help inspire you to create your own maintenance day, I’ve listed most of my recurring items separated from my House and Computer. Forn the examples below, my maintenance day happens to fall on Saturday, but you’re free to choose whatever day works best for you.
- Review any mail in my unsorted box (every sat)
- Replace Razor head (every 2 sat)
- Refill Vitamins for the week (every sat)
- Wash Bed (every sat)
- Draw week of Life color w/ Keywords (every sat)
- Clean Chilipad (every 6 months)
- Monthly Flea Protection for Kitty (every sat)
- Negative Visualization Exercise (every sat)
- Check Tire Pressure (every 3 months)
- Rotate Shower Filter (every 4 sat)
- Clean Bicycle Chains (every 4 months)
- Clean Water Dispenser (every 4 months)
- Categorize Mint.com & Pocketsmith + Check Account Balances (every sat)
- Write Weekly Journal Entry (every sat)
- Clear Downloads Folder (every fri)
- Reconcile “Reply is Required” in Gmail (every sat)
- Clear Evernote Inbox & Read a Book Summary (every sat)
- View Calendar for Week Ahead (every sat)
- Review 7-Day Outlook + Trello Goals Tracker (every sat)
- Consider a Groupon or other Outdoor activity (every sat)
- Quickly Review MuscleWiki (every sat)
- Audit Articles in Pocket (every sat)
- Cleanup IOS Photos (every month)
How to Optimize your Maintenance
Prior to creating a Maintenance Day, like most people I did things at a random consistency. Maybe you check your Finance or pay your bills whenever you just get around to it, but there can be major detriments to doing things this way. For a simple example, if you have a recurring reminder to check the air pressure on your car every 3 months, you’re less likely to be out in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire.
In general though, for something to become a maintenance task, it has to fit into 1 of the 3 categories described below:
- Information Reconciliation
This is the maintenance of records whether they be mail, application data on a computer, or organizing your filing cabinet. This could be the act of organizing or destroying information to ensure the organization system remains intact for unimpeded access.
- Future Growth
Growth is one of my personal values and I ask myself what I learned almost on a daily basis. For me, continued learning is an important asset as knowledge accumulates over time. So I might have a recurring reminder to read my notes on a book I’ve read or to review some muscle exercises I can perform the next time I’m at the gym.
- System Maintenance
We all use things, software, and complex systems on a daily basis. Much like taking out the trash; however, many of us let our desktops clutter and download folder fill up – often to a point of slowing down the computer or systems we need in our daily lives.
One thing to take into consideration is the potential inconvenience you could face in the long-run by not having a maintenance task. The task has to be of greater value than the time it takes to complete on a regular basis. For example, if you ride your bike to work every day, you’ll probably want to perform regular maintenance on your bike more often than if you’re somebody who only rides once or twice a month. It doesn’t make sense to perform the maintenance more often than you need to. So note that any maintenance system should not be set in stone. Make your a best guess as to how often you’ll need to do it, then modify how often it recurs based on your specific needs.
Much like a warmup routine for a sport or gym workout, there’s a certain level of mental preparation that we must undergo prior.
After a while of successfully knocking out my maintenance days, I wondered if I could regroup various chores around the house to different days of the week. I ended up discovering it’s very hard to consistently perform in this manner.
Grouping similar tasks together and then executing them is in part more successful because of the frame of mind it forces you to enter.
Having the mindset is also just as important as having the right context and conditions which allow you to enter that frame of mind.
For example, you might have a regular habit of doing a run when you get back home from work in the evening, but you’ll find it more difficult to do the same run on a Saturday morning without having to exert willpower. The frame of mind we find ourselves in our the weekend is often different than the weekday.
This means it’s always easier to group similar tasks together because it will be more like knocking over one domino and letting the rest follow which is often the case with procrastination.
Delegating Maintenance Chores
Suppose you have a family and you divide the chores up equally among everybody. By utilizing a task-management system for those regular chores, it’ll make it easier and more transparent for everybody to know what needs to be done and who needs to do it.
It may seem trivial to convert “Do the Laundry” and “Take out the trash” into the form of a recurring task, but the state of mind that working off a checklist gives you makes it easier to do other maintenance work that might not be as regular.
Now you might take out the trash and do the laundry at the same time because they’ve essentially formed a habit-chain with one another. Performing the same actions but with the help of a Todolist makes it easier to form a habit-chain of tackling similar tasks even if they’re at irregular intervals.
Where to go from here?
- Write down all the regular chores or housework you already do on a regular basis and put them as a recurring task in your favorite Todo software. I’m biased towards Todoist, partly because of its natural date recognition, but there are plenty that all work just the same.
- Consider sectioning tasks in different places, contexts, or other situations where you can go through them all at the same time. In my example, I separate from House and Computer tasks.
- Next time you go about doing those basic chores, open up the Todo app on your phone and check them off as you do them. You’ll get a nice dopamine treat every-time you check off an item, even if it’s something you’ve been doing for a while.
- As new issues come up, add them as a maintenance task on a regular basis so you can prevent the problem from happening again. If your fridge tends to get loaded with expired food every 3 weeks, then set a regular task to clean out your fridge every 2 weekends.
- Remember that above all you must be able to check off the tasks on a regular basis. If you find yourself procrastinating or the maintenance work is too frequent, then you should modify the recurring date of the item to balance the optimal ratio of maintenance vs using.
What other tasks or maintenance items do you perform on a regular basis?
This post has not been revised since publication.