Try to do one nagging task each day, or even better, avoid having a nagging task.

One of the boxes on my Resolutions Chart reads “Nagging task.” I try to cross one nagging task off my list each day. This doesn’t sound like much, but just doing one a day means that over the course of a few weeks, I get quite a bit accomplished.

Just as important, I’ve tried to take steps to reduce the total number of nagging tasks that I have.

For example, because I’m an underbuyer, I tend to buy one bottle of saline solution at a time, even though I use the stuff twice each day. Now I’m pushing myself to buy several bottles at a time. I know I’ll need it before too long, and by buying it all at once, I spare myself a task later.

Also, I found a great solution to the nagging task of buying and wrapping kids’ birthday presents. I took three minutes to place an online order for seven boxed sets of Roald Dahl and Edward Eager paperbacks. Wonderful books, suitable for boys and girls of a wide range of ages, easy to store and carry, easy for the family to re-gift if the child already has the book, no need to wrap—just pop it into a gift-bag (gift-bags are easier to use than paper—easier, more fun, and can be reused).

One common nagging task was to put things away. I recently realized that some objects have a natural home; if something keeps showing up in the same wrong place, maybe THAT should be the place to put it away.

Instead of keeping the Big Man’s overnight bag with the rest of the suitcases, far from our bedroom, I moved it to the top shelf of his closet, where he can get to it more easily. I moved the photo-album-maintenance box from my office to a shelf by the TV, because I only use the box while watching TV.

These sounds like petty considerations in the face of the transcendent goal of happiness, but as Samuel Johnson said, “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.”

Another of my resolutions is to “Read more, read better,” and to get ideas for books to read, I like to check out Maud Newton. I always find a lot of great reading-related material there.

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  • Erin

    Yes, those nagging tasks! I read “You – the Owner’s Manual” and one of the points they made was that nagging tasks actually substantially increase our stress and thus lower our life expectancy! Given the sense of relief I feel when I cross one of my list, I believe it.

  • Erin

    Yes, those nagging tasks! I read “You – the Owner’s Manual” and one of the points they made was that nagging tasks actually substantially increase our stress and thus lower our life expectancy! Given the sense of relief I feel when I cross one of my list, I believe it.

  • Sharyn

    O, yes! I, too, finally realized that I needed to give up on the ideas I frequently had of where things “should” be kept, and starting putting them more where they “ought” to be kept – where they are used, or more convenient. I also hung a pair of sissors in the garage (open packages or cut off tags), as well as the laundry room (cut off loose strings, etc.) Put a paper towel dispenser in the laundry room and garage, too. Hang the dog’s leash on the gate going out of the backyard, etc. etc. etc.
    A white board on the door of both of my kid’s rooms (when they were younger), to write reminders to avoid nagging (as much) was good, too. My daughter now writes her own reminders with a dry erase marker right onto her vanity mirror, and even reminders to me, sometimes. I love it!

  • Thanks for this post, Gretchen. I’m strongly in favour of creating an environment more conducive to happiness by making tiny changes and removing miniature inefficiencies. For example, some months ago, I finally realised how crabby I was each evening when I came home from work and had to hunt around in my bag for the house-keys that had (as ever) slipped to the bottom. So, I attached the keys to a lanyard and clipped it to the outside of my bag – such a small change, but now I don’t have to deal with a flicker of irritation at 6pm each weeknight for the rest of my working life!
    By the way, this topic reminded me of a diagram I drew for my journal; I thought you might get a kick out of it:

  • I try to stave off the nagging task syndrome by using the idea of having Wednesday (or any day for that matter) as anti-procrastination day. On that day I must tick off at least ONE task I’ve been putting off. I set the bar pretty low as it makes anything over and above that seem more of an achievement, and it doesn’t become something else to beat myself up with if I only do one thing.

  • OMG I love the MAP OF WIN!
    I also enjoy reading this post. It makes me feel less crazy when I tell people that I clean the bathroom on Wednesday nights and change teh sheets on Tuesdays. These are my two least favorie tasks and this way I only have to do one a day. When I save them for Saturday morning chores, they often get “overlooked”.

  • Mary Beth

    Thanks for writing this. I’m going to do a bunch of nagging tasks RIGHT now before continuing surfing and blogging.

  • O.K. this isn’t exactly a ‘nagging task’ for me because I do like writing..,
    Infact I have a whole blog will all kind of posts about ‘Music Movies & Happy LifeStyle’
    So what’s the ‘nagging’ about than?
    Only ‘naggingly’ asking if you want to visit my site and share your comments on it. That way my blog doesn’t have to look like an ‘Empty Restaurant’ that nobody wants to step inside.
    So don’t be shy, make me ‘Happy’ and give it your best 🙂
    (hopefull this isn’t to much a ‘nagging task’ I do think it actually can be a lot of fun!)
    All the Best,

  • UC

    This post inspired me to action. I’ve had a monster of a nagging task eating at me for the past few months.
    This morning I made a list, checked it twice, and went to task on it and a few other nags…. Thanks a lot!

  • docdocwhosthere

    Love this website, so thank you!
    For my daily tasks, I made a one page Word doc that’s divided into 3 sections (morning, afternoon, evening), plus a sidebar for my 2 sons’ chores, homework, etc. That’s 3 people’s daily, routine, sometimes “nagging” chores on one page. Via FLYLADY, it’s in a wipeable top-loading page in my “Home Journal” binder with a wipeable marker attached to it.. this lives in the kitchen. Each chore has a checkbox next to it.
    OK, before any of us head out the door for the day, are all the “morning” boxes checked? (If working outside the home for the day, the “afternoon” is either moot, done, or carried over to another time). This list gets used, re-used and let’s me let go of the little things, while reminding me to do them.
    I’ve got another page for “Weekly/Monthly” chores, “Seasonal” chores, “Home Maintenance” (which is one whole year on one page). They are all in the binder; it’s easy to check, check off, and move on. AND it eases my procrastination!

  • knastia17

    my nagging task is reading. I buy lots of books and rarely get to read them. In your book (Happiness project) you often talk about checking our a pile of books and reading. If I want to understand, learn and remember the context, it takes me a great while to read a non-fiction book(unless it’s an audio book, which you can’t scan through for facts). Then there are different topics I am interested in, so I start a few and don’t finish any.
    I can’t understand how do you, being a wife and a mother to two girls, do it. I feel guilty for not doing “stuff” with my kid (since I am a stay home mom) during the day and I am too tired to comprehend anything before my bed time.
    How do you read your books? Do you read every word or scan for facts? How do you do a research? What did you learn in your english classes and the law school that the rest of us are not aware of?
    Thank you for your input.

  • indranil

    thing is when you do a nagging task more than 2 times you look at that task “normal” not “nagging”. if not once then at least twice force yourself to do a that task which irritates you. i dont want to be philosophic but you should not fear work…work should fear you. because its only YOU who “finishes” d work.
    discontinue complaining..