Managing recurring chores in GTD


I remember thinking with bewilderment that I could not put my entire home into my inbox, although doing that would have followed from the instructions in the book. That hung me up for years until I finally realized after reading something recently that I could put a note in my inbox instead that said "My entire home is a problem for me and is not the way I want it."
Your post is making me want to recommend Dana K. White's book, "How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind."

Her methods are good for fighting off overwhelm, and I think that they are sufficiently compatible with GTD. I'm not saying that she mentions GTD--I have no particular reason to think that she's heard of it. But I do feel that they're compatible.

Hi, Gardener,

It's been quite awhile since our conversation above, but I did finally check out of the library and read Dana K. White's book, "How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind," and I have some feedback.

I appreciated your recommendation. Unfortunately, I felt uncomfortable reading this book, since the author repeatedly expressed despair and misery about being unable to create better conditions in her home, which got me down. However, perhaps she wanted to convey to struggling people that they were not struggling alone.

I did stick with it, though. I learned that she was accustomed to working on projects and was very capable. She arranged something like celebratory catered affairs for her company's staff. She enjoyed doing projects that had a start, middle, and end. Then the event was over, the staff was appreciative, and she could enjoy the accolades.

At home, it was different. There were no projects. There were no accolades. There were routine tasks that had to be done over and over and over, ad nauseam. She could not undersand the problem she was having, but it was completely beyond her to do what was needed around her house. Dishes were stacked up, papers were strewn on the floor, she was living in squalor, and nothing was getting done.

Finally, she realized that the project planning that had been so successful for her on the job was not helping her at home. It sounded like she might have arranged for others to do the action steps of the project that she was managing at work, making the work to compete the project seem to happen by magic (the magic of the work of others). For instance, she may have hired the caterers, but she may not have cooked food and washed dishes.

However that was, she finally realized that if she wanted to get recurring routine tasks done, she had to actually DO these tasks. This simple yet vital fact is the basis of her book. For those struggling to grasp this, it could be a revelation.

She then decided on one simple daily routine task she needed to DO in her home. She did it for a whole week to built a new habit gradually without feeling overwhelmed. Only after that one did she add another daily task, so she was doing two tasks each day, and only after that one did she add another daily task, so she was doing three tasks each day, and so on.

Week 1: She started with the task of washing the dishes daily.

Week 2: Then she added the task of picking up the papers on the kitchen floor daily.

Week 3: Then she added the task of sweeping the kitchen floor daily.

All I now recall beyond this is that the rest of the book involved creating more routines to add to her system. I think it was not meant to be an extensive system, since everyone might have different specific routine tasks to do. I think she wanted to let others know what had helped her get started in a new and finally successful way,

I think the premise here is important: To get anything done, we need to actually DO the work. We need to start, keep going, and finish. Also, if the task is a routine, we need to do the routine with regular defined frequency.

This seemed transparently obvious to me, yet I noticed, surprisingly, that it could be a problem for me at times. The simplicity of starting small and building up gradually could have a lot of value in getting off the ground. I understood that for her it was important at first to be rigid in demanding daily regularity of herself because she was not in the habit of doing this work. However, for me, I found it more useful to allow myself more flexibility.

For instance, I cannot wash all my dishes at once, since this could lead very quickly to back pain, and once the pain starts, it tends to persist. What I do is wash all my dishes after each meal, if possible. I can usually do this painlessly, including any pots and pans. If I get behind, I do one or a few extra when I can, and eventually I get them all done. I like it that I am focusing on self-care and comfort, which are so important to me, as well as on completing routine tasks

The comment I made in my earlier post initiated this discussion. Here it is: "My entire home is a problem for me and is not the way I want it." This has been true for a long time and it still is, which can be very discouraging. It is one reason I am here learning about GTD. I think the overwhelm and discouragement can make it difficult to see the simplicity of the solution Dana White presents: To get anything done, we need to actually DO the work.

See my other post about a book I just read called "Time Surfing" at this link:



I've recently implemented GTD in my professional life and am finding it works really well. The aha! moment of moving from categories to contexts was a real psychological release.

I recently saw a tip by David Allen that suggested one should go the whole hog and include one's personal and professional life within the system 100%.

However, I've hit a stumbling block with mundane chores and tasks. For example, something like 'wash dishes' or 'fold laundry'.

These tasks seem ingrained enough in the everyday that they don't really seem to warrant being captured and organised, but aren't habits (like 'brush teeth' certainly is) that are established enough to be done outside of a system. They're not particularly linked to a certain day or time, but are next actions. They are, however, endless in a way. I can complete "vacuum" this week, but it's likely I'll do it next week, and the following week, and so on.

Even though they don't seem to warrant being inputted into the system, they still regularly turn up in my mindsweep, meaning they're taking up bandwidth in my mind and causing me enough stress to warrant me posting here.

How do you reconcile the two?
Hi there! I have all my recurring tasks as recurring Reminders (Apple). I merge all my tasks and calendars into the Fantastical app, allowing me to show and hide recurring vs. date-specific or committed. However, I always review all my recurring tasks (and their progress) during my weekly review. This works well for me but we're all different :)