Galvin and Associates

When Overwhelmed, Go to the Wall



I recently stumbled onto a great productivity tip. List your projects on 3×5 cards and tape them to a wall.

My wife and I were independently storing up projects that we wanted to tackle sometime over the summer. When we sat down to combine our lists, we were overwhelmed. We had over 75 projects we wanted to complete before September—and the summer was almost half gone already!

Out of desperation, I printed the list with generous spacing and cut the paper to approximately the size of 3×5 cards. Then I took some blue painters’ tape and taped them to a wall. This helped us to see the enormity of the challenge. I soon noticed that some of the projects I could not do on my own, but required Kathe and me to work together. We moved those projects to the wall by her desk. These became the priority projects if we were both home at the same time. Either of us could independently tackle projects on the main wall.

Now we had two walls covered with tape and paper. Some projects were large (paint the bedroom) and some were small (spray silicone on squeaky wheels on suitcase). We started tackling projects and celebrating when we could peel another one off the wall and fling it in the garbage. After a month we had it down to fewer than 20 projects left. I hope we can get it down to zero in the next few weeks.

Why did this work so well?
Taping the projects on the wall facilitated communication between us. We could see at a glance everything we had left to do. It was more flexible than scheduling specific projects on a calendar because we could easily adapt due to weather or amount of time available. Most importantly, it was motivational. Both of us wanted to see a bare wall by the end of summer.

Will this work for you?
You can use this technique at home for your seasonal projects, at work with a unit or team that needs to self-organize, or at church for a clean-up day. One caution: This works best for tackling a pile of small projects in a specific period of time. Having pieces of paper taped to a wall for more than a year would be unpleasant. Here are some tips based on my experience.
• Bump up the font size. 12 point type is too small to read on the wall.
• For projects you want to tackle sooner, move the cards up or to the right.
• Use painters’ tape so you don’t leave a mark on the wall, or use a window.
• Don’t remove the card until the project is completed and tools are put away.
• Celebrate when you can peel another one off the wall.
What projects have you been putting off? How could this technique be useful to you?

Comments are closed.