A couple of years ago I read the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I loved her monthly experiments with happiness, but there was one in particular that struck a chord with me: her attempt to tackle nagging tasks.
Her definition of nagging tasks is those that are not urgent, non-recurring (like monthly bills), and diverse.
I struggle with my list of nagging tasks daily. “Struggle” might be an understatement. I’ve been like this since high school. I used to sleep with a notepad next to my bed because I couldn’t fall asleep until all of my nagging tasks were written down.
Did I ever do these tasks?
Rarely. Instead, they would stay in the back of my mind, providing just enough stress to keep me from sleeping soundly. Taking a month to do all of my nagging tasks like Rubin did, sounded like a great idea.
Before Henry was born I actually did write down a list of every nagging task I could think of: mail in a claim for our pet insurance, put him on a nursery school waitlist, set up a direct debit for our internet bill, back up my photos, etc. It was a very long list.
And true to my procrastination tendencies, I was finishing the list as I was going into labor. As we were leaving for the hospital I was clutching the pet insurance claim that I had just put in an envelope. Always level-headed Jordan told me to leave the envelope and he’d mail it later. I had other, more pressing things to take care of.
While it felt great to get everything off my list, things have slowly crept back on. There are emails I need to write, presents that need to be sent, forms that need to be signed and mailed, and a whole list of adulting items now that we have a tiny dependent. I don’t really have a ton of time or, let’s be honest, motivation to get through this list.
So when I found this article from Rubin about her updated approach to her nagging tasks, I was excited. She spends one hour per week, a time that she calls her power hour, to cross things off her list.
I love this idea but where my life is right now, it’s not practical. If I have a full hour free I’m either writing or working on something for a client. When I get a large chunk of time, I need to spend it on things that require my full, undivided attention.
While trying to figure out how to adapt her power hour idea to my life, I found my solution.
The lunch break list.
Like pretty much everyone, I eat lunch every day. I know the mental benefits of using your lunch time as a time to relax and unwind, but I’ve never been great with that.
I used to attempt to use lunch as a time to work out or take a walk, but more often than not, I found myself working through lunch trying to get more things off my to-do list for the day (which never actually helps). When I actually took a break at lunch, I’d often spend 15 minutes eating my salad while scrolling through Instagram, browsing Airbnb for new vacation ideas, or online window shopping.
Instead of mindlessly checking social media, I decided to take my bullet journal and list out my nagging tasks with the idea that I’d cross one thing off my nagging task list. Since my actual lunch break is usually only 15-20 minutes, each item that I put on my nagging task list can only take 15-20 minutes.
If the nagging task is going to take more than 15 minutes, I break it down into smaller steps.
When I have 15 minutes free at lunch, I choose one nagging item from the list and do it.
I don’t go through my lunch break list every day. Please. That would be far too ambitious for me. But I do dedicate one lunch a week to crossing off an item on this list.
If you’re someone who never has nagging tasks because you take care of everything promptly, this list idea isn’t for you. But if you are that person who has put off these nagging tasks for weeks, months, or (gasp) even years, give this approach a try.
Bonus points if your lunch break list includes smart, yet small things you can do with your money.
My personal lunch break list
Here are some financial lunch break list items that I currently plan to do:
- Set up the monthly direct deposit on Henry’s 529
- Email our property manager about our recent bill
- Cancel Hulu
- Cancel Audible
- Post Henry’s old chair on Facebook Marketplace
- Renew my CPA license
- Update all of my business expenses with new credit card information
Creating your own list
Need some ideas to get your own lunch break list started?
- Cancel that monthly subscription that you never use
- Call about that fee you were charged
- Look up what fee you’re paying on your investments
- Want to invest? Research minimums at different brokerages
- Read what a brokerage is
- Scan your bank account or credit card statement to make sure everything is OK
- Check your credit score
- Check your reward points to see when they expire
- Research your market value
- Add one accomplishment to your resume
- Call to negotiate a monthly expense
- Look up the interest rate on your debt
- See if refinancing your student loans makes sense
- Open a savings account for one specific goal
What else would you add to your lunch break list?
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Erica Gellerman, CPA
Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project: a weekly money newsletter you actually want to read. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom, and Lifehacker. When she's not writing about personal finance you can find Erica exploring Europe from her temporary home base in London.