Do you ever feel overwhelmed by a “simple” task? Or find yourself forgetting pieces of something that you “should” be able to remember by now? It might be getting through that stack of papers, preparing for a camping trip, or just getting everyone out the door in the morning. But whatever they are, most of us have tasks that sometimes feel overwhelming and things we forget along the way.
One day I realized there must be a better way.
I noticed that there were certain tasks or projects I performed only once every so often, and that when I had to do them, I was always reinventing the wheel. I’d make a to do list from scratch and fret over whether I’d remembered everything. And then, after being too wound up by the whole thing, I’d inevitably forget something obvious.
But it occurred to me that I could write myself a “script”, put it in a place where I’d know to find it, and use it. Now, rather than over-thinking things and being constantly worried I’ve forgotten something, I just work through my script. My past-experienced-self coaxes me along reminding me exactly what needs to be done, based on what I learned in the past.
Cheers to that.
If you’ve never tried something like this, or don’t already have your own version of it in play, consider giving it a try. You can always adjust it to meet your particular needs and personality.
So off we go with scripts. First I’ll explain what a script is and what you can use them for, then I’ll give you examples of how I like to use them, and then I’ll get you started on making your own. You can skip around, of course, but if you’ve never encountered something like this before, you might want to give yourself a few minutes to read through the whole thing when you aren’t in a hurry.
So… What Exactly Is a “Script”?
A script is a list of desired steps and reminders for completing tasks and projects.
What Do You Use Scripts For?
Scripts serve as natural, contextual reminders of what you’ve learned in the past, and help bring those lessons to bear on your current task.
Any task you spend too much time re-thinking, or any task where you find yourself frequently omitting a step is a great candidate for a script.
I use scripts for everything from writing letters, preparing blog posts, and cleaning the car, to planning a trip, prepping for guests, and planning holiday gatherings.
Two Examples of How I Use Scripts…
Preparing For Guests
Since moving to Muscat, we get a lot of visitors. It’s one of the most-loved cities in the region, and as hotels are expensive everywhere, visiting people is a great way to get out of town on the cheap. So I guess our place is a natural attraction.
The challenge is that on occasion it feels like a revolving door; I’ll have barely followed up from one visit before the next is imminent. In my case, I LOVE having people visit (assuming they don’t mind honoring my introvert), so the frequency isn’t a problem. I just need a way to practically sort out the tasks.
So I created a script for “guest prep” that includes everything I need/want to do before guests arrive and after they leave. In many ways it’s like a list, but it has ordered steps that take into account what needs to be done when.
For example, I like to ask my guests if they have any food allergies or preferences. But this is one of the first things I need to do, because I need that information to plan meals and snacks, and need that information before I go to the grocery store.
The script ensures that I remember to ask, and that I do it early.
I also have a reminder on my script to send visitors any relevant information about visas or the airport, and to ask them what sort of things they are interested in doing while they’re here.
Later down on the script I have a group of tasks listed to ready the guest room. This includes the usual things like making the bed and setting out towels, but also includes things I like to do but tend to forget, like setting out books on Oman and putting a basket of personal-sized snacks in their room.
Now that I have the script, I just pull it out and begin moving my way down the list. Best of all, I don’t forget things anymore. I may learn something new and add it, but I’m not forgetting anything. Because it’s all written down right there on the paper.
No thinking. No worrying. Just simple task execution.
Yeah. It is nice.
One more example…
Swapping Out Seasonal Clothes
Okay, I admit it. This is a pretty straight-forward task. It’s not like preparing for guests where not knowing that your guest is severely allergic to dairy is going to throw a kink in your preparations. But it’s one of those tasks I only do twice a year (we have two seasons: Summer, and HELL), and I always put it off because it feels too overwhelming.
In this case, the overwhelm is why I made the script. With script in hand, I don’t have to think about where to dive in, I just have to grab the script and get started. The script will tell me exactly what to do.
Whereas the guest-prep script is in large part a list, the Closet Cleanup script is comprised solely of ordered steps and reminders.
It begins by reminding me all of the things I want to gather, then walks me through the steps I’ve used before. As my list includes “filters” I want to use for deciding what to keep and what to donate, I avoid the thing I used to do where I would go through the whole process and still end up with too many clothes in my closet.
I’ll share the rest of my Closet Cleanup script later this month. The point here is that having a script means I don’t have to think about how to get started or how to proceed, I just have to move. With the added bonus that I’m contextually reminded of decisions or aims I’ve made in the past.
How To Make Your Own Script
Making your own script is really easy. It doesn’t need to be perfect the first time around, just get your basic thoughts down on paper and then you can tweak it as you go.
Create the Initial File
Once you’ve found an area in which a script would be helpful for you, here’s how to get started.
- Grab a sheet of paper and brain-dump everything that comes to mind about that task or project.With several lines between each entry, make a list of the steps you would normally take. (All that space will let you make notes as you go)
- Now, take a few minutes to think of any problems you tend to run into or if there is anything you wish went smoother than it usually does. (Many things were added to my seasonal clothes list when I realized I was always holding on to more clothing items than is optimal for my life and preferences.)
- Open up a suitable computer application and type out a preliminary script using what you just came up with. You can easily tweak this as you go along so there’s no need to take too long with this. I feel that doing this on the computer is a must, because otherwise your work is tied up in a misplaceable piece of paper. The formatted computer file also keeps it looking nice and is easy to update. But, as always, do what works for you. I use omnioutliner for this step because I like being able to easily move items around on the list, I like the nested aspect of the list, and I like that little checkbox option. But anything that works for you is exactly what you should use.
- Save and print your file.
- Put the print-out in the place you’re most likely to look for it. My guest prep list is in my home notebook, and my seasonal clothes list is on top of the clothes in the bin I store them in when they’re out-of-season.
Adjusting As You Go
This is the real strength of the script. As time goes on, you adapt the script for what you learn along the way and for your preferences as they change.
When I need to add or change something on the script, I just write it in on my print out. When that gets too messy, I open the file on the computer, tweak it, and reprint it.
Why It Works
With every last step and thought captured somewhere – and a specified place to note new discoveries you wish to incorporate in the future – you always know how to get started and are sure to not forget anything.
A quick example.
I recently realized I needed new breakfast options for guests that didn’t require me standing over the stove each morning. So I thought about what I could do to better prepare and added “prep/bake quick breads, baked oatmeal, breakfast bars, or quiche” to my script. Now, rather than just being reminded to “plan breakfast” I’ve included a solution to a previous dilemma. And because I’ve listed options along with my note, I don’t have to go figuring out what to make every time. (My actual script has specific recipes listed that I find ideal for this purpose. I just select from those and go.)
These days, when facing a task I’m familiar with but haven’t done in a while, or that just feels overwhelming, I pull out my script and know exactly how to get started. And because the list is ordered, if I have to pause frequently in the process, I can easily pick up wherever I left off without having to rethink what I was doing.
With scripts, you flexibly combine the tool of a starting point with ordered steps and the value of your previous experiences. It’s pretty great, honestly.
I know this all might sound a little overboard. But consider that a script gets thought through only once. Sure it gets added to and tweaked, but the real work happens only once. No more making a new list every time a holiday rolls around, no more being worried about forgetting something, no more leaving for the airport without traveling cash.
When the time comes to tackle a task or project, it’s like having someone to just tell you what to do in order to knock it out. And it’s totally customized for your own preferences and family.
…so how about it?…
What projects do you have that beat you down? How might a script help make easier work of it?