How a Monthly Duty Day Can Simplify Your Life

Over the last couple of years, I've been horrible about doing anything with the thousands of photos sitting on phone and hard drive.

It's almost a running joke amongst my friends that about once a year, I realize I've done nothing except Instagram a few photos over the last 12 months and countless others are just sitting on my phone or hard drive collecting virtual dust. So once a year, I'll sit down and have an epic culling and editing session and upload literally an entire year's worth of photos to Facebook, vowing this is the last time I'll do something like this.

And 9-12 months later, the process repeats itself.

 
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Maybe it isn't photos, but chances, there are one or more things in your life like those photos for me. You know, those things you want or need to do on a regular basis, but because you only have to handle them once a month or once a quarter, they fall off your radar until you're way behind and leave you feeling like you're in perpetual catch up mode.

I don't know about you, but all those little things wind up causing me quite a bit of stress when they're all being handled in a haphazard way. Rather than truly unplugging and enjoying the things most important to me, there's this underlying level of stress about whether or not all the important things got done when they needed to get done.

To combat this, simplify my life, and reduce my stress levels I instituted a new habit in my life — the monthly duty day.

WHAT IS A MONTHLY DUTY DAY

Simply put, a monthly duty day is one designated day each month where you set aside time to handle all of those things that only need to be touched once a month or once a quarter.

If you're familiar with the concept of batch tasking your day, the monthly duty day takes that same principle and simply applies it to those monthly and quarterly tasks. Instead of spending lots of little moments here and there throughout the month trying to knock those things out (along with what's likely an unnecessary amount of time stressing or worrying about whether or not you did #allthethings), instituting a monthly duty day allows you to set aside distractions, get into the right head space, and knock out all of those things at one time.

Once it's complete, you're then free to go about the rest of your month without worrying about whether or not the bills got paid, the budget was balanced, or the photos were organized and uploaded.

HOW TO IMPLEMENT A MONTHLY DUTY DAY

While the concept of a monthly duty day sounds simple enough, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success and ensure it really adds value and simplicity to your life.

1. CHOOSE YOUR DAY

Before you actually start implementing a monthly duty day, you have to start by choosing which day each month it's going to happen.

The key is consistency — choosing a particular day and sticking with it, no matter what.

While it would be nice to just pick a random day and go with it, there are a few things you need to take into account when figuring out which day of the month works best for you. You'll have to consider things like your own personal work schedule, your family, and any other responsibilities or commitments, in addition to things like when your bills are due each month and your own ability to focus and get into the right head space during a particular day of the week.

My monthly duty day takes place on the first Friday of every month. I chose that day because it means there aren't any "hanging chads," if you will, from the previous month — all photos, transactions, etc. are totally done, which means I can handle all the information from the entire previous month in one fell swoop. It also works well because nearly all of my bills are due right at the beginning or right at the end of the month. But beyond that, Friday is one of the best days for me to tackle those tasks that have to get done but don't require a lot of brain power, because by the time Friday rolls around my brain is usually ready for the weekend and not up to many (or any) tasks that require a lot of brain power and focus.

2. LIST YOUR TASKS

Once you've determined your day for each month, the next step is to list out your tasks. What are those things you need to handle every single month (or every single quarter)?

This list will likely include things like your bills and budget, but you can also include things like organizing your photos or backing up your hard drive — namely those things you'd like to do or know you should do, but because there isn't a system for them, they've probably fallen off the radar.

My list includes various tasks for my business, updating my budget, updating purchase records for various things, updating my reading record, handling my photos for the previous month, doing a monthly maintenance declutter of both physical and digital spaces, and backing up my hard drive.

They're all things that don't take very much time to do, but they're easy to forget about and by putting them all together on a single day each month, I never have to wonder whether I'm on top of them or not.

Once you've created this list, I suggest keeping it somewhere that allows you to easily replicate it. I am a paper planner person all the way, but instead of writing out the list every single month, I keep it in a workflow list on my Trello account. When the duty day rolls around, I simply write "monthly duty day" as the to do in my planner and go to the workflow list in Trello to check everything off. This ensures that I never forget anything, because I just go through the same checklist month after month.

3. KEEP A RUNNING TAB

Invariably there are going to be things that you need to tackle in a certain month that aren't recurring. Unless it's a pressing or urgent matter with a solid deadline, I always add these things in with my monthly duty day.

Think of those tasks like emails in your inbox. If you keep your inbox open all the time and handle emails one by one as they come in throughout the day, it's probably going to feel like you're spending all day in your inbox (and you very well could be!), but if you designate 2-3 times a day — say morning, noon, and end of work day — to check your email and respond to everything in there, you're much more efficient in working through those emails.

The same applies to those tasks that pop up throughout the month. If you try to handle them one by one as they come up, you'll probably spend a lot more time handling those little things than you'd like, but if you just add them to the list for that month's duty day, you'll likely handle them much quicker because you'll already be in the head space for knocking out all those random tasks.

To ensure you don't miss any of those things when monthly duty day rolls around, just keep a running tab of things to add to the normal checklist. You can do this by writing them on a post-it note or to do list that you keep on your desk or computer, or by using something like Trello to add to the list for the month. Then, once again, everything's there when you sit down to handle the tasks and you can knock them out in a productive and time efficient manner.

WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE A MONTHLY DUTY DAY

The reasoning behind the monthly duty day is simple — by handling all those random tasks together in one fell swoop, it frees up your time and your mental energy to focus on the things that are most important to you throughout the rest of the month.

Instead of wondering if you paid your bills or updated your budget or whatever else, you can simply live in the moment, trusting that the things that needed to get done were done when they needed to be and the same will happen when the next month's duty day rolls around.


Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash