If you were to ask me what I hate doing more than anything, I’d say, without hesitation, that it’s obviously cleaning my house. Just come on in on a random Tuesday afternoon to take a look at my office to see my random piles and the dust that seems to be accumulating everywhere. I’m a mess and I love that I know this about myself.
But something does have to be done about that mess. So, when I moved into my home, I made a plan of attack, and it mostly worked. A few bumps along the way, but that’s usually the case with just about every plan.
Why am I telling you about how I’m a complete slob and need to trick myself into not being one? Welp, I’ve applied a lot of these lessons from cleaning my house to work tasks I also don’t want to do, and it is working. So I thought I’d share a little bit about what I have learned in the hopes that it will help you do the same.
Know when you are the most motivated
This can be a time of day or a day in general. Just be honest: When do you have an easy time getting stuff done?
For me, I’m most motivated on Mondays and Tuesdays between 2 and 5 pm. The start of the new week just gets me going unlike anything else. And while my child is taking her afternoon nap? I can do anything.
So that’s six total hours of unrestrained productivity that I need to take advantage of in every way possible. Knowing that is huge for me, because I can schedule things during that time that I’m less likely to do at other times.
What are those times for you? If you don’t know, just observe yourself for a week and note those times where you most feel like working. This is your starting point that can be adjusted over time as needed.
Know what’s most important to you
When I look at the list of what I have to do in our house, I see two things that stand out as very important to me: Having our upstairs bathroom and my daughter’s room clean. I like to relax in the bathtub, so staring at anything not clean would bother me during that relaxing time. And I can’t explain it, but my daughter’s room is just a reflection of how my brain is currently working. Weird, I know, but I’ve talked to other moms who feel the same way.
As I schedule, I keep that in mind so I can put those tasks that are most important to me into the times when I will get the most done.
This is another point where honesty will take you a long way. What is most important to your job that you struggle to do? What would create the most calm if you just got it done? What will take you just a little further if only you could motivate yourself to do it? Write it all down and then prioritize from there down to just the most important. But keep the rest of the tasks so you have something to do when you are feeling extra motivated.
Break it all up
Okay, so we have the tasks I want to do and even the time period I should do them in. Seems like we’re ready to get to work, right? Wrong. We have so much more work to do to get me to actually do these things.
You see, if I just decided to clean the bathroom with no plan of what that actually looks like, I’d feel overwhelmed trying to figure it all out and nothing would happen.
What I do to help with those feelings is that I have a list of tasks, and if I do all of these tasks, I’ll have a clean room. I break those tasks up into the tiniest actions and none of those actions will take me more than ten minutes, with most taking me less than five minutes. It’s actually preferable that I have some tasks that just take a quick minute. That quick check mark is motivating and very important in the grand scheme of getting stuff done.
So look at the big task you have to do and break it down. Don’t be afraid to break it down into the barest parts. Stacking up wins can give you the confidence to do even more, which is our ultimate goal here.
Schedule it out
Now we have timings and prioritized tasks, so it’s finally time to sketch this out.
I take all of the hours I have available and assign one task to it. That includes the hours I’m not necessarily the most motivated to give room for surprise bursts of energy. I assign each day a room and the most important tasks are scheduled within the most productive times. I use that as my plan for the week that I can check off as I get things done.
Doing one task per hour is super important to me. It’s easy and in no way will overwhelm me. My brain does well with the one task and it usually feels motivated to do more. If I do find myself doing another task though, that’s setting me up to be ahead on my checklist. So I feel more accomplished and accomplishments beget accomplishments. But once again, it’s not necessary.
And with this in mind…
Keep expectations low
I have an insane amount of tasks on my checklist every day. This may be a stumbling block to most people, but for me, it’s the challenge. My real goal is to just get two tasks done. That’s enough to make progress. The whole list is only there if I feel like I can do more. So I look at it as things I can do if I feel good, not as something that taunts me.
Something I regularly struggle with is the all-or-nothing attitude. If I can’t do the whole thing, why would I do any of it? I instead lower what I expect of myself, especially on tasks that are hard for me to get done. I can then concentrate on how completing just those two mini-tasks puts me so much further ahead than I was before.
Even though this method is very rigorous, don’t take it rigorously. Do all the work to set it up and then just do what you can. That will take the pressure off so you can eventually do more.
What I do to clean my house is not the most perfect method. It doesn’t get everything done, but it does get me further than I have ever been. My house is never going to be picture perfect, but it is pleasant and it’s probably the happiest I’ve ever been with my level of domesticity.
Knowing myself and what’s important to me and then coupling that with a schedule and low expectations has been key to making sure I have a nice place to be and can accomplish a lot of work tasks at the same time.
What has worked for you?