Here’s the truth, it IS IMPOSSIBLE to do everything, especially every day. This little tip is going to help you get a little more done each day and feel less frazzled.
One of the keys to making your dreams come true is to prioritize the things that are going to get you where you want to be. Most realistically, this means that your wellbeing should be number one. After all, the precursor to all other great things that are coming your way is a happy and healthy you. Secondly, the dreaming, planning, and creating that will get you to the next step should be a priority. And of course, there are all the important bits that you must do to get by on a day to day basis. Maybe this means working a day or part-time job, tending to your children, or helping out your parents.
In any case, there are still millions of other things that we don’t want to do, or know how to cope with that pile up all around us. I’m talking laundry, piled up dishes, your shoe closet that is spilling onto the floor and needs a good clean. As well as piled up paperwork, files that need sorting, emails you need to send to loved ones, and calls you need to make but keep putting off. There is a whole host of busy work that we don’t care for but we need to find time for at some point. The worst part is that these tasks can become vacuums that suck up all of our time. They can sidetrack whole days of productivity. They’re a procrastinator’s dream because they NEED to be done. They’re looming and cyclical. They can drive you mad and mess with your mojo. I’m talking from years of experience here, and it often just gets worse when you start working from home.
So what can we do to defend ourselves from the beast of busywork?
Train yourself to commit to it in small intervals of 15 minute time frames. It sounds stupidly simple, I know. How can you accomplish 3 hours of cleaning in 15 minutes?! You can’t. But you don’t have to. If you commit 15 minutes a day to different tasks, by the end of a 7 day week you’ll have done 3.5 hours of busywork.
Part of the process is realizing that you need to force yourself to spend less time on tasks that aren’t moving you forward, wherever possible. I’m not saying spend less time with your loved ones (that’s all part of the most important task of taking care of your wellbeing). What I am saying is that you don’t have to tidy every room in the house right now. It’s really not that important.
The best part of committing 15 minutes a day to these tasks is that you will feel great about it. You’ll be making progress every day and sorting out something that needs to be done every day, which feels amazing! Your space will be more organized, your life will feel more balanced, and over time everything will run smoother. Initially it will be very hard to stop after 15 minutes, so try setting a timer. If your space is really driving you insane, it might be worth starting this practice after one of your big clean and organize sessions.
If you work from home, these chunks of time are a great thing to schedule in as breaks. It’s not great for your health to sit for four hours at a time, and you are actually much more productive if you take a small break from your desk every couple of hours. Spending 15 minutes focused on a task that has you moving, like cleaning the bathtub or putting out the bins, gives your mind a break from work but keeps you productive. I find this can increase your focus when you return to work.
What can be done in 15 minutes?
1. A load of laundry: 5 minutes gives you enough time to sort out all of the loads of laundry you want to do for the week. Popping it in and setting it to go takes about a minute, 4 minutes is a generous amount of time for laying it out to dry, and 5 minutes should really be enough time to put one load of laundry away. So really, after the initial sort, you should have a few minutes to spare!
2. Organize your desk: If your desk is done within a couple minutes, extend your organizing to the immediate area around including shelves etc. A clean work area does wonders for your focus.
3. Tidy a room: You don’t have to do the whole room, pick a particular task or section of the room.
4. Kitchen cleaning: Unload or load the dishwasher, do the washing up, give the hob a quick wipe, whatever needs doing and will make your life easier later.
5. Sort through mail or paper work: You don’t need to file everything away that instant. You may just sort everything into piles for the moment, and then the next day use your 15 minutes to file.
6. Create and send a few invoices or update your spreadsheets: The admin side of your business or life can really pile up. Use 15 minutes once or twice a week to get on track with admin tasks.
7. Call your dad, or that guy to fix that thing: Use your 15 minutes to connect with people whether it’s to check on a loved one, get something in the house sorted, or get a business quote.
8. What can’t be done in 15 minutes? Many of the large tasks we take on can be broken down into smaller, more manageable 15 minute or less chunks. This technique feels the most rewarding if you are able to finish the task at hand before you move on with your day.
A note on minimizing busywork
To make busywork less daunting you can also consider the ways you can keep it from unnecessarily piling up. Develop systems to seamlessly integrate into how you already operate and simultaneously reduce busywork. For example, when you pick up and open the mail, automatically sort it into piles of things you need to take action on, things to file, and recycle the rest. Or when you are finished eating, automatically wash your dishes or load them into the dishwasher to avoid a mound of dirty dishes. One way to help you commit yourself to these practices is by gently reminding yourself why you should do it now instead of later. Later = more to do + more time doing it
Stick with it
The most important part of adopting any new habit is to be kind to yourself. If you lose track of time and end up spending an hour cleaning the front room instead of 15 minutes, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just acknowledge that you did, and commit to setting a timer next time. Even if you find you haven’t been able to make it work after a week, that doesn’t mean you need to give up. It is much more effective to stay positive. Likewise, if a few weeks later you realize you haven’t even properly given it a go, then just make a note of it to remind yourself to try next week. Growth doesn’t happen over night. As long as you don’t give up, you’re already half way there.
Do you have any productivity hacks that help you deal with busywork?
To dirty houses and big messy dreams,