Thursday, January 8, 2015


I have never considered myself someone who makes New Year's Resolutions. I don't have anything against them necessarily but they aren't my bag. I am still not sure I am a New Year's Resolution kind of person, but Bearing's post about them has gotten me thinking.

Last year at the beginning of January, I began an exercise in getting to work early. I kept track of my time and made a real improvement in my quality of life. And I more or less have kept most the gains from the hard work although the work really never ends. I am waiting for that moment when getting up in the morning is easy, but I am pretty sure it is never going to come.

Even though I started this project last January, I did not think of it as a New Year's Resolution. It was more an accident of timing. My commute schedule had been out of control the previous fall. I was spending three hours in the car a day as I hit the worst of the traffic coming and going. I was six months postpartum so the newborn craziness had died down and my sleep was improving. I had just had some time off of work for Christmas and it was a good time to make a fresh start. It was definitely a resolution of some sort and it was the new year so I guess the label fits. Maybe I am someone who makes New Year's Resolutions.

In Bearing's post she offers a reflection on the results of her resolutions from 2014 and makes this summation:
I lowered my standards -- and life is better for everyone.
Maybe you should resolve, in 2015, to lower your standards too!
In response I left this comment:
I'm not sure my standards could get any lower. Maybe my resolution should be "Accept the chaos" but I also don't really want to accept the chaos either. Perhaps the resolution should be to accept that I need to accept the chaos. Is that meta enough?
Anyway, my real resolution should be to be more intentional with the time I use for household tasks. It is easy for me to get overwhelmed with what I need to do and spend a lot of time spinning my wheels avoiding it. I could accomplish more if I just did it instead of thinking about how much there is to do and then escaping online. It's the old 'how do I find the least amount of downtime necessary?' problem. I need downtime, but probably not as much as I take. If I designate an hour or two for a certain task, I need to work diligently at that task instead of spending as much time avoiding as I do working. I'm never going to get the whole to-do list done, but I could get more done.
I mulled on this topic about time management and housekeeping for awhile longer because it is forever the thorn in my side. Then I read what Jamie had to say about trying to refrain from fixing all the things at once. The line the really resonated with me was:
I spent the next several weeks observing the outsize impact of these things on my mood: dealing with small annoyances has a big effect. ... (W)e're actually better at dealing with big irritants than small ones, because big irritants trigger coping mechanisms. 
Oh yes! I recognize that problem. And it reminded of the frustration I voiced about trying to get ready for Christmas but having work weeks evaporate without accomplishing much. I said then that "week after week, I make big--or actually quite small--plans about certain tasks I want to accomplish during the week and night after night, I find myself zoned out unable to overcome the inertia in order to act."

A thought occurred to me. What if even in my weekly plans I am still overthinking what needs to be done? A whole week is a long time. What if I tried to accomplish one tiny task each evening?  If I could do a single, very small, unobtrusive task each night after work, I might have enough momentum to overcome my general inertia.

I have decided to do another experiment. My goal is to complete one negligible task each evening after work. Nothing that would take more than five, maybe ten minutes. Just something that needs done which eats at my mind.

On Monday I taped up the boxes that had Amazon returns.
On Tuesday I (finally) taped Olivia's job pictures to some card stock to hang in her room.
On Wednesday I filled out a contact reimbursement form.
Tonight I intend to decide which brown shoes I am going to buy. (Okay this might take more than ten minutes.)

I am not under the delusion that taking these small steps will eliminate the housekeeping problem because a house needs more attention than one five minute task a night can give, but it might fuel a feeling of accomplishment rather than overwhelmed hopelessness. When I can do one thing, I am absolved from feeling like I do nothing. I can excuse myself from thinking about everything that needs done because I cannot realistically do more than this one small thing in the evening. One and done and my mind is at ease. A very small New Year's Resolution: I am lowering my standards some more.

We will see if it helps.


bearing said...

"One and done" does sound like a good resolution. After all, if you felt like doing more after your one, it won't stop you. But you can maybe motivate yourself with "if I get this one thing done, I can stop."

Melanie Bettinelli said...

I'm a huge fan of small accomplishments and I do find that setting the bar low often does lead to bigger returns as I get energized by the accomplishment. For a while now my daily resolution has been that if I need to open the dishwasher to get out a dish during the breakfast prep, I will put a coupe of things away. Many mornings it leads to me emptying the whole dishwasher while the eggs or oatmeal cooks. Some days it really is just a couple of things, but having gotten started it is easier to go back and unload it later.

I could probably benefit from making myself do a few five minute tasks-- especially after the kids are in bed each night. Just knocking off one thing a night would be huge.

The Sojourner said...

I am fond of saying that there is only so far you can lower your standards before the Health Department gets involved.

I should probably lower mine some more, though. Or something. Because I too find myself saying, "Oh, I will finish reading this blog post and then go take a shower", but watch, I will go back to Facebook after this and not get a shower tonight. Inertia, man.