Today we welcome guest post writer Chaya Goodman, editor of the website Networx. Chaya’s website provides information on how to fix, renovate, and decorate your house.
I spent most of my life procrastinating, and, as a result, lived in very messy, cluttered apartments. A year ago, I moved into a studio apartment and I made a binding resolution with myself that I would keep it clean and free of clutter. I can happily tell you that I stuck to my resolution. A messy, cluttered house can be symptomatic (or the cause itself) of problems with procrastination and motivation. As a former procrastinator who has undergone a transformation into a tidy minimalist, I’d like to offer some compassionate, but straightforward, advice:
- You can’t organize your life all at once, nor can you get to the root of your organizational problems in one fell swoop. Start small.
First things first and last things last. I have a friend who can’t seem to hold down a job or keep a space clean, largely because she decided a long time ago that the root of her problems is that she can’t find the right community to live in. Thus, she has spent years packing and unpacking her belongings, living out of boxes, and losing important items and holding onto stuff that she “might need one day.” If you can’t hold down a job or keep a room clean, then work on getting up and going to work every day — don’t worry about why you can’t do it, focus on doing it. Tidy up your house for 10 minutes every night. Don’t skip town. Eventually, the problem and its root might just disappear.
- Accept that work, especially house cleaning and organization, can be boring. You might have to spend time doing tasks that you think are below your intellect.
If you believe that you are too busy, intelligent, or talented for grunt work, your space is probably going to be a disaster area. I know this first hand. I used to write poems instead of doing dishes, or get so busy with community projects that I couldn’t find time to put away my laundry. Believing that you’re too smart for house work is faulty logic and egotism. Do I find folding laundry boring? Yes. Do I sometimes wish I could sit and write instead of mopping my floor? Yes. However, footwork is a means to an end. I accept that I get to read books and write stories after I’ve tidied up my apartment. Having a clean house allows me to think more clearly than ever, and washing the dishes is a great distraction-free time to brainstorm visionary ideas.
- Progress, not perfection.
The biggest bug behind procrastination is making plans that are too grandiose. I used to write up these elaborate meal plans and organizational plans that always bombed, because they were far too ambitious. One of the biggest revelations I’ve had in maintaining a healthy diet and reducing the number of dishes I have to wash is that I essentially gave up on cooking during the week. I keep a large plastic bowl at work, and a sharp vegetable knife. Twice a day, I take 5 minutes to rinse off a few vegetables and throw together a big salad in my plastic bowl. For protein, I throw in some nuts or beans or sprouts, and I eat a couple pieces of sprouted bread from the health food store. If I were limiting my definition of healthy eating to making elaborate macrobiotic meals, I’d be fat and unhealthy, and I’d have dishes piled up in the sink. I found a way to eat my vegetables in 10 minutes a day. Is it a perfect diet? No, but it works.
- Know your limits.
I’ve noticed that the cycle of slacking for me goes like this: 1. Taking on way too many projects (organizational or otherwise), to compensate for having slacked off; 2. Trying to do all the tasks using poor time management skills; 3. Failing at fulfilling responsibilities; 4. Giving up hope; 5. Slacking. When tasks start piling up, do not touch the dust of taking them on all it once. Be honest with yourself — you’re not a superhero who can stop time. Instead, make a list and deal first with the task with the biggest penalty for slacking. For example, renewing my driver’s license has the biggest financial risk associated with it, so I decided to undertake it before putting away my laundry.
- The best way to tackle responsibilities is to multitask.
You can master time management by multitasking. For instance, I like to throw dinner parties, but my minimalist kitchen only has one burner and a toaster oven, and I only have one morning a week available for house cleaning. When I throw a dinner party, my plan might look like this: On the morning before a dinner party, I start by writing a list of tasks. Next, I organize what jobs I can do concurrently. First I cook the rice. While the rice cooks, I sort my laundry into piles and chop vegetables for stew. Next, I put the stew on the burner to cook. While the stew cooks, I take my laundry to the Laundromat on my block. Once my laundry is out of the house, I sweep and mop the floor. Then, I wipe down my baseboards and windowsill. I take the stew off the burner and start making salads. I set the table.
Eventually, you will be able to gauge how long particular tasks take, and you’ll be able to do several actions at the same time.
Essentially, what I have learned over the past year of staying organized and living efficiently is that the best safeguard against slacking off and procrastinating is doing the task now, whatever it is. I often remind myself that whatever chore I want to put off will be harder later. The anxiety that procrastination causes is much harder than just bucking up and doing it now.