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The Dishes Can Wait – I Only Need A Spoon!

happy birthday text on black background
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Some people manage to be effortlessly motivated and productive at all times, only taking breaks to increase their productivity. Others, like myself, struggle with maintaining any level of motivation or productivity. If you are like me, you will be familiar with the motivation vacuums that appear from nowhere.

Lack of motivation

If you are reading this and feel like the least motivated and unproductive person ever, you are not alone. Just before I started writing this, I walked into my kitchen, saw that most of the pots and pans were dirty. I decided it was too much work to clean. I then prepared food and instead I am eating a small pot of rice pudding that is three months out of date. #LivingTheDream.

The main problem with regularly losing motivation to the extent that you get nothing done isn’t the fact that nothing gets done. It’s the negative impact it inevitably has on our mental health which kickstarts a horrible cycle of low motivation and low self-esteem. Sitting here now, in a slightly messy living room, constantly distracted knowing that the kitchen looks a mess. 

Some tips from me to boost productivity!

I could get up and go tidy it a little so that I can focus on what I am currently doing. But I know that if I start I’ll have to keep going until it is pristine which may sound like a good thing. However, it really means that I will replace my guilt at having a messy kitchen, with guilt for not keeping up with my other obligations, namely writing this for you. 

When we get stuck in these cycles of inaction and negative self-talk and self-esteem the solution seems unbelievably easy: just do the thing. Realistically, however, when we are feeling that we are entirely useless and incapable of being a functioning adult, even the smallest tasks seem mammoth. So, how can we help? Well, while I’m certainly no expert, here are some tips that I find myself coming back to time and time again.

1. Small accomplishments are still accomplishments

If your kitchen is a mess and you only manage to wash up the one specific pan you need to cook and only enough crockery and utensils to eat your food, that’s better than nothing! You still achieved something. If your washing basket is overflowing with dirty clothes and you only manage to wash one load, that’s still an achievement. You are not obligated to complete every chore 100% in one go. Slow and steady wins the race. 

2. Mirror pep talks

This one is fairly self-explanatory.  If you need to, there is absolutely no shame in giving yourself a pep talk in the bathroom mirror.  This one may be easier if you employ something called ‘distanced self-talk’. This is often used in various forms of therapy, whereby you talk about yourself as if you were someone else. It can be easier to say nice things about others than ourselves, so pretend the person in the mirror is someone else who needs pepping up. What would you tell someone who thought they were useless for leaving the dishes for one night? Would you berate them further or would you encourage them and build them up?

3. Planning can count as the first step   

If your motivation issues relate more to work or school tasks than housework, it is more than okay to include planning as one of the steps. Whether that’s formulating an essay plan or compiling a bullet-pointed list of the tasks you have to do that day, you’re already one step closer to getting the thing done. When your mind gets clouded by low self-esteem and negativity, it can seem impossible to focus on the things you have to do. When we narrow that focus to simply planning for future tasks, it can help to lift the fog a little and help us to see more clearly.

4. Let yourself breathe  

If you are struggling to complete are things like household chores, regular workouts, hobbies that you’ve let slide, it might be worth reminding yourself that the world isn’t going to end because your sink is full. Personally, I struggle a lot with piling the pressure onto myself for every little thing. Negative thinking comes easily to me, especially when it’s tasks that we often view as easy or minor, it can very quickly devolve into my mind practically bullying itself. I think we can all agree that this is not at all helpful. So cut yourself some slack, if there’s no hard and fast deadline, certainly if there’s no external deadline. Breathe. 

5. Move more

If the tasks you are procrastinating on are mostly indoors or worse, sitting down, desk-bound tasks, one of the best remedies is to get up, get outside, and get moving. Stretching and breathing some fresh air can be really beneficial. Helping us get out of the ruts that we find ourselves in from time to time. To be physically removed from the scenario that is causing our distress, being surrounded by nature or by a stimulating changing environment like a city can really clear the cobwebs away and help us come back with a clearer mind and perhaps a renewed motivation. 

These tips are purposefully simple, we do not have to make our lives any more complicated. We do not need to beat ourselves up for not being perfect all the time. A messy house, a delayed deadline, a full washing basket is not the end of the world. These things will be there tomorrow and the next day. That could be overwhelming, if we reframe it, it could take a weight off our shoulders. There is no reason for everything to get done today, there is always tomorrow.

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