Nothing seems to be more magical than looking back at a few days and realizing you’ve gotten nothing done. Nothing. Not one thing that you really need to get done, got done. Not even the very important tasks you wrote down nicely in your bullet journal and productivity app.
Maybe you can blame it on being sick, which you are. Maybe you can blame it on unexpected life happenings popping up, which happened. Maybe you just wanted to not have to adult for a few days and ignored all the responsibilities with every intention of getting it all done by the deadlines. But the deadlines came, and went. And all you have to show for it is absolutely nothing cause you slacked off all week.
I struggle with this constantly. I want to be the put together adult who has it all under control and remembers everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries, sends out the holiday cards before the holiday starts, and is able to work two jobs with ease and finesse. You and I both know I’ll never be that person. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to be. I’m afraid if I stop trying to be the best I’ll just fade away into nothingness and end up like one of my Sims, lonely, disgusting, and surrounded by what might have been.
The only way I know how to combat this is to start fresh each day and try again.
I stop and take some breaths, then begin to reorganize my life again. Point by point, category by category, my to do list is filled out and noted and I try again. Doesn’t feel great but it does feel better than wallowing in self pity. And on the second pass I normally finish one more task than I did the week before.
Maybe one day, I’ll finish things the week I meant to. In the meantime, let’s fail and get back up again.
I love gaming. Specifically, I love MMO’s and simulation games like World of Warcraft, The Sims, Minecraft, etc. It gives me a thrill whenever I hit a new achieve in these games or get a new piece of gear or pet or mount and I celebrate and then suddenly the day is gone and I have gotten nothing done in real life.
I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort to get shit done before playing for hours on end but it, also, got me thinking about why I enjoy doing mundane crap in games but not real life. I will fish, cook, craft, gather, and grind for hours, days, years (WoW I’m looking at you) but taking ten minutes to sweep the floor so the robot can vacuum it up? Too much effort. But it isn’t. It’s incredibly less effort than the energy I have put in to games over the past (nearly) four decades. And yet, it still feels like more effort. Why? Because my brain is a liar and other bad names.
The satisfying list of achievements in games is an instant reminder of all the hard work I put into it. There are no achieves you can pull up for real life and that’s where I get tripped up. When I finish a task in game I get a small reminder that I can look at, share, and feel proud of (for better or worse) for as long as that virtual realm exists. My brain is hard wired now to look for that feeling of accomplishment and seems to know that IRL there is no such thing and therefore puts less importance on doing chores, exercising, and eating right than catching the 500th fish in Final Fantasy. Let’s face it, humans love showing off. Games make that easy to do, life not so much.
What’s the solution? Here’s what no one wants to say out loud: There isn’t a solution. It all depends on an individuals determination and no one way of working is going to fix that. We need to find our own achieves in life and for some that means journal tracking, some may like using a white board, and others may use an app to track what they’ve accomplished in a day. What matters, is that you tell your brain to shut up and get stuff done regardless of whether or not your brain believes there is a reward involved.
I’m still struggling with this every day. Every day I wake up with the best of intentions and half way through I’m needing to remind myself of why I can’t just stop and why I need to continue to adult. For now, I’ve been rewarding myself with play time once I complete a chore or task and it’s working somewhat. I know how hard it is to have a full time job and then need to come home and have another full time job there, but that’s life. So until I win the lottery the daily grind will continue. And I need to accept that.
And with all that said, it is now time for me to get more chores done. On to adventure!
We all do it. A simple task is transformed in to a monstrosity because we overthought how, what, why, where, and when. I’m not even sure how it gets to the point that it can and does but suddenly I’m not unloading the dishwasher because first I need to completely clean out all the cabinets, wipe them down, re-organize, ask if these things “Spark Joy,” and THEN I can unload the dishwasher.
Spoiler: The dishwasher does not get unloaded.
I’m always amazed by people who just get things done. Like how? I thought that I was just broken and would never be able to get things done. Only successful people get things done. And then I had a mini-breakthrough when I realized that people get things done…by doing them.
Its a crazy theory, I know, but stay with me. Instead of thinking about how they were going to complete a task, they just do it. They figure it out as they go along, problem solving if necessary, but never over thinking. Instead of thinking about how much nicer it would be to not unload the dishwasher and instead play your favorite game, they don’t think about how unloading the dishwasher for five whole minutes will cut in to their game time and just do it. They just do it.
And you know what’s weird? It works. You know what’s weirder? Our parents or guardians have been yelling at us our entire lives to stop thinking about stuff and just do it. Mostly chores. Ok, always about chores but they were right! Once you tell your brain to shut the fuck up and simply start to do whatever task needs to get done, it gets done with less effort and you feel better afterwards because, hey, look at how well you’re adulting. I never thought that I would be a productivity junkie, but I kinda am. The feeling of accomplishing all of my to-do’s along with the regular house hold chores, and my daily routine puts me in a better mood and keeps me determined to continue my winning streak.
It is hard to do in the beginning, as your brain is trained now to imagine an infinite number of universes where you do “The Thing” and then analyze each of those alternate dimensions to determine the “Best Way” and soon enough it’s time for bed and you haven’t done shit. I know it sounds strange, but you need to make a conscious decision to not think about how you’re going to do your stuff. Yes, I can hear you all now, “But Natalia, if you try to NOT think about something you end up ONLY thinking about it.” That’s true to a degree. You have to trick your brain. It’s like when you need to get your dog to drop whatever totally-not-a-toy they have so you wave something shinier in their face and totally forget about the forbidden toy and take that instead. Your brain is no smarter than that dog.
That sounded way harsher than I meant it.
What I mean to say, is your brain in that moment is no smarter than that dog. We tend to think of our brains not as just another organ but as us. As in, my brain is me and I am my brain. But it’s not that simple, thankfully, because our brains can be right bastards at times. And that’s because it is an organ, one like our heart, which we need to train and maintain everyday. If that sounds daunting, it’s because it is. No lie, everyday is a conscious decision to be better than the last and to not let your mind take control of you.
Which brings us to tricking your brain. My suggestion is blasting some fun music, or an episode or two of your favorite podcast, or an audio book. This is not new advice, in fact, I’ve been cleaning to music my entire life because it was the only way my mom could motivate my lazy butt to help out. But it works because instead of being able to overthink how you are going to get XYZ done, your brain is overloaded with a new, shinier alternative than talking you out of mopping the floors. In fact, it doesn’t care what you do because now it’s extremely focused on the sounds coming into your ear holes. Mop away! Meal prep! Wipe those counters! Our brains crave stimulation in the form of thought, but sometimes, just like a crabby toddler, it needs us to put on some entertainment for it and let it chill while we get stuff done.
Let me know in the comments what you use to trick your brains into quieting down.