I’m talking about obligations that we put upon ourselves here: not only is it up to each and everyone of us to make choices about what we take on, but also about the order, frequency and intensity that we choose to deal with those tasks. Let’s dissect a little:
Of course, there are tasks we are obliged to do… doing the dishes or laundry, cooking, shopping for food, going to work, taking the kids to school, etc. – those are tasks we would be hard put to neglect. However, what about taking care of the choir finances, or tending to the communal garden? What about pre-cooking food for your child at university? Or helping your neighbour with their housework (which you have been doing for 10+ years)?
Learn to distinguish mandatory tasks from potential activities. Some tasks you choose to continue, even though some activities are adding too much to your sack of things to do and you end up being stressed all the time. They may feel like the correct decision from a social point of view, but they end up being too much for you. Maybe it’s time to be more selective about what you take on and why.
Sometimes, overwhelm can be the result of tackling your tasks in the wrong order: doing everything you like doing to start with may not be the best strategy as you’ll end up with the hateful tasks at the end of the day. That’s just procrastination in some cases, with the effect that unpleasant tasks never get done.
Let me tell you a secret: the longer you wait to finish an unpleasant task, the longer it will sit there and annoy you. So why do it earlier and get it off your back?
Some tasks are overwhelming because they are repetitive and/or never seem to be done, like the dishes, cleaning your house or balancing your books. There’s always more. However, what is totally in your hands is the frequency in which you do such things. Is there any reason to balance your books as often as you do? Can you rinse your dishes after use and then do them the next day with the next lot? Could you do the school run less often?
Some of us are perfectionists. Yes, it’s true. That may lead to situations where whatever task you choose to do next takes much longer than it needs to, because it has to be finished to a standard far beyond the necessary. A bit of dust on the shelves cannot hurt you. Scrubbing that pan for five more minutes will not make a difference in the long run. Organising everything by colour and keeping it that way is a losing battle to start with.
Try to find ways to do tasks in a way that finishes them quickly, to a reasonable level of good, but without the constant need to achieve perfection. There are times where perfection is the goal, but those are rarer than you might think – in most cases, good enough is what you need to strive for.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.