Take Heart: Those Repetitive Daily Tasks DO Matter…

Doesn’t daily life seem to involve a great number of repetitive and mindless tasks? I feel that now more than ever before, as a stay-at-home parent. There are all the usual basic housework tasks that everyone has to fit in, but of course these need to be carried out far more frequently with preschoolers around the house. Sometimes I could swear my little ones are programmed to incessantly destroy the clean and tidy environment I strive to maintain!

What if We Just Stopped Bothering?

It’s easy to feel there is no value in performing these basic, repetitive tasks over and over again and they can certainly feel tedious at times. But what would happen if we just stopped doing them? If we simply didn’t bother to wash the dishes or do the laundry, cook the dinner, change nappies or do any of the myriad other small but not so insignificant little jobs. Everyone would be sure to notice that things weren’t done and nobody would be happy living in the resulting disarray.

Lessen the Burden

With regard to the housework, I try to get my children involved in helping with it where possible. They have helped unload the dishwasher and pair up laundered socks since they were two years old, for example. For jobs that can only fall on me, I often play a podcast or some music in the to make it more pleasurable. Sometimes I dawdle  which makes things worse, so using a timer to force me to tidy faster works well.

Those Small Actions Add Up to Something Significant 

On reflection, life itself can be seen as a long series of small actions that need doing, a large percentage of them repetitive ones. Getting on and doing them as and when needed oils the machine that is life and keeps things running smoothly. In some cases, the many repeated small actions contribute cumulatively to the creation of something wonderful: changing all those nappies, reluctantly reading the same story by request, preparing nutritious meals and countless other routine actions result in a healthy, happy child and eventually adult.

Make Time for Little Luxuries and Simple Pleasures Every Day

This is crucial. There should always be time for petits plaisirs as the French would call them, no matter how busy we are. Sometimes when we are frantically racing around to get everything done, we fail to notice the beautiful things that are right in front of our eyes. Challenge yourself to spot the little things that lift your spirits and that you feel grateful for. You will notice a shift in perspective that helps you enjoy life more no matter how much drudgery some days may seem to involve. I wrote about enjoying simple pleasures and would encourage anyone to make a mental or physical list of their own.

Get Organised!

I find that when I plan my days carefully I achieve more and feel more positive as a result. If you prioritise the tasks that are most important to you and get them out of the way, you will gain a sense of achievement and remove that sense of unease that follows you around until you can tick it off your list.

Ultimately, I tend to agree that “a tidy house equals a tidy mind” as per the old adage and know that I feel more peaceful and calm if my surroundings are tidy and serene. This positive impact on my mental health is a powerful motivator and it is just a case of planning my time carefully and remembering to slow down and smell the roses no matter how busy I am.

Do you have any other tips on how to ensure you enjoy life even at the times when much of your daily tasks are mindless and/or repetitive? I would love to hear them 🙂

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Do you prioritise your priorities?

Do you Prioritise your Priorities?

I know already I’ve blogged about to-do lists and getting stuff done fairly recently. But a couple of weeks ago it dawned on me that the days and weeks are zooming by, the year doesn’t feel at all ‘new’ any more, yet I didn’t seem to be making much progress on anything that I really wanted to. The sense of dissatisfaction and annoyance that resulted at the end of most days prompted me to find a solution.

Writing

One of my priorities this year is to write more. Both continuing to write blog posts once a week, as well as working on a lifestyle book. I’d been just about keeping up with the blog posts, but had barely spent any time on the book despite having planned out all the chapters.

Part of the challenge is that I don’t have any childcare for my fifteen-month-old baby, but it was time to stop using that as an excuse and work around it. Thankfully, she has been sleeping much better recently and has set nap times. I have now allocated morning nap time to write every day. Perhaps it’s not the best way to do it, but I aim to write 500 words daily. That may sound paltry to full-time writers, but if I manage it consistently from Monday to Friday it equates to 2,500 words a week or 10,000 words a month. Well on the way to completing a whole book within the space of a few months. From acorns great oak trees really do grow!

Exercise

Although I’m not completely sedentary, I hoped to increase my exercise levels a little this year. On weekdays I always achieve 16k steps minimum just from doing the school and nursery runs as well as generally running around after my toddler. I decided to make the journeys a little more effective by sometimes adding a little sprint (with the pushchair) from our house to almost the end of our road. To ensure I don’t get lazy and opt out of the sprint I often deliberately leave the house a couple of minutes later than it would take to walk it. Sometimes I add an additional short sprint a couple of minutes after the first one, creating my own interval training in a way.

Reading about Jennifer L Scott’s rebounding at home post recently instantly appealed. Like me, Jennifer has three young children and she admitted that finding time for regular exercise can be tricky. She explained how she had recently bought a rebounder (or mini trampoline designed for exercising) and found it was perfect for fitting in short bursts of exercise into her day.

I was instantly convinced after reading her post and ordered a rebounder. Often I simply jump for a couple of minutes, but have found numerous rebounding workouts on YouTube which are good to follow sometimes, too.

Sometimes I jump whilst watching a film or TV in the evenings to make it more of a productive use of my time.

Getting  everything else done…

Before I stared planning for my priorities, I tended to do house-related chores such as hang out loads of washing and put dry washing away as soon as I noticed it needed doing, ditto for making phone calls and sending emails. But now, these chores simply have to fit in around sacred writing time. Who cares if there’s a pile of dry laundry to be put away? It can wait. I won’t feel any worse for leaving it a couple of hours as it can be fitted in at any point during the day while my kids are awake, but the same can’t be said for my writing which is why I have to carve specific time out for that.

How about you? Are you managing to find time for the things you decided were important on the first of January? If not, perhaps it’s time to take stock and revisit your priorities so that you can be sure you really do priorities them.

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Why you need a 'done' list more than a 'to-do' list

Why you need a ‘done’ list more than a to-do list

Isn’t life busy for everyone these days?

Less physical work, but a higher mental load

In addition to working a paid job or staying at home to care for children, there are myriad small tasks to be carried out. Phone calls to make, online accounts to log into and take some form of action on. Emails to send and reply to, both to companies and acquaintances.

Although modern life is less tiring in terms of physical tasks (I for one remain eternally grateful to the inventors of washing machines and dishwashers), the time and energy saved on the manual tasks of old seems to have been replaced by a significant number of smaller tasks which may not require physical effort but still take up headspace when they accumulate.

The problem with to-do lists

By nature, I am (or at least strive to be) an organised person. I’ve long been a user of to-do lists. As a carefree student, to-do lists were a mere couple of items hastily scribbled on the back of my hand each morning. Gradually though, things have changed and my to-do lists seem never ending. At any one time I have as a minimum an A5 paper sheet listing jobs to be completed for the day plus others that might be accomplished at a push (though I invariably kid myself on that front), plus an A4 sheet of jobs that I would like to tackle at some point (ideally as soon as possible, though often months and months pass and the same jobs get carried over to the next list :/ )

It sounds like a first world problem (and I appreciate that it is, in the grand scheme of things) but I too often end a day feeling overwhelmed and with a sense of dissatisfaction that I didn’t complete half of the tasks that I intended to. That’s not to say that I didn’t achieve anything- it’s just that keeping three kids amused and alive and the basics of keeping the house tidy end up taking most of my time.

Also significant is that other, unplanned tasks spring up unexpectedly each day, many of which require swift action.

Introducing the ‘done’ list

It was a few years ago that I suddenly came up with the idea of a ‘done’ list. Basically, this involves retrospectively jotting down tasks that you complete, either soon after completing them or at the end of the day when you review your to-do list. Any and all tasks can be added; from hanging out a load of washing, to making a phone call that was made a necessary course of action from a letter received in the post that day, to preparing dinner. As soon as I started practicing this, it made a noticeable improvement to how I felt about my accomplishments on a given day as it was easy to see in black and white the long list of (albeit small) things I had got done.

What Went Right Today?

On a similar theme, a friend introduced me to the concept of reviewing ‘what went right today’ (WWRT) just under a year ago. She wrote a great article about it here. WWRT involves taking time at the end of the day to list the positives that came out of it. Naturally, some days there will be more than others. The friend who suggested the WWRT idea is a fellow member of a Facebook group for mums of babies who were due in the same month. Most days, we all check in and focus on the positives, even if there are only slim pickings such as having kept the kids alive that day. Yes, a dry sense of humour if often required, or at least it was in the newborn months. Of course, other days WWRT is a chance to celebrate good news or major achievements, such as receiving a job offer.

Do you have any tips to share about how you organise your to-do lists? I’m always on the lookout for ideas on how to manage mine more effectively.

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