I was talking with my walking buddy about procrastination and how the volume of tasks can overwhelm us. The advice we always seem to get regarding task completion is to plan a task, begin a task, finish the task, and then check it off the list.
But this can be overwhelming, especially when we’re not talking about shift work, or the tasks are long-term, like writing a novel, or never-ending, such as dishes and laundry. Feeling like every time we begin a task, we must finish it, can sometimes lead to procrastination and total inertia.
Years ago a seasoned military spouse told me about a theory of housecleaning that changed my perspective. The washing of a kitchen sink can be the beginning of a clean house. If you start with one small task, the cleanliness will spread.
I immediately get the image of Sigourney Weaver’s Riley from Aliens cleaning Newt’s face: having created a clean spot, I’ll just have to do the whole space. It’s the broken window theory in reverse.
10 minute novelist Katharine Grubb developed a system of writing in 10 minute increments and author Jessica Ingold advocates twenty minute writing sprints. Both approaches turn novel-writing into something I can chip away at, and an app like Scrivener allows me to focus on small sections (scenes or chapters) at a time. A novel takes hours of writing, drafting, editing, but if you break it down to minutes, it is less overwhelming. Whether you write in this sprint style or not, it’s a whole lot easier to complete any task if you break it into smaller parts.
Sometimes everyday tasks seem insurmountable, and my motivation to tackle tasks is often inversely proportional to my perception of their duration. But sometimes you just have to start, to do something. Take small bites out of that apple and don’t try to swallow it whole.
If one doesn’t have the energy to put away all of that mountainous pile of laundry tonight, won’t the task be made that much negotiable the next day if you fold and put away just 10 items? And sometimes, if I just try to tackle a project and “put a dent in it,” I could get into a groove and finish it.
Also, if you’re looking to discover more about two inspiring authors, I’ve put active links on the two pictures below:
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