Reality Check: Creating the Helpful Habit

Are you stressed? Is there too much to do, no time to do it? Do undone tasks scurry around in the back of your mind, popping up at inconvenient times?

Many tasks are never fully done. Do you remember this slogan? “A man works from sun to sun; A woman’s work is never done.” The implication—that housework is never done—applies not only to housework, but to lots of tasks. No matter how much you do, there’s always opportunity to do more.

If that’s your focus, you may never be able to relax. “Woman’s work” aside, housework is a good example. You sit down and suddenly think, the windows should be washed! Another load of laundry beckons. The fridge needs cleaning…

Is the perception that you are never “caught up” helpful? Perhaps you view it as a motivating factor. If that works for you; great!

On the other hand, if the perception leaves you continuously feeling stressed, frantic, and guilty, then here’s a suggestion: Take charge of when you do specific “never-finished” activities. Build them into your life as helpful habits, rather than life-consuming interruptions.

For example, choose specific days for specific tasks. Laundry? Tuesday evening. Toilet cleaning? Let’s make that Friday night’s entertainment.  Groceries? Saturday morning, and so on.

Obviously, the specifics are completely your choice. If you need to do laundry five times a week, that’s your prerogative. The suggestion is simply to choose a routine and follow it.

Here’s what a routine can do for your life. When you sit down Thursday evening to relax and suddenly the pesky thought pops into your head that the toilet needs cleaning, you can dismiss it. You know, “That’s in my routine for Friday evening.”

There’s no need to consider it, resent it, or feel guilty about not doing it now. When Friday comes, the task is already expected. This is when you do it. You might even have the supplies you need because you’ve planned for it!

For this (or any) suggestion to be effective, of course, you have to follow through with the plans you’ve made.

There’s another benefit to choosing helpful habits to deal with those necessary, repetitive, but not highly significant tasks. Putting them on “auto-pilot” can help you act on your significant priorities.

It’s often tempting to put off important priorities with, “I’ll start that later, when I have free time.”  Meanwhile, time is frittered away on tiny, seemingly urgent but less-important tasks.

After all, while it might not be pleasant, it can be easier to clean the toilet than to finally start working on that novel, or start planning your career, or start landscaping your property. Even if the novel, the career, or the landscaping is really important to you, the toilet-cleaning might seem easier because you know exactly how to get started.

Putting the necessary but less-important tasks in their place, allotting enough time to them but no more, can free up some of your time for the bigger picture.

Do you use habits to handle routine activities in your life?

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