Three ways to power up and get the jump on your chore list

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Commitment to the To Do list! By: Rob and Stephanie Levy - CC BY 2.0
Commitment to the To Do list! By: Rob and Stephanie LevyCC BY 2.0

I used to freaking hate doing the dishes — to the point where I seriously considered buying new dishes instead of cleaning the ones that have been sitting for way too long. Now, I almost look forward to it. How did my outlook change so completely? Did I have a frontal lobotomy? Nope! I came up with some easy ways to trick my brain into realizing that doing the dishes isn’t so bad. These mind hacks are applicable to a range of chores and items on your to do list. Use what works for you, and share your own in the comments!

1. De-suckify the task as much as possible

For me and my hated dishes chore, this meant prettying up my environs. I dressed up my dish soap dispenser and found a way to wirelessly amplify tunes in the kitchen. I got some gorgeous dish gloves (have you guys seen how amazing dish gloves can be!?) and I used a trick Ariel taught me: put hand moisturizer on before putting on the dish gloves, and by the time you’re done, it absorbs into your skin. (Incidentally, waiting for moisturizer to dry is super annoying to me, too. So this is two birds with one stone!)

If you hate vacuuming, put on some headphones to help you drone out the noise and pump up your mood. Make your laundry room as welcoming as you can so you don’t dread spending time there. Call a friend, put them on speaker phone, and you can each catch up while you do a mindless task. When you begin to associate enjoyable things with the chore, it doesn’t seem as bad anymore.

2. Time the task (and be pleasantly surprised)

I spent way more time dreading doing the dishes than I have ever spent doing the dishes. All told, I would only hear a few songs on my playlist before I was done washing. It took me less than 15 minutes! From then on, when I found myself procrastinating on doing them, I reminded myself that the task isn’t the time-suck I see it as. This makes it infinitely easier to start: the sooner I start, the sooner it’s over and I can get back to something more fun. In her post about similar dirty dish-related angst, WenSurprised came to this realization, too. She turned the fifteen minutes into a dedicated reflection time, too:

Did you know, if you do the dishes every single evening, on average, it only takes 15 minutes? Just long enough, usually, for me to think through what I need to do before bed, or to plan the next day’s outfit, or to figure out something yummy to take for lunch the next day. All of my dishes-related angst evaporated.

Fold laundry while watching this week’s episode of your favourite show and realize that you’re done long before the credits roll. Debrief your day in your mind while you clean the toilet (metaphor?). Chores are more manageable when you break them down, and this is in large part because they really just don’t take very long at all.

3. Cross off your completed tasks like a boss

I really love having a to do list, but not because it keeps me organized or on track. These are great side-effects, sure — but what I love about lists is crossing shit off of them. I put everything on a list. Do the dishes, fold laundry, send that email, write that post, etc. It feels so good to cross something off the list (or to add it after doing it, then cross it off) that it motivates me to get something done. And when I’m staring at 10 tasks to be done by tomorrow, and the easiest one is doing the dishes? Guess who’s leaping at the chance to do the dishes before all the other tasks.

Productive procrastination is a great way to eliminate smaller less-urgent but important tasks from the list. Plus, the little boost I get in my mood from accomplishing something helps motivate me to tackle the next task. This is my favourite to do list because it’s in a convenient calendar. (Here it is put to use for Offbeat Home & Life.) Use whatever works best for you — an app, a random piece of scrap paper, a Word Doc, whatever. In my experience, making it something aesthetically pleasing and easily accessible (the one I use doubles as a mouse pad) helps me keep to the list even more.

How about it, Homies? What are your hacks for putting your mind in the zone to tackle your to do list?

Comments on Three ways to power up and get the jump on your chore list

  1. I love being able to cross items off a list, so I’m firmly in the list-maker camp. Plus I forget things if I don’t write them down. But, I don’t like the pressure I put on myself and the subsequent disappointment I feel if I don’t cross off every. single. item. I have learned to be kinder to myself by calling it a “goal list” rather than a “to-do list”. For me, the shift from “You MUST get these things done” to “Hey, these are things you aspire to” relieves much of the pressure. Also, I am able to appreciate the things I have done rather than only focusing on those I haven’t.

    As for dishes (my nemesis!), bathrooms and vacuuming, I came up with an outside-the-box solution: We had an extra bedroom in our house that now houses a roommate. She does basic housekeeping in exchange for rent in order to save money for college next year. I realize it’s not a viable solution for everyone, but I highly recommend it if you can swing it. I haven’t washed a dish in 9 months. We love having her here and will miss her terribly when she leaves, but we will definitely look for someone else interested in the same arrangement.

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