Burnout and Productive Laziness.

A recent post at ROK got me thinking about how easy it is to push yourself beyond healthy limits. We all have our reasons for doing it. Right now the nesting instincts are starting to kick in and seem to be merging with my money-saving drives, so I’m quite happily working in the garden until I realise I’m starting to feel a bit sick, or getting unnecessarily stressed about boxes in the hallway, or trying to put my sewing before paid work. I’m pretty sure the weird bug I had last week was down to overwork. But there are countless other reasons: the urge to impress, the thought that work is somehow sacred, the desire for the rewards, etc. We all have the capacity to overwork ourselves.

On the other hand, we are naturally lazy animals. All living beings are naturally lazy, in that we will do the bare minimum to fulfil our basic biological needs. Even our metabolisms are designed to do the most with the fewest calories possible, to complete processes sooner, to stay in stasis as long as possible.

And, although slothfulness is definitely a bad thing, I can’t help but feel that this gentle laziness is actually pretty positive. Unlike true sloth, where you sacrifice productivity and activity for rest, laziness is simply the desire to get things out of the way so you can rest. In short: you can be productive and lazy. Which is really what humans have been doing since the beginning of time. We have agriculture, electricity, mechanization and AI, all because we wanted to get work done sooner so we could get home and put our feet up. Every innovation, every great solution, every burst of creativity is born from an urge to not be doing what you are currently doing.

So don’t fear laziness. Harness it. Work out the path of least resistance to solve your problems and take it. Be productive, but not a beast of burden. And enjoy your rest.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

How To… be more productive.

I think everyone agrees that being productive is better than not.

You get things done, free up time for later in the day and have that satisfaction that comes with being pleasantly busy.

But some days it can be hard to get anything done and you go to bed feeling pretty rubbish, like you have a thousand things to do tomorrow and despite all your hard work, you accomplished nothing today.

To minimize that sort of day, here are some helpful steps to being more productive.

Step 1: Identify your tasks.

As I always say and will continue saying: lists are your friend.

Look at everything you have to do, walk around the house and look for jobs and write a list of everything that needs doing, not necessarily right now, but in the next three to seven days.

Step 2: Categorize their importance.

Make a list of ones that are urgent and a list of ones that make a big difference. Anything on both lists is very important, next comes anything on the urgent list, next on the difference list and finally we have the things that need doing but are neither urgent nor do they make a massive difference.

Step 3: Schedule them.

You only have so many hours in a day. So take the most urgent tasks and schedule them in. Anything that has a set time will obviously need to occupy that time slot regardless of importance, but you should otherwise try and get the most important things done first.

Step 4: Make a BORED? chart.

If you, for whatever reason, need to kill time, then make yourself a BORED chart.

Here is mine as an example:

BORED

Whenever you feel the urge to procrastinate, have an hour of dead space or an episode of mania, whenever you would normally just have a dead, tense gap in the day you regret later, consult your BORED? chart. That way even your slow time is productive.

Step 5: Set long-term goals.

When looking at your tasks, you need to see them as parts of a whole. Some, like doing the dishes, you just do and get done with. But some things, like keeping fit or sorting the garden, need a long term goal in mind. Work out what the end goal of your activities is and set yourself targets to hit. This lets you see how far you’re getting and adjust accordingly.

Step 6: Request accountability checks.

And if you really aren’t sure of your ability to go through with the work or to focus on your goals, why not ask someone to keep an eye on it with you? Having someone to report back to and help you refocus could be a great help.

And that is how I make the most of my time so at the end of the day I usually feel like I used my time wisely.

How do you balance your schedule? Any tips on how to avoid procrastination and maximize your day? Please share in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

#NoNothingNovember: A Happy, Low-Stress, Wealthier Home.

So, it’s officially no longer November. That means the challenge is up and I’m free to go back to my old ways if I wish to. I’m so glad I didn’t give up chocolate or coffee because that would be an instant reversion. :p

However, I’m fairly confident that I will be able to adhere to these changes.

I will keep an eye out for everyone else’s conclusions and add them to this post, by the way! Feel free to comment with your conclusion if you want to share. 🙂

So what was it I gave up?

Whilst there is no upper or lower limit to what you can give up or change, three seemed like a rounded number. This was not least of all because thinking of two problems was too easy, so adding a third, more-thought-out issue felt like the right way to balance it.

Most of the men doing #NNN were quitting porn/masturbation, video games and some form of mind-altering substance like illegal drugs, medication dependence and/or alcohol abuse. Most of the women were quitting spending too much/too frivolously, idling around instead of exercising, eating rubbish food and/or slacking on the housework. Now, if I’d set any of those goals for myself I could probably go into “perfect princess” mode, sat back and enjoyed November.

Whilst I drink alcohol and caffeine, they weren’t really options as I don’t drink very often (making a month easy) and caffeine controls some of the symptoms of my depression (making a month non-conductive to results).

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I have a pretty strong hold of my diet. I don’t watch actual TV, rather choosing to watch videos and on-demand whenever I actually have the time. I am very money-focused and hate to spend, even small amounts on necessary items are scrutinized before I allow myself them. I try and keep on top of the housework so, whilst it isn’t perfect, it wouldn’t take long at all to make it so. But I knew that I was losing time and gaining stress somewhere in my life and it definitely wasn’t “just one of them things”, as I’d been telling myself. We all have our flaws and, though it pained me, I had to dig just a tiny little bit deeper than stereotypes or common problems to find what was eating away at my time, my money and my sanity.

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Shockingly, the main one was time-wasting websites. (I bet you’re shocked, right?) Literally the first thing that came to mind was “You spend so much time trawling Buzzfeed, Cracked or TheBerry, never mind the websites you actually enjoy reading!” Of course, quitting the internet wasn’t realistic. As a from-home tutor, an online tutor, a writer, a proofreader, a translator, etc, I depend on the internet to advertise my services, hold online classes and find and submit writing work. There were a few websites I could block right off the bat. These were the ones that whenever I was bored I would click on. If I didn’t have internet access and was that bored, I would have done my work, just as I used to when spending 3-5 hours traveling by coach or train to see Jon. So if I blocked them permanently, I would definitely do more work. I also noticed that I spent too much time on useful websites that I use to advertise, learn or unwind. Therefore I gave myself 15 minutes every 6 hours to access those websites. Yes, between all of them. This meant I would update or check my ads, read the odd piece or chat to someone in the morning, do the same to relax around lunchtime and have one last gander once the working day was over.

I guess I won't be using this any more.

I guess I won’t be using this any more.

The next thing I chose to give-up was interrupting people. This one may genuinely shock some of you who know me online, but I am not the quietest, politest of people in real life. A combination of being reasonably bright, well-read and self-centred means that I am loud, opinionated and generally won’t let others get a word in edgeways. Giving up interruption is surprisingly hard, not least of all because I generally don’t care much for what other people are saying. However, it had become a habit that offended people around me and sometimes was directed at people whose opinions I did want to hear, it was so automatic. In order to stop myself from interrupting people I decided to employ the “Boo the Villains, Cheer the Heroes” mentality, listening carefully to what others were saying and constructing the narratives in my mind. I would apologize if I spoke over someone and shut up so they could speak. At first it confused a lot of people, but it was welcome soon enough.

I may still need this one, though.

I may still need this one, though.

Finally, and I had to think quite hard about this one, I decided I would give up stress. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Giving up stress is impossible. It’s a biological function to an unpleasant situation. It can even be good!” But I didn’t mean to fully choke and kill my stress response. All I wanted to do was get rid of unnecessary stress. I stress very easily. First sign of a problem and I panic, hide from it, procrastinate, spin a mountain out of a molehill and start getting physically unwell because I’m stressed. Which in turn stresses me more. All of this was fine (albeit very unpleasant) when I was just studying, could take any day off, could let the house turn into a pigsty. But it’s not so tolerable when you’re actually busy and need to get things done. In order to fight stress I applied a simple plan: whenever a problem arose, I would set a reasonable time-frame in which to fix it. I would then spend as much time as possible looking for a solution. If no solution was found, I would swallow my pride and ask the most suitable person for advice on the matter. As I had no solution of my own, I would have to adopt their solution. If their solution was impossible or very impractical or if they didn’t have a solution, I would just endure the problem until it ended and not stress about it, as it was unfixable and not worthy of stress.

At first everything was pretty difficult. Keeping off the blocked websites wasn’t much of an issue, but I found myself looking for more things to distract myself and having to subsequently block them also. Keeping from interrupting people was hard in and of itself. I found myself apologizing a lot more than I was stopping myself. And not getting stressed was fine until I became so overwhelmed I couldn’t think.

From the extra stresses of #NNN, website bans and a high workload, I found myself unable to unwind at the end of the day. Fifteen minutes of idly browsing the net just wouldn’t cut it. Instead of giving myself more idle browsing time, I did the opposite: without altering my main blocklists, I blocked most time-wasting sites from evenings other than Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Instead I focused on relaxing with Jon, cooking, watching cartoons, chatting and getting creative. The stress faded back and I was better able to sleep. I also improved my diet, cutting back carbs and wheat and controlling coffee intake, which further improved my mood and helped me concentrate on destressing.

Eventually, I employed more tactics for noninterruption, such as breathing deeply and paying attention to my own surroundings rather than my own mind. I found out that most people, even those who didn’t know how bad I used to be, will really take advantage of a situation where you aren’t talking. I get less socially exhausted when I don’t talk, but I find myself running out of patience very easily. I’ve started to largely surround myself with people who talk about pleasant or interesting topics and avoid those who go on about minor problems, fears and dull topics. I’m finding conversation more enjoyable now that I’ve improved the quality of the speakers.

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Likewise, the quality of material I’ve been reading has gone up. With only 30-45 minutes to spend on certain sites, I find myself not finishing duller articles, not opening clickbait or shock-value ones and largely looking out for things that actually interest me. I’m reading more solid articles and essays, more studies and more self-improvement, marketing and cooking themed blogs. I’ve even been able to delete some blogs I was following and haven’t clicked on in ages. I feel I’ve advanced my IQ an entire SD.

Unsurprisingly, wasting my time on clickbait, pictures, drawn-out conversations and stories whilst reading or discussing topics that are dull or frustrating with people who are boring or annoying had also been stressing me. Having no time left at the end of the day with little to show for it whilst mulling over inane topics or annoying voices in my mind would leave me feeling like I was wasting my time, which would stress me. Now that I’ve freed up my time and use my spare time productively I don’t feel bad about a slow day or a busy day or having work leftover for tomorrow. I also found myself less pre-emptively worried about incomplete work, a busy day ahead or problems that arose from rushing things. I work towards avoiding being in those situations again, but if I’m already there then stressing won’t change anything. Pushing things behind me and moving on has left me feeling better, with more free time to work with and with more money in my pocket. Being highly strung really does you no favours.

My final adjustments were to further limit my Twitter access and cut out a number of websites entirely through Sunday, adjust my noninterruption tactics for working around students and throwing myself into my work so that my time is better spent and I have less reason to feel stressed.

Now that I’m so busy all day and have lessons or writing almost every evening, Jon and I can only truly relax on a Sunday. Sitting around on time-wasting sites just because it’s my day off is not conductive to happiness. Neither is forcing him to join in on my #NNN challenges. Instead, spending more time paying attention to him, talking, working on projects and helping him get ready for work has left me feeling far more relaxed.

Likewise, I am now commanding more attention and respect from students without necessarily shouting them down or shutting them up. I am better able to enjoy my time with friends, but likewise to control my environment during lessons.

And finally I am currently sitting in a perfectly ordered house, with the laundry moving through apace, the cat well-fed, the rubbish and recycling sorted, the sinks clear and clean, everything in its place and a few bags of forage on the hearth, ready for making wreaths. I have been writing and proofreading all day, made a few phonecalls and am prepared for the next lesson in around thirty minutes. My income is now at a steady £350+/week bar the odd bad one and I feel far more confident in my ability to support the home for a few months starting January.

All in all, through restricting my ability to waste time, stopping myself from interrupting people in social situations and not getting myself wound up over every little detail, I have managed to get my house, work and life in general under control. Which is pretty impressive, from a one-month, cold-turkey, triple-challenge, isn’t it?

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