I should preface this with letting you know that I have the most wonderful cleaning lady on God’s green Earth. It’s an incredible luxury that I work really hard to make sure there are available funds to budget for. I didn’t always have her though, so this is how I survived B.C. “Before Cleaning” And I still apply it to those daily tasks (all six million of them) that go beyond what she accomplishes for our family on a biweekly basis.
For the longest time, I felt like I was drowning in the big picture. When I’d walk into my home after a long day of work and scan the big picture and see the laundry and the dishes and the laundry and the dirty floorboards and the laundry…well, you get the picture. In that 30 seconds, I was walloped with an overwhelming gut punch that there simply was not enough time to do it all. For someone like me, that gut punch equates to a quasi-panic attack, stomach pains and a literal incapacity to focus on anything other than feeling utterly useless because I don’t know where to start.
I needed a change in perspective. I needed to focus small, think big.
For me, alleviating the anxiety that I can’t possibly make any progress on the mountain of items screaming my name can be accomplished with something as simple as a to do list. Tidbit of truth, I always put something on my to do list that is already done. There’s just something about this:
1. Wake up.
3. One load of laundry – wash, dry, fold, put away.
4. Grocery store.
5. Pack up summer clothes.
That feels amazingly awesome. Upon crossing off at least one item, maybe even two, three or ten on a really rough morning, I immediately change my tune. “Look at you, you are so ambitious. You’re already half way through your to do list.” Then I rock out my power song of the moment (don’t judge!) and dig in. I focused small, and then thought big. Translation – Set yourself a tiny goal that is easily reached and then affirm yourself. And then affirm yourself again. It makes the bigger goals feel possible.
Another great way to focus small, think big. Assign certain tasks to certain days. For example, over the course of a week, my house needs to be cleaned (B.C.). I’d walk in the door and surveying the disaster zone with the inevitable “I don’t know where to start!” I’d give up. Or I’d clean and then expect my family to sit perpetually frozen so they didn’t mess it up again. Now, I pick a room and focus on just that room. Get it done, then move on. It breaks down something like this:
Monday – Clean all bathrooms
Tuesday – Sanitize kitchen
Wednesday – Laundry
Thursday – Change sheets
Friday – Break Day – Have fun! No work!
Saturday – Vacuum downstairs
Sunday – Vacuum upstairs
This can even be applied to overwhelming events, like the in-laws are coming to stay for a week. How in the world do I get everything done!? Focus small, think big.
Monday – Clean guest room – Change sheets
Tuesday – Write out meal plan – Grocery store
Wednesday – Clean bathroom
Thursday – Clean common areas
Friday – Clean kitchen and prep food
Saturday – Pick up in-laws at airport
I break up the available time I have and assign individual tasks to the time allotments. I am managing my time, while also realizing that what seems overwhelming really isn’t once I break it down and get my ducks in a row and tell myself where to start. That way, when I come into the house and go “That laundry is a mountain! Look at those nasty, slimey baseboards!” I immediately table certain items. “Ok, laundry gets done tomorrow. Baseboards on Wednesday. Today is bathroom day.” And head in the right direction.
It’s hard work to train your brain to focus on the task at hand and block out the rest of the tasks that threaten to overwhelm you and throw you off course. But with a little practice, I’ve come to find that if I keep focusing small, I still end up at the finish line. And a lot less frazzled. The big picture gets accomplished, one tiny task at a time.