Today is Thursday. Thursday during nap time I stop everything and clean my floors. It takes about two hours to get the sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping complete, but I always feel so satisfied when it’s finished. And my boys usually come home from school and track in all of the dirt from the playground just minutes after I finish, but the floors were cleaned and I won’t have to think about it again until next Thursday during nap time.
Cleaning the floors on Thursday is one example of how I have removed the weight of regular tasks from my shoulders to save my energy and happiness. Those seemingly endless chores that you could do all the time– because they keep being undone they never end– will likewise endlessly sap your energy in the form of worry, stress, and overwhelm if you don’t put them in their place. I don’t feel that weight every day anymore, because I have automated some of these tasks into my schedule in a way that I know exactly when they will happen and I have given myself permission to stop worrying about them in between.
When I talk about automating, I don’t mean having a machine do it for you (although in some cases that may work like with a robot floor cleaner like my sister uses.) What I mean is creating a schedule where these duties are automatically put into timeslots where they are completed regularly allowing you to not think about them or worry about them or feel the weight of the energy you spend stressing about them during any other time. When you create a schedule to automate regular tasks, they become the background noise to your life, quietly being completed day after day and week after week with a sort of reliable comfort.
Before I started automating some of my own tasks I regularly told Dave how overwhelmed I felt by the amount of things that I always had on my to do list. The problem was some of those things couldn’t be checked off because they are always there. Tasks like doing the dishes, laundry, cleaning the house and weeding the garden are all regular household duties that can be seemingly endless but are also necessary for hygiene and family well-being. It is so easy to spend a ton of mental energy on a regular basis thinking about when and how to complete these ever-present tasks. My advice to reduce that wasteful energy spent on worrying, is to create a schedule for yourself in which those regular tasks are completed the same time and day each week or month and then give yourself permission to stop thinking about them at any other time.
In doing this, you’ll find that there is a lot of letting go happening. Letting go of the idea that your floors will be spotless every single minute. That is just not reality, and if we spend our energy stressing about creating an alternate universe on which we can enjoy perfection, then we don’t have enough energy to enjoy the beautiful and imperfect lives that we already lead.
How much energy do you spend worrying about regular routine household tasks? I’m guessing it’s far more than the energy you spend actually completing those tasks. Automating them into a routine allows the freedom to only spend the necessary amount of energy to get it done, and saves the rest for different, more important things.
The first household duties that I set up in this way was my laundry. With five family members, our laundry baskets always full to overflowing, regardless of how often I try to throw in a quick load. I chose two days that works for me (Monday and Friday) in which my laundry duties will happen. All day between my other activities, I toss loads in, switch the wet to dry, and pull the dry out into a pile. For me it doesn’t work to fold midday, my kids are not the best ages for helping with that and it’s much easier for me to tackle all at once. So on Monday and Friday nights I gather the giant pile onto the couch sit down with the show (lately it’s been The Voice or Call the Midwife) and a treat (most often chips and queso with my ginger soda) and very often my sweet husband, and we fold all the laundry and put it away.
The clothes that have been taken off on Monday evening going to the baskets and won’t be looked at or touched until Friday when I begin the routine again. Maybe for you doing the laundry in this way doesn’t seem like it would be a help and you like the system you have. If that’s the case then great,use a system that works for you! But for me doing the laundry in the specific days has allowed me to totally 100% disregard the laundry on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Those days I don’t feel the weight of the endless churning clothes on and off of our bodies. And even if the baskets get full they wait until it’s laundry day again.
Another example is the dishes. Unfortunately and fortunately we eat too often for the dishes to be a once-a-week task, so I set out to make doing the dishes and automatic daily routine rather then weekly. As we dirty the dishes throughout the day they go into the sink and there they sit until bedtime. Once the kids are in bed I’m able to wash all of the dishes and load them into the dishwasher which get started once per day right before we go to bed. When I wake up in the morning, there is a clean dishwasher full of dishes to be put away as the kids eat breakfast, and then the sink fills up again. By acknowledging and deliberately choosing to leave the dishes in the sink until the end of the day it doesn’t bother me that they’re there. I know that I can get to them in the time that I’ve chosen and the weight of doing the dishes has disappeared. Doesn’t mean I all of a sudden adore every minute I get to spend scrubbing away at the sink! But I do adore the daytimes where my shoulders feel lighter because one of those and less duties has been put in its place.
Maybe you have a house cleaner, or you don’t worry so much about the household duties. I’ll bet there is still something you could automate to make life a bit easier for yourself.
Think about what those things are in your life that weigh on your shoulders every day.
What is it on your to do list that seems to never ever actually get done?
Those are the things that you can automate into a regular routine allow yourself to forget about them at any other time.
Maybe it’s email? Maybe rather than checking your email every 15 minutes from sunup to sundown (and sometimes in the middle of the night) you could set yourself up with two or three designated times during the day to check and reply to emails. Not only will automating these tasks into routine make you feel more efficient and focused when it is time, but it allows you to save your energy from thinking about and working on these things at every moment, so you conserve that energy.
There is a trick with this automation of life routine: you’ve got to follow your own routine for it to work. I am very protective of my household duty routine, because I love the feeling of not stressing about these things every day. I know in order to enjoy the freedom that having these tasks automated into the background of my life allows, I have to complete them as planned. So, on Thursdays, I’m here mopping the floor.
Of course, sometimes shifting the routine is inevitable, but I’ve found that it is much easier to get back on track after a special circumstance than it is to try to find the time for these regular tasks if every week is different.
In addition to the floors, laundry, and dishes, some other things that I’m looking into automating for myself are working in my garden, watering the lawn, and cooking dinner. In fact, I’m considering implementing a very regular meal plan, where every week is the same menu with just small variations in the meals I create. Doing this would streamline both my grocery shopping and automate my cooking times and schedules each week. Cooking is actually an energy builder for me, though, so I’ll have to experiment to see if that would feel happy for me or not.
You can see that managing your energy is a personal journey to creating the life that you want. I’m happy to share that finding ways automate some of your energy-draining and stressful household tasks will allow you a boost of happiness and freedom, along with extra energy to use in other ways.