There are banana muffins waiting to be baked for my child’s breakfast. A pile of white clothes resting in a corner in need of some love from a washing machine. I know I need to be doing those things to free up my weekend. But instead, I spot yet another property development program on the telly. My evening is sorted.
Why then, even though I know what I should be doing and that those activities are good for me in the long term I end up opting for an easier, lighter, less active option? The answer is simple, or as meerkats from that advert would say ’simples' - immediate rewards are sweeter and more desirable than long-term goals. Even if long-term goals promise a less busy and stressful weekend...
So how do we trick our immediate reward searching brain and accomplish those tasks that are not fun?
We start with an old good to-do list, especially when it comes to a busy household with small children or pets. Nothing elaborate or sophisticated is needed. A napkin or a back of a notepad will do. Spend a few minutes writing down things that need to be complete. Or leave the notepad out and keep writing things down as the day goes by. Then use a highlighter to mark priority tasks or more important tasks so you do not lose sight of them amongst less important activities or brain dumps.
Writing things down will free your mind from trying to remember them all. So whether you like creating endless to-do lists or not, it might be an idea to get into a habit of jotting a few things down, then your brainpower can be utilised somewhere else, like separating fighting siblings or hiding that piece of cake from your family to eat it later.
1. Promise Yourself a Reward
This time promise yourself the only thing that your brain is craving for at the end of a long day: a reward. But add a catch: a reward upon completion of a certain task or tasks (e.g. dishes, email, etc.). Buy yourself a special box, a chocolate bar or two or/and a small bottle of sparkling something - whatever floats your boat. Call your box 'a reward box'. Tell yourself that once you complete those tasks, you could have one thing from that box. Make yourself work for it. Imagine yourself eating that bar or sipping that chilled beverage. Excite your brain, make it want it, just like you want Christmas dinner or presents.
2. Break Down Your To-Do List Into Smaller Chunks
Cut down your to-do list by choosing only 3 tasks per evening/window of opportunity: one big and two small. One enormous task should be a top priority and unmovable task that you need to complete today. You could then do the two smaller tasks or one could be de-prioritised to tomorrow if needed. Knowing that one-out-of-two tasks could be dropped makes it more exciting.
You are tricking your brain, like a child, into thinking that there are 2 tasks only that you need to do. You will probably end up doing all 3, which is a massive bonus.
3. Be Wise With TV Adverts Time
If you are watching an evening TV use up an advert time with a benefit: every time there is a break during the program - do something from your to-do list. Even if it is as little as washing one plate - it’s better than nothing. By the end of an average programme with 4 advert breaks, you should be able to complete 20 minutes' worth of household tasks. Magic, right?
4. Have a Competition With Your Family Or With Yourself
Competition time! Decide how long certain task would take, set the timer and then try to bet either yourself or a family member by completing it faster! Use various strategies to do the task quicker than decided or try beating your previous time. Make it more fun by combining this trick with points one or three or both: promise yourself a reward at the end if you beat your own time and do those tasks during advert breaks to save even more precious time.
Whatever you do, make sure you remember to enjoy yourself. Household chores or a work project - they don’t need to be a drag. Turn it into a fun activity that you might start looking forward to instead of dreading.