There are a lot of great things about being single, including never feeling guilty about using up all the hot water, having to check in with someone before planning my weekends, or worrying that the dirty dishes in the sink will annoy anyone else but me.
But being single also means that all the responsibilities that come with running a household, planning for retirement, and just basically being an adult rest on my shoulders (although it appears being coupled doesn’t always mean sharing these tasks—check out this great discussion on emotional labor from Kara and Tanja of the Fairer Cents podcast).
Most of the time, this suits me just fine: I have always been very independent and very sure of what I wanted to do (and what I didn’t want to do). But sometimes having no one else around to pick up the slack is a complete pain in the ass.
It’s especially problematic when I’m sick or tired (or both), busy at work and can’t take time off to meet a repairman or run the cat to the vet, know I will be asked to make a decision about something I know nothing about (shockingly, the best brand of water heater wasn’t covered in law school), or I simply prefer to keep pretending there isn’t actually a problem.
If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here are my go-to strategies for forcing myself to get it done when all I want to do is hide under the covers.
Make a Game of It
Making a game out of getting it done works most of the time. For example, I might challenge myself to read and respond to 10 emails in 15 minutes and if I get it done, I can spend five minutes on Twitter. Or spend five minutes playing solitaire (a particular weakness of mine).
The trick is to have a reward that truly is a reward. If it is something you let yourself do at any time then that probably won’t work. I love pedicures so will often use one as a treat for finishing something particularly annoying—cleaning my condo, for example. If I was probably going to get one anyway, the treat might be upgrading to the more luxurious option.
A subset of this strategy is to act now to reward your future self. I find this most useful when whatever it is I need to do takes less than one minute to accomplish. For example, when I get home from work I know that just one minute spent hanging up my coat, putting my shoes in the closet, and unpacking my lunch bag will result in a much tidier condo that my future self will enjoy. This strategy is also useful for not letting my snail mail pile up.
Bargain, Bargain, Bargain
Ever feel like throwing a tantrum when it is time to head for the gym? Make a deal with your inner toddler that if you still want to leave after 10 minutes then you can go. It will get you in the front door and will probably result in you staying longer than the 10 minutes once those endorphins start flowing.
I use this for chores I hate, like dusting. I will tell myself that I only have to dust one room and then I can stop. Once I see not only how dusty my shelves are, and how much better they look after I dust, I will usually keep going. Not always but even if I quit, I win because I dusted one room.
Another thing I like to do to get it done is batch unpleasant tasks when my energy is up or I am feeling particularly capable. Just paid the bills? Time to make that eye appointment. Submitted my tax returns? Then it is also time to schedule an air conditioner tune-up.
I may not feel super excited about whatever it is when the time comes but at least I won’t have to put any extra energy into remembering to schedule the appointment or worry about being hit with unexpected costs.
Dig Deep and Just Get It Done
Digging deep to get it done is not my preferred method but sometimes it is the only way to make it happen. These are the situations where not showing up either isn’t an option or will cause way more headaches than just doing what has to be done.
Hopefully, you won’t have to do this very often because I am convinced that the fortitude you need to call upon to carry on in these situations is finite. After my brother’s suicide, I know with certainty my stores of this power were depleted.
I would also recommend prioritizing at these times. Yes, you may be the only one that can do a particular task but everything else? Either let it go, outsource (discussed below), or ask for help.
This last one may be difficult—I have never found asking for help easy—but it is an option. One of the worst things I had to do after my brother’s death was open his mail because it was both a reminder that he wasn’t here to open it and it revealed aspects of his life leading up to his death. I mentioned it to a friend and you know what she did? She offered to open it for me. I never took her up on her offer but from then on, knowing that I could do so made the task easier.
If you can at all swing it financially, hire someone to do whatever it is for you. Technology makes this unbelievably easy these days. Use an app to arrange for a dog walker to come to your house, hire a virtual assistant to argue your case with your insurer, and, of course, use Groupon to find a cleaner who will chase away your dust bunnies.
During my first year of law school, I went three months without cleaning my 735 square foot condo. It was tidy but I shudder when I think back to having gone that long without vacuuming given one of my cats at the time was a long-haired Persian. Yuck.
Hiring someone was a no-brainer. No one could take my exams for me but someone else could clean my bathroom. Once law school was over, I did (reluctantly) resume cleaning, but have zero regrets for paying for a cleaner those four years.
What Do You Do?
Which of these strategies do you rely on? What other strategies are out there? Let me know in the comment section below.
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