How do I even work?
August 10, 2014 6:50 PM   Subscribe

When working for other people who are paying me, I am one hard working mothergoddess. When it comes to working for myself, though, I struggle mightily. Help me fix that?

I have 4 jobs, and a business that I would like to build to replace all four. I also live alone and have to do all the normal grownup stuff, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.

When somebody else is paying me to work for them, I am the hardest working mofo in the place. If I'm cleaning, the place is spotless. If I'm organizing, a chimpanzee could find what it was looking for. If I have to get X, Y, and Z done in less than an hour, you'd better believe they're DONE.

Outside of the jobs, though, not so much. I had a gotta-get-done list of a dozen or so things for today. So far, I've accomplished 1. I play on the internet, or read a book, or whatever else in the world than doing the things I've gotta get done. My employers' paperwork is ruthlessly and meticulously organized, filed, categorized, you name it. My own is a hot mess all over every available surface. In the pizza kitchen and the kitchen where I housekeep, the floor is clean enough to eat off of. My kitchen, I don't even want to walk barefoot, because I can't remember the last time I mopped it, much less scrubbed. (I think part of the not wanting to clean is because this place isn't fit for human habitation thanks to infestations of multiple species of insect, and to several leaks that have caused lots of mold, mildew, etc. However, I do still have to live and work here, and I occasionally have to have clients come tomorrow, in about 20 hours.)

I've read a bunch on the green about procrastination, adult ADD, how to make yourself work....but none of them seemed quite right. FWIW, I have no ADD-type diagnoses, but I have fought depression, anxiety, and self-confidence issues for 30 years. Not currently in therapy, and seriously don't have time, but I am on Prozac for the anxiety and depression, and I meditate, do yoga, practice mindfullness, etc daily. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess to Work & Money (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Actually, keep farting around on the internet. You have four jobs! You deserve some rest. I'm guessing that you're just too exhausted to get your own stuff done. Outside of transitioning out of one of your jobs, while slowly building up your own business, I'm not sure what else to advise. Except you definitely shouldn't feel bad, as it sounds like you're a great help to lots of folks.
posted by learnsome at 6:55 PM on August 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

Do you think the cleaning thing could be because you want to apply at home the same standards ("spotless") you use at work and you're not up for the time and effort you know that will involve?

Instead, can you motivate yourself for 5 minutes of cleaning work focused on one task -- like a quick doesn't-need-to-be-perfect sweeping or vacuuming of the kitchen floor? If you can do 5 minutes like this a few times a week, with a different task each time, you'll at least see some progress. This is what I do when I feel unmotivated. The important thing is you're not promising yourself perfection, you're just promising the 5 minutes of time.

The insect thing can be pretty de-motivating too. I guess you already have some of those Raid poison traps scattered around, but if not pick some up the next time you're at the supermarket. They don't work 100% but they do help. They have one kind that contains food + poison to kill the adults and another that gives off a bug-hormone (go figure) that prevents them from reproducing. I used both at the same time a number of years back and they helped alot.
posted by duoshao at 7:11 PM on August 10, 2014

You sound burnt out. Four jobs is a huge amount of work. Four jobs plus running a household plus starting your own business is--seriously, it's staggering to me. Even if we assume that you're "only" working ten hours a week at each of the four jobs, it's still also four times the commute, and the interpersonal stress and etc.

I realise that the four jobs are what's keeping you afloat, and that (probably) leaving even one of them isn't an option, but you've got to find yourself some slack somewhere. I find that I'm best at procrastinating on the internet forever when I feel whelmed, exhausted, and/or underappreciated, and it's nearly an impossible cycle to break out of.

So, uh, answering the actual question. Be kind to yourself. Schedule some actual downtime for you to just do whatever--not time for you to be grateful, or to meditate, or to exercise, but time to sit down and just ignore everything else. Like, hey, that was a cute video of a kitten wearing a hat! I'm going to play this brainless clicky clicky id game for a while! Book that time for yourself, and, if you can, prioritize it.

Slow down. A dozen things to do in a day is sort of a lot to stare in the face, especially coming on the heels of a full workweek. I've had to stop saying that I'm going to do X and Y and Z, and instead say ok, I'm going to spend [amount of time] working on [subset of tasks]--like, 15 minutes tidying the kitchen, and 15 minutes cleaning the bathroom. And if the kitchen's still messy when those fifteen minutes are over, that's ok because I still did something, and that's totally better than doing nothing, which, realistically, is what I would be doing if I had a list that was like, do dishes; wash kitchen floor; put away dishes; scrub out large pot; scrub toilet; sweep entryway... I end up staring at The List and going lol no, then retreating to the land of clicky id.

Figure out what you can compromise on. Can you arrange to meet clients at a coffeeshop, or somewhere else that's less fraught and personal than your home? Because that would mean that maybe the house can be the thing you can compromise on--when something has to give, you can care for yourself before you care for the home. Can you be less amazing at one of your jobs, and build some self-care into your workday there? Can you afford to have someone come and clean your house for a few hours once a month? (I once asked a friend, and she came over and deep-cleaned my house, and it was the most amazing thing anyone's ever done for me--do you have friends who enjoy cleaning and would be glad to help?) Can you outsource or consolidate some of your food production so you don't have to cook every day?

Building a business of any sort takes, I think, a lot more time, energy, and effort than anyone realises when they decide to do it. Our monkey brains are like, ooh, hey, we can do that! and then it's really frustrating when it feels like you're working so so hard and getting nowhere. But you're getting somewhere! You have clients, you're doing the right things. You just have to keep yourself from getting so burnt out that you quit before you reach the end. Tiny baby steps. Take care of yourself first.
posted by MeghanC at 8:15 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I work on the assumption that I'm externally motivated. I'd like to be internally motivated, but it doesn't happen.

Therefore, I try and structure things so that I'm doing them for other people (living with housemates, even caring for children actually), or set myself up with buddies/observers.
I have friends who come round to hang out, with the assumption that they're cool sitting on the couch, but I'll be wandering around cleaning, because it's the only time I get it done (yay understanding friends! Also, I'm nore than willing to help them move house etc.

Worst case, I hire a student to come round for 2 hours on the weekend to 'help' me with whatever I need help with (procrastination, actually). Actually, say, getting my invoices done while someone either adds stuff up, or folds laundry? Financially worth it to me.
I've been the student hired for the weird jobs, which helped me think of this.
Anyway, I usually get a start on whatever it is before they get there, and continue a while afterwards, so, it all works out.

Can you get someone to come round and sit on your couch while you tidy your house?
posted by Elysum at 9:34 PM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh, I forgot:
You can do this by phone, also. Have someone you call, or who calls you, and you tell them what you're going to do in the next half hour, and then they call you in approx half hour and check-in.

Usually only do this with my friends (both ways, actually), when I or they are stressed out or trying to do overtime on low willpower reserves, etc.
posted by Elysum at 9:50 PM on August 10, 2014

I wonder how much your living situation is contributing, besides that you're very likely worn out from juggling 4.5 jobs at the same time. Sometimes if the place doesn't feel like home it can be hard to give it as much love, keep it clean and tidy and enjoy spending time there. Now that chores have piled up, you're retreating from instead of attacking the mess, which just reinforces the original not-at-home feeling. I agree with the idea voiced upthread to get outside help, even better if the presence of a cleaner will get you going as well. Now, if the place is beyond the stage where you could ever like it again, how about moving? Picture yourself in a spacious, bright, tidy, modern place - would that energize you?

I know you said you have to live where you do but it is not "fit for human habitation" (your own words). Starting a business is a lot of work, certainly not an ideal time for a move, but if your living situation is making you miserable maybe it's worth it. Good luck.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:48 AM on August 11, 2014

Two of the jobs are about 4-5 hours per week, and one of those has no commute - it's all done from my home office. Job 3 is about 10-15 hours per week. Job 4 is 40-50 hours per week, with a 50 minute drive each direction.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 10:25 AM on August 11, 2014

Learnsome is going to be getting some more favourites.

That's 75 hours-ish, including commute.

Something's got to give, and it it sounds like it's you.

Final tip:
If you're not getting anything done, try doing nothing.
Nap, or if you can't nap, lie down with your eyes closed, and let your mind drift. Give it a rest.
posted by Elysum at 7:03 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

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