Fast pseudo-productivity tips needed
July 14, 2016 6:52 AM   Subscribe

I like to feel that I’ve been productive… but washing dishes doesn’t give that feeling. Rearranging all my furniture does. What could I add to my day, so I can go to bed with that warm glow of time well spent? Or, how do I learn to get that feeling out of routine tasks? Trying to work with, rather than against, my personality (recently dxed as ADHD PI).

[I’m still in the EVERYTHING IS ADD-RELATED stage, so I’m not certain it’s actually relevant]
I’m slowly working on making daily life tasks routine, and I’m gradually making progress towards getting my life in order. The snail pace kills me, but I finally gathered from lots & lots & lots of experience that trying to do too much at once will be overwhelming and I’ll get burned out and it’ll ultimately be one step forward, one step back. I’m definitely making (SLOW) progress and I’m happy about that.

But that furniture-moving itch is not satisfied. I move the furniture often, and rearrange books and change where everything in the house is stored, but it’s not that useful (sometimes it just adds to the overall mess) and it drives my SO nuts when he can’t find anything… so I’m trying to not do that as much. Rearranging things doesn’t take very long, is very tactile, and has an immediate and lasting effect. What else might satisfy the urge?

I have a baby and cats, so (although I would DEARLY love to) I can't really do much painting inside. I rent but have a permissive friend-turned-landlord. Low-cost would be great (I'm thinking about wallpaper but that's a bit pricey, we just used our household improvements budget on new floors). Everything I've thought of is home-related because I basically never leave it, but I'd definitely welcome any suggestions, even if it means leaving my horribly messy but safe cocoon!
posted by Baethan to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It seems like you've got more energy than can be usefully spent on your home. What about volunteering somewhere? Do you have a local soup kitchen that cooks meals? What about a local charity store that needs help sorting donations? Is there a local school that needs help making costumes for school plays? What about something like knitting for charity?

It isn't tactile, but Duolingo is a free app that helps you learn a language. It's arranged into short (7-15 minute) gamified lessons that give you lots of little rewards -- coin ka-ching noises and points and streak tracking and other stuff. Doing 2-5 lessons each day could provide some "I've done a productive thing," feeling.
posted by ourobouros at 7:00 AM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Are you sure you can't paint? There are some really great no-VOC paints out there. I've used Natura, and it doesn't smell at all.
posted by the_blizz at 7:16 AM on July 14, 2016

Re getting the glow of accomplishment out of routine tasks: I HIGHLY recommend the Productive app (iPhone only, sorry.) I've been using it for a couple of weeks and my ADHD-Combined self is amazed that little things I used to sluff off with "I'll do it later", like using my eye drops or making my bed, are now things I do every day.

Start with maybe 1-2 habits, stick them in your phone with your choice of colour and icon, and then wait NOT TO BE NAGGED. (Seriously, I am tired of apps that think they need to yell at me on a constant basis to get me to do anything. Doesn't work.) But you will probably pull out your phone at least once during your day, launch the app, then see that you should mark the 1-2 small things you got done or should get done now while you're thinking of it. You get a polite little bleep when you swipe right (heh!) and you start a little chain that you are now motivated not to break. That little chain is pseudo-productivity at its best, but building the chain is the motivator to do small but important things.

You can have 5 habits for free, but if you like it and want more, you can pay less than $5 to get the full version and support the developer.
posted by maudlin at 7:52 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am so bad at doing routine chores. I added them to my weekly calendar in my bullet journal and it feels so damn good to fill them in. (I made little outline drawings and shade them in. It's more satisfying for me than x'ing them off and keeps them separate from my work things-to-do.) I like the flexibility of not tying them to a specific day, just the week.
posted by smirkette at 8:19 AM on July 14, 2016

I, too, love to move furniture around. But sometimes it's not productive. Lately I've been exploring make-ahead freezer meals because I have a long commute and no time to cook during the week. So on weekends I do things like prep, cook, and freeze roasted veggie burritos for work lunches. And then clean my kitchen. Each one of these things (planning, prepping, cooking, assembling, then cleaning) can be challenging to my ADHD brain but I've done it twice now and it's super satisfying to see the results in the freezer and know how happy my future self will be at lunch the following week. So consider exploring cooking as one way to scratch that itch. There's also a recent thread about "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up". I can't recommend the book. I can recommend creating household routines, one by one, to make your life and family life run more smoothly. After years of misplacing my keys, I got a key holder that 's on a wall in my hall so now I can always find them cause I hang them up as soon as I get home. Seemingly small stuff can make a huge difference.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:14 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

So is the goal here "motivate myself to keep the house cleaner" or the goal "find something to do with my time that feels productive"? I'm kind of getting a vibe of "stuck inside all day with nothing to do and going slowly crazy" off your post. Get outside, take the baby with you, show the kid the world instead of the same twenty or so walls. Pick up a creative hobby. "I made a thing" or "I made serious progress on the thing I'm slowly making" is really good for feeling like you did something with your day.
posted by egypturnash at 10:14 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sort through your closet, bag up clothes you never wear. Organize your closet/drawers by season. Or color. Or length. Or pairs of coordinated items.

Go through your pantry or dry-goods cabinet. What can you cook that will use up that weird can of stuff you didn't mean to own? What's the oldest ingredient you have on hand, and what can you cook to use it up? How can you arrange your food storage to rotate unused items to the front?

I love taking extra time to do a cleaning task - instead of just cleaning the bathroom, occasionally I'll have the extra time to look at the details - I'll also wipe down the walls where they gather dust, and wipe the dirty-hand smudges off the lightswitch and doorframe. Or not just empty the trash and recycling, but rinse out the cans and wipe down the cabinet pull-out tray that holds them. Or not just move the dining room chairs out and mop the floor, but check to see if I need to replace any of hte felt pads on the chair legs. These aren't things that you should tell yourself have to be done on a regular basis (dear god, no!) but going that extra mile can turn it from the stupid chores checklist (clean bathroom, do laundry, mop kitchen) to a sense of accomplishment (and while I was doing laundry, I replaced that missing button!)
posted by aimedwander at 10:21 AM on July 14, 2016

Response by poster: My goal is really to feel productive and accomplished, like I do when I look at the newly organized [anything] or the rearranged [room]. It makes me happy. Mainly I'm looking for things that can be done in a matter of days at most, that have a big, tangible impact. Like, you can point to it and go, "I did that!"

I'm working on the actual productivity, but it is a slow slow process of introducing one new habit at a time and letting each "settle" before adding the next. It's not satisfying, but it seems to be working so I just want to add some quick gratification type things to give me that satisfaction of being "productive" with a visible result. Just for morale!

It's not that I'm bored exactly, I'm just a furniture-rearranging type of person maybe? I have more than enough work to do, just not enough motivation. But that's being handled!
posted by Baethan at 10:54 AM on July 14, 2016

MariKondo decluttering? Bonus: it's easier to rearrange furniture when you have less stuff and only the stuff you actually like.
posted by meijusa at 12:52 PM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Redo the art/photos on a wall, add (new) photos of your baby/family.

Cook and individually package lunch for a "week", use the same tupperware, admire the neat stacks of meals.

Clean out and organize your medicine cabinet(s)

Start toddler proofing your house. I don't mean plug covers, etc., I mean getting rid, hiding, or elevating to a very high height (adult eye level) everything you wouldn't be okay handing to a two year old. Walk around your house and look at EVERY SINGLE object and pretend someone is next to you, grabbing your legs and whining "I want thaaaaaat!!!!" with occasional escalating screams and full on tantrums. Ask yourself if it's worth it. This is sort of like the toddler extension to MariKondo and goes very well with meijusa's suggestion of serious decluttering. Your future self will be very grateful.

Gradual, micro-decluttering/cleaning is also something you can work on developing as a habit. Getting in the habit of scanning for small things that can be picked up or gotten rid of with very little effort in the course of your normal day. Helps to have a designated "out" box somewhere. They aren't big, but those little feelings charges of "whew, one less thing to have to deal with" can be rewarding.
posted by The Shoodoonoof at 1:58 PM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Before I had a kid and there was no more order or free time, I got a lot of satisfaction out of alphabetizing my books or spices, or arranging my clothes in color order. It doesn't address actually being productive, but it feels productive and makes it easier to find things later, so win?
posted by Mchelly at 2:16 PM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you knit or make anything? I make very tiny fast things when I have that productivity urge which is an anxiety soother in my case. I have had some success in finishing small knitted projects that take 2-3 hours to complete, printing and completing cards our small objects for a larger art project, but what works best is always clearing, cleaning and cooking. I made 36 muffins for the freezer yesterday and have 8 jars of soups in there, plus frozen sorbet from another stressful day's break. Oh and coloring those adult coloring books, if you then use the coloured-in pages as something. I have a small kid, so they go up on her art wall with her drawings as well which makes the space brighter, but you could turn them into tiny origami boxes for gift wrap or ornaments for a huge paper garland for the end of the year?
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:33 PM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Junk drawer(s) and bedside cabinet re-organising! You get the physical part of dumping everything out and then the mental part of throwing stuff away/re-arranging. And it's so satisfying to be able to find things afterwards, although I guess if you keep it up then you'll run out of drawers...

Agree with those above who suggest batch or complicated cooking. Anything with food processing/baking/assembling works for me and at the end you get food!
posted by sedimentary_deer at 12:04 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

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