motivation solutions?
August 13, 2006 10:34 AM   Subscribe

how can i motivate myself to do the things i dislike -- cleaning, organizing, laundry, budgeting, and so on? i avoid them all as much as possible and am sinking into a morass. (and i don't want to pay someone else to do it for me.)
posted by sdn to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Incentivise yourself, e.g. 'If I spend an hour cleaning and tidying, I definitely deserve <insert vice of choice here> when I'm done'.

The hardest thing will be to discipline yourself to do the chore to a reasonable standard (rather than just a rush-job) before rewarding yourself. This will be a discipline you will have to learn, but is one that definitely gets easier over time. One tip is to make sure that you don't have an appointment to keep in 15 minutes before you start the chore - leave yourself enough time to do the job reasonably. Not perfectly, just reasonably.

You could also remind yourself, whilst doing the chore in hand, to take particular satisfaction in a job well done, however mundane that job is.

If you have a partner, your reward could be placed in their hands (and could be a LOT more fun, wink wink).

Has always worked for me.
posted by mooders at 10:43 AM on August 13, 2006

I try to schedule my chores ahead of time, and make every effort not to skip the schedule. For example, the thing that I always used to procrastinate was paying bills. I get a biweekly paycheck, so I divided the bills roughly in half by amount and due date, and the first thing I do when I have a paycheck is pay that half of the month's bills. On the 15th, it's cable, gas, electric, car loan, student loan, and credit cards. On the 30th it's rent and car insurance and any other one-time things. I can pay all of these online except for rent and car loan, so in total we're talking about ten minutes' worth of work, and now I'm never unexpectedly late with a bill.

Cleaning the apartment is another thing I hate doing, so I divide it up by areas, and do one each Saturday during the month: kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom.

I really dislike shopping for groceries, so I just get them delivered. It costs an extra $10, but I can place an order whenever I want and have it delivered within a day or two, inside of a two hour window. The web site remembers everything I've ever ordered, so I can get the basics quickly and then browse a bit for other things I want.
posted by autojack at 10:54 AM on August 13, 2006

Do you enjoy the results after the task is done -- that is, do you actually take pleasure in having clean laundry, or coming home to a tidy room or clean desk? If so, maybe that can be a motivator -- "it'll feel really good when it's done." That's about the only way I can motivate myself into taking care of financial stuff or certain types of cleaning.
posted by scody at 11:02 AM on August 13, 2006

Find ways to reward yourself when you do something, or ways to punish yourself if you don't.

Learn to like the end result, and eventually the means to achieve it will become acceptable. (eg: if you love cleanliness enough, eventually it will be worth doing the cleaning)
posted by blue_beetle at 11:03 AM on August 13, 2006

Get an ipod, and stock it with whatever you enjoy listening to. Music's okay, but podcasts, which can't be consumed very well during work, are even better.

Then, make your ipod listening time your cleaning and general chore doing time. Works for me.
posted by Gordion Knott at 11:06 AM on August 13, 2006

I think making a list and crossing off completed items is satisfying. I often don't start chores because they seem unmanageable, and the list helps with that.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:19 AM on August 13, 2006

I set the timer for one hour every weekend and make myself tackle chores before I'm allowed to do anything else. When the beeper goes off, I stop and do something fun for a while. Repeat all day Saturday until everything truely essential is done.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:30 AM on August 13, 2006

Don't look at everything all at once! Otherwise you won't get anything done other than worry about all the stuff you need to do. You have to pick at it, otherwise it overwhelms you.

Flylady has a lot about building habits so that you will get the work done without even thinking about doing it.
posted by cathoo at 11:45 AM on August 13, 2006

Flylady. The site is cheesy beyond belief, but there are some great ideas on there.
posted by essexjan at 11:46 AM on August 13, 2006

just pick one thing and do it, I pick the smallest thing if I'm feeling unmotivated. As you start chipping away the motivation will come to tackle the larger things.
posted by any major dude at 11:53 AM on August 13, 2006

Invite people round to your house/apartment for drinks/hanging out/watching a film - I hate having people round when my place is skanky, so that always makes me clean up...
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:58 AM on August 13, 2006

Reading this book will make you want to clear your house out. Despite the title, most of the book consists of pretty common sense arguments.

Also there was a pretty good tip someone posted here before where instead of telling yourself "I'll do the dishes" you just tell yourself "I'll wash one plate". Most of the time you will end up doing more than that once you've got started. The same technique could be applied to most chores.
posted by teleskiving at 12:13 PM on August 13, 2006

Any major dude will tell you: break it down. I agree.

I was about to mention Flylady, and then was deciding against it... only because I didn't want to admit I'd found the site helpful. (essexjan firmed up my backbone.) Take a look at the site, and then pick one recommendation to try. The Flylady's aim is to break things down, but there's so much blah blah blah that the solution becomes as overwhelming as the problem if you get involved in her whole mishegas.

I still don't understand her obsession with the kitchen sink, but my sister thinks it's the best trick ever for motivation.
posted by wryly at 12:14 PM on August 13, 2006

Flylady. I cannot recommend her enough.

If you do nothing else follow her advice, buy a nice timer and set it for fifteen minutes. Do your selected chore and when the timer goes off STOP.
posted by konolia at 1:25 PM on August 13, 2006

Here's the thing. Don't wait for motivation. It might never come. Decide to do a task, and then do it. Repeat as necessary.

Motivating is impossible- i can spend hours and hours researching it, and building rewards systems and timetables etc.

Really, decide to do it. Then get up and do it, right then.

Then maybe work up to a to do list and 43 folders and lifehacker (and/or flylady).

If it helps, maybe you can even say, I'm going to do this task because I don't want to live in a swamp, and i won't have mess define me. But you don't really need that.
posted by b33j at 1:49 PM on August 13, 2006

Suck down a sizable portion of coffee... you'd be impressed what that will do to motivate you. Start on the small or most visible stuff first.

And I like jon mitchell's suggestion about having houseguests over... if that motivates you to clean, there you go. Works for us. Not sure it will help with bills though.
posted by rolypolyman at 2:29 PM on August 13, 2006

Similarly, you could get just a wee bit high while you caffeniate. Good for scrubbing, cleaning, etc. - NOT good for going thru old papers, re-stringing guitars, etc. Just don't get distracted and you will breeze through the really mundane parts of your housework.
posted by DenOfSizer at 4:49 PM on August 13, 2006

Set attainable goals, then stop, and appreciate what you got done. You may be overwhelmed at what seems an insurmountable task. So, clean the bathroom, then stop. Or just clean the bathroom sink. I find that music really helps, especially lively, danceable music. Most especially showtunes, to which I can sing along badly. Sorry, that's TMI, isn't it.
posted by theora55 at 5:08 PM on August 13, 2006

A while back I read an article about toxic mold in Health magazine.

Within the hour, I was scrubbing away at every inch of mildew I could find in my bathroom.

Try googling for "toxic household mold" and stick to the more credible sources (i.e., state health departments, not websites advertising mold removal services or products.)
posted by invisible ink at 10:30 PM on August 13, 2006

I have MAJOR trouble with this too. What I've found recently that helps me is taking a few minutes to lay down before I do anything and imagine my house clean, my laundry done, my money figured out, etc. As I imagine it, I try to image specifics, you know really see it. See it like it is already done, and enjoy it like it is already done, and like I did it! I let myself take time to revel in it (yes, BEFORE I've done anything), because, then, when I open my eyes, I no longer see the stack of bills, or the dirty laundry on my floor. I see my space clean and fresh, like in my daydream, and feel confident, motivated, and good about setting about to make my vision reality, mainly because I've already decided it is a reality.

Basically, setting your mind on the end result sort of makes the getting there much easier. I find this true of a lot of things.
posted by Summer1158 at 12:04 AM on August 14, 2006

1) For bills it made all the difference to go to online payment. All the difference in the world. I used to be routinely late, and I've not been late once in the 7 years I've used online paying.

2) I really try and use the interstial time during other activities. If I'm reading and I get up for a drink or the bathroom or just a break, I try and do a little bit of cleaning before sitting down again. I make sure to do dishes while the pasta water is boiling. I fold laundry and sort papers while watching TV. It helps a bit that at 35 I've got shit for concentration, so it's nice to have other stuff to do.
posted by OmieWise at 8:06 AM on August 14, 2006


It is as simple as can be. Pick a task you don't like. Set yourself a short timeframe, say, 10 minutes. Set an alarm or timer and then FLY LIKE THE WIND! Go as quickly as you possibly can and still get the task done accurately, knowing you only have 10 minutes.

Why does this work? Everyone can ignore interruptions, focus, ratchet up the energy, and so on, for only ten minutes. And it gives you a definite really short-term end-point for the task. Heck you'll be done in ten minutes!

And it is very important to really quit at the end of your ten minutes. That way your fun-loving, easily-bored inner kid starts to trust you when you say that you're only working ten minutes. If you go over, that kid in you knows better than to say yes to the next "sprint".

Why ten minutes? Because it is short. Sprinting for an hour isn't a sprint. It's a really fast grind.

Try it out. I think you'll find it very effective.
posted by tamills at 2:17 PM on August 15, 2006

Response by poster: these are fantastic ideas. thank you all!
posted by sdn at 9:33 AM on August 20, 2006

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