5 quick motivational tricks for completing household tasks faster

Getting a large number of tasks done around the house in a limited time can sometimes seem overwhelming. Sometimes getting started is just a matter of thinking about things in the right way. Being a huge fan of optimization and operational efficiency, here are a few simple ideas that I have successfully adapted, from suggestions of friends, and my own experience whilst working and on the home front.

To get started, here are some strategies to overcome some of the most common blocks to domestic chores:

Manager and worker modes

Seeing a multitude of clothes, toys, crumbs, plates, and other objects lying strewn across a room often conjures up thoughts of chaos and confusion. The obvious questions of, “Where do I start?” and, “How will I ever clean all this up?” come to mind. The usual approach to sorting out such a mess is to pick something up, find where it goes, find other similar objects, and then look around for the next task, ponder, and repeat. A smarter approach is to realize that there are both ‘manager’ and ‘worker’ tasks being performed.

For instance, making a decision about something would be a 'manager' task, whereas collecting clothing and placing it in a basket would be a 'worker' task. Imagine putting on your ‘manager’ hat first, and decide what needs to be done, in sequence. Then, put on your ‘worker’ hat, and just focus on execution of those tasks. You’ll be surprised at how much more efficient you can be when you don’t have to stop after each task to make decisions about what gets done next. Instead, you can focus on getting on with the work. Sometimes, listening to music in this phase can really move things along because it is all about performing the tasks since the decisions have already been made.

To try out the ‘Manager vs. worker’ principle, first spend 5 minutes to survey the room you want to tidy up; do all the cleaning in your head – think Mary Poppins style. Standing on a chair often makes this easier by giving you a better overview of the scene. Once you have done it in your head, it will seem much less of a chore to actually carry out the cleaning that has already been mapped out in your mind.

Set a reasonable time limit on planning and then get started!

If everything still looks a little overwhelming, remind yourself that it probably isn’t and it just looks that way. Once you’ve assigned yourself the various tasks needed to clean a given room, simply get started on the first one. After taking that first step, there will be one less task to do, and with each task, you’ll start to notice the changes. And because you don’t have to keep stopping to work out the next step, it will seem just that much faster.

Staying focused

Putting your head down and digging into the work means that you won’t be as easily distract as if you were to be using the conventional method. It also means that you will be sure to complete a task before moving on to another or getting distracted. Some friends have said that they find it easier to visualize the overall progress by quickly listing the tasks required, and then ticking off each one upon completion. The key here is to make sure that your time is spent efficiently - and completing each task, one after another, will always be more motivating than having a number of half complete tasks before you.

Knowing what’s coming next

Most tasks can be divided into subtasks that can be quickly optimized by just a little thought. In the same way that we read ahead when reciting something in front of an audience, looking at the next task in the list when you are executing the current task will often create a more efficient flow from one task to the next. For me, this is especially true when grabbing common items to be stored together: I will often see the next item and think to myself, “I’ll get those next”, which somehow helps me know exactly where I need to go when I return from the current task. All that is required is just an awareness of what needs to be done next - so that you're transitioning quickly between each action or subtask required to complete a given task, for example folding clothes can involve knowing what items come next, or for emptying a dishwasher, knowing you are going to grab 3 bowls after putting away some plates. Small gains in efficiency in many places means significant time saved overall. Multiply this for the number of major tasks completed, and you will feel ever more motivated by how much more you get done in a given time!

Use newfound clarity to make large jobs seem small

After improving on efficiency, it is often easier to start thinking of a number of major tasks as one, as they become easier to perform. Capitalizing on this to take on bigger challenges will eventually result in surpassing your initial expectations of yourself. For example; instead of just picking up clothes in a number of rooms, you might progress to picking up clothes and daisy-chaining a number of tasks such as dropping washed clothes into drawers as well, and so on. You'll get to know what can be added do each task because it will seem obvious once you start to get more efficient.

Of course there are many other ways to complete household tasks faster, and these are just a few motivational tricks that have worked for me.