Why Is it so Hard?

For the past three days, I have resolved to dust the bookshelves in my living room, but I have not yet completed this simple action.

Dusting my shelves is only one in a long list of simple tasks I avoid. Why do I find it so hard to do easy things?

One reason I avoid tackling a job is because I overestimate the time it will require for completion. In the case of the bookshelves, I calculate that it will take me all day to remove the items from the shelves and dust thoroughly both the items and the shelves. I don’t have a full day to devote to dusting shelves.

Of course, I could do a less thorough but still reasonably good job in much less time. If I dusted only the exposed part of each shelf and the exposed sides of each item on the shelf, I could probably finish the job in thirty minutes. I won’t do that, though, because I have convinced myself that the task “will take too long”

A second reason I find it hard to do an easy thing is that I over-analyze the job. For example, if my kitchen floor needs to be mopped, I put too much forethought into the act of mopping. First, I chastise myself for letting the floor get so dirty. Then I resolve never to let it become so dirty again.

This requires me to decide upon an exact number of days between which I should let my kitchen floor go between moppings. If I decide the floor should be mopped every third day, I need to mark on my calendar each day that I should mop the floor so I won’t miss a mopping.

Also, I need to decide if mopping the kitchen floor should include mopping the floor of the kitchen’s adjoining hallway. I decide that it should not. The hallway should more logically be mopped on the day that I mop that hallway’s adjoining bathroom. I now need to mark the hallway/bathroom mopping schedule on my calendar, in addition to the kitchen mopping schedule.

The problem with this excuse is that in the time it took me to think through a plan and reject it, I could have mopped the floor twice. The floor hasn’t been mopped, though, and it won’t be mopped today because the task has now become too daunting.

A third excuse I use for not performing household tasks is my conviction that I was meant for more intellectually stimulating work. I was made to write. Writing is certainly more important than dusting and mopping. Surely I should pursue this higher calling.

The problem with this reasoning is that I can’t write worth a lick when I know I need to be doing something else. With each sentence I try to compose, I am distracted by thoughts of the dust on my living room shelves and the grime on my kitchen floor.

These excuses are not working very well for me. Obviously, I need some help. I don’t mean I need help getting my work done. I need help finding better excuses for not getting it done.

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10 thoughts on “Why Is it so Hard?”

  1. Well….. since you know I do the same thing, don’t look here, Dear Friend, for any help! You worded my thought process so perfectly. No wonder we get along so well!

  2. I am going for a walk while I think about this. When I return it will be too late to start it as I have to go do volunteer work. When I return from that, I will be too tired. I will think about doing my housework tomorrow. Oh Wait! That is not a good day as i have to…………

  3. I knew I was not the only one. But I have
    found something that works for me. I tell myself that I will only work at it for ten minutes and then I can stop. But after ten minutes I mostly add another ten minutes…till its done. That works for housework. Now I just have to implement it for writing.

    1. Yes, absolutely put that plan to work in your writing life. Once you get started, you’ll keep wanting to write one more paragraph, then one more, and one more!

      Debbie

  4. Ahhh, the saga of procrastination! Unfortunately, this hits pretty close to home. I will tell you that I do something similar to Ingrid–I tell myself that I will only do part of the task and then give myself a reward, such as a popsicle or something like that. Most of the time if I just “start” the task, I find myself having a private conversation that goes something like, “Oh, come on, Becky, just finish this up, atta girl, you can do it, and you can rest tomorrow…” And then, voila, the task is done and I feel gleefully successful! For me, the difficulty just lies with hitting the “start” button.

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