You probably don’t have this problem. I bet you’re way more organized and on top of things than I am.
From time to time, I’ll have a big spread of dishes on the counter – waiting to be done.
You’ve probably seen such piles before – at your friends’ houses, of course. You peak into the kitchen and there’s no sign of the countertop. It’s buried beneath a jumbled pile of dirty dishes. Cups stack upon bowls, and bowls stack upon plates. If you were to breathe hard enough, the whole pile might collapse like a noisy house of cards.
Silverware hides in and among the cups, cutting boards, and plastic containers. Remnants of the last meal, and the meal before last, cover everything. A feast of hardened crumbs and sauces stick to plates, which really ought to have been rinsed a long time ago.
And that’s not even mentioning the sink, which overflows with a set of pots and pans left there “to soak.”
At least, that’s how my imagination perceives the situation.
When this happens, I find myself avoiding the kitchen. Like a child covering their eyes, if I can’t see it, then it’s not there. I’ll put off the task forever – or at least until we run out of spoons.
Thankfully, I’ve found a small tactic to tackle such daunting jobs. I give myself permission to not do most of it.
“I don’t have to wash a single dish.” I tell myself. “Just put everything into neat piles for now.”
So I do that little step. When that’s finished, I’m allowed to stop if I want. Sometimes I do. I’ll walk away satisfied that I got things started.
But most of the time what happens is I’ll look over my work. It doesn’t look so bad now – just a little stack of bowls, a pile of silverware, a cutting board, a set of cups, and a couple pots. Surveying the counter, I’ll think to myself, “I bet I could knock out the silverware in just a few minutes. Why don’t I go ahead and do that too.”
So I do. Since all the silverware is consolidated at one place on the counter, the job goes by pretty quickly. Again, I have permission to stop. Sometimes I do.
Yet often, I’ll say to myself, “Well, I’m already started. I’ve got a nice soapy sponge in hand. Maybe I’ll take care of that little stack of bowls too.”
Before I know it, the dishes are done.
There’s value in trying to accomplish massive tasks.
But sometimes that big target can be so intimidating, so scary, and so daunting that you don’t take action. You become paralyzed by the scope and scale of all that you have to do.
Give yourself permission to do only a single small step. Make that step so ridiculously easy that you can’t come up with a proper excuse for not doing it. Then take that step.
Once you’ve done that, you’ve got forward motion. Even if you were to stop after that, you’re further than you were to a moment ago. Or you may keep going, finding another tiny step to do.
Step by step. One thing at a time. Oh look, you’re done.