In this post I will discuss how the concept of mental load helped me not procrastinate and what strategies I find help me achieve this.
What is the mental load?
The concept of mental load is generally used in relationships or when living with flatmates.
It describes the fact that there is, usually, an imbalance in how each person is expected to contribute to the household life, where some tasks or things done in preparation for something else go unseen and unnoticed.
For example, if a man and a woman live together, especially if they are partners, it’s generally more common for the woman to be expected to keep track of what needs to be done. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t share chores equally, but it could mean that the woman is aware of pending tasks and keeps track of to dos, while the man might need a reminder.
One of the reasons why this topic has been brough to awareness recently is that it’s exhausting. From the outside, the chores can be shared equally, but really, keeping track and feeling responsible requires energy, and this isn’t always acknowledged.
The mental load of procrastination
With procrastination, we push things off to tomorrow or next week and then again and again. Sure, it’s easier than doing something which is boring or difficult. At the same time we have to keep track of this task. Make sure we don’t eventually forget or miss the deadline. Every time we have a spare moment, this to-do creeps up, nagging us.
It’s even harder when we worry we can’t do something and that’s the reason we procrstinate in the first place. In this case, you add the prospect of guilt or shame and failure to the mix, and the mental load increases even more.
I remind myself of this when I find myself procrastinating and I think back to the many times when actually doing the thing took was simpler than I thought.
Sometimes I prove myself wrong and find out I could do the thing just fine. What a success and feeling of accomplishment! And even if I do make a mistake or “fail”, it’s something I can acknowledge with certainty, and figure out what the next steps will be. This is definitely better than being in that “what if” state and lingering with no set action plan.
In any case, the energy procrastination takes up is almost always more then what is required to actually doing the task itself.
Here is my reminder to myself and anyone reading: put on some music and chip away at that thing weighing on your mental load. As they say, it will be a weight off your chest (and your mind). You will be thankful you did. Below are some of the things I do.
Strategies to avoid procrastination
- TWO MINUTE RULE – extremely simple and self explanatory: if something takes less than two minutes to do, do it straight away. This has helped me not procrastinate those small annoying tasks that just keep nagging you until they’re done. Doing a task immediately means it will not become an “open tab” in your head, that you need to keep monitored, albeit subconsciously.
- “DON’T SIT DOWN” rule – As we all know sitting down often means relaxing, especially after a long day. If there are things that need to be done, it’s easier for me to do them right when I get through the door, for example. I know I need to take my makeup off and brush my teeth – if I do so as soon as I get home it feels effortless, because the laziness that can me when I am on the couch has not had an opportunity to hit me yet.
- When it comes to tidying, I have found it’s easy to do when everything has a home, as they say. You are not trying to think of where that thing should go or if the best place for this object is on the shelf or a random drawer – you are simply automatically moving things around with no need to think.
- 10 MINUTE CHALLENGE – Another thing that has helped me is to set up a 10 minute timer and make it a challenge to tidy up a specific area. I usually also have a podcast or music in the background, so the boring/neutral task of tidying gets overshadowed by the pleasant task of listening to something I enjoy.
- FUTURE YOU – I think about my future self and how she will appreciate me putting in the effort now. These tasks won’t be part of her mental load and she will be grateful I did them