It can be for me to get motivated to do tasks that are ongoing. I put off washing my car because I’ll know it will just get dusty again. Dishes and laundry are never finished; as soon as you do them, there are dirty dishes in the sink or dirty clothes in the basket, making it less appealing to start. Same with writing dots, paying bills, answering emails, or grocery shopping — the tasks are permanent residents on my to-do list.

I try to trick myself by making lists of what needs to be done today — allowing me the satisfaction of crossing something off. And no dainty checkmark for me — I obliterate the item with a jumbo black Sharpie as if it was redacted. It not only gives me tangible credit for completing a task, but it is also a reminder that these ongoing maintenance issues consume time and need to be taken into account when considering what can be accomplished in the allotted time. I follow the five-minute rule — if you can do it in less than five minutes (feed the dogs), it’s better to do it directly rather than putting it on the list, but everything else is there.

I also try to make tasks into a routine so I start them without thinking — summoning the same motivation to “just do it” that I use when an undesirable meeting is on my calendar. Sundays are for vacuuming and laundry — done by rote rather than deliberation. I never want to do these things but they’re on the list so I just plug away whether it is writing a dot, vacuuming, or mowing the lawn.

Think about ways you can make ongoing tasks less mentally arduous. The work is always there but the dread doesn’t have to be.

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