On Microtasking

For me, having a kid totally changed my ability to get things done. My weekends before a child went something like this:

Saturday morning:



Clean Entire Apartment

Rest of weekend:

Whatever the heck I want!

And I am not even exaggerating. Usually by noon on Saturday I had accomplished all major chores and errands and all that was left was whatever projects I wanted to tackled. Looking at that list now makes me want to build a time machine and go back and smack myself. Sometimes I wouldn’t do anything else in the weekend. I would nap, watch movies, read a book, who knows. Other times I would tackle big projects like cleaning out and reorganizing all the closets. ALL THE CLOSETS.

Now with a little tornado at my heels my weekends generally look like this:


7a to 11a: Play and care for small tornado

11a to 1p: Rush around trying to make apartment clean enough that it is not condemned and try getting myself clean enough not to be mistaken for a homeless person

1p to 7p: Play and care for small tornado

7p to 10p: Try to get anything I can done including bill paying, laundry, etc.


Rinse repeat, except add going to the grocery store with small tornado

I began to get really frustrated due to my new limitations. I know my prior schedule was a bit manic. And my projects were a bit ridiculous. But that was who I was. I realize a lot of people even without kids are not as spastic as I once was.

At first, when my son was much younger, I attempted to continue with my manic ways. I could never get things as clean as I expected and never could complete the huge tasks I set for myself because the baby would cry or need changed or I would be exhausted from having a newborn. I was getting frustrated and depressed.

I decided (with help from people in my life) that I couldn’t change the amount of hours in the day or the time I had available. Instead, I needed to reframe how I looked at the tasks I needed to get done and how I went about achieving them.

The first thing I did was let go…a lot. My apartment may look perfectly acceptable to other people. To me, its pretty messy but I have learned to accept it. If there are Cheerios in ever corner, fine, eventually my son will locate and eat them. So long as we are not living filth, we are okay. Sometimes I get antsy about the mess I see around but I know I cannot handle it while watching a small child, and I just have to deal with the mess.

Related to letting go, is setting reasonable expectations. Instead of believing that in just 48 hours I can do 100 things with a toddler in tow, I give myself a reasonable amount of tasks to complete. The two things I must do every weekend are laundry and grocery shopping. After I have scheduled those in my brain, I pick up to 4 other things to do. Sure, I have a list of a million things that eventually need to get done, but thinking I can get even half a million things done in a weekend isn’t going to happen. By setting realistic expectations for my time, I actually get everything done. I feel accomplished and even have time to get one additional thing done.

And finally, I have started to do is micro tasking. Instead of trying to take on huge tasks that I can’t possibly accomplish during naptime or even before bed, I break all big tasks into micro tasks, tasks that will take at most 15 minutes. If I want to clean out the closet, I break it down to tasks like “go through shoes” or “reorganize left upper shelf.” It sounds counter intuitive but I get a lot more done this way. The reason, I actually start on projects and complete them.

Initially, when my son was born, I would either try to wait for some perfect time to tackle a project, which never came. Or I would start a project and then have to stop and then restart. With microtasks, I move the ball a short distance down the field each time. In addition to actually eventually getting a big project done, I feel accomplished at the end of a weekend.

After my son was born, I would often get to the end of a weekend and realize all I had gotten done was buy groceries and do laundry. Meanwhile a million tasks and projects were staking up. It was depressing and daunting. Now, though its not some huge project I can think “I got all the micro tasks I set out to do done” which goes a long way to helping me feel less like a slacker and means I actually get things done.

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