If you’re anything like me, you have days when you’re fired up to clean your whole house top to bottom and even reorganize your closets. Then, on other days you are fascinated by something you’ve recently heard and must research it on the internet, to the disappointment of your laundry. Or you have a million errands to run and everything at home gets neglected. Whatever the cause, suddenly you find your house looks horrible and cleaning is the last thing you want to do.
Now somewhere in your mind, you really want to clean, you just have no energy left to do it. This is usually my problem. I run out of energy before I run out of errands. But I don’t want my husband coming home from work to a messy house. So whether I have the energy to clean or not, I know I have to.
Of course, the best way to avoid all this is to stay on top of everything so the house never gets messed up anyway. But despite my best efforts to be vigilant, I’ll get a phone call or some other thing will come up, and when I emerge, the house looks horrible. This is usually toward the afternoon. We have a great system in place for cleaning in the morning. But with three kids at home all day long (a homeschooled 3rd grader, a homeschooled kindergartener, and a toddler) in a townhome on the smaller side, there is always something to do and clean.
With that said, I’ve discovered some tricks for getting things done when you have no energy left to do them.
1. Get Excited—The fastest way to get energy for a project is to get excited about it. Generic physical energy is helpful, but wanting to do the task mentally makes the most difference by far. For a regular person in average or better health, the body will supply you energy for what your mind most wants to do, whether that’s cleaning the bedrooms, making banana muffins, or walking around the mall. The more excited we get about something, the easier the task becomes.
Whenever I have a morning speaking engagement, getting up that day is never a problem, even when its 5am. I’m excited about the day and my body follows my mind. On less exciting days, however, popping out of bed isn’t always as easy. Reading a book on cleaning or diligence is usually a good source of motivation for me if I feel tired, but most of the time I just have to do it whether I have energy or not. Which leads us to number 2…
2. Do Boring Things—When you feel overwhelmed or drained, do what’s boring. It’s easy to get restless and lose focus when the project is not exciting. But my new motto is: Do Boring Things. It’s the boring things, like laundry, preparing fruits and vegetables, organizing paper piles, that I most need to do, and I lose sight of their needfulness because they are so boring.
When you’ve got a lot to do, instead of feeling overwhelmed, just get up and start working. When I have no motivation, I will purposely work slowly, putting away what is easiest first. I think what sometimes keeps me from getting started on tasks is that I want to do them quickly and efficiently, and when I can’t because I’m tired or I don’t have vision at that moment, I hesistate to start the task at all. But now I just tell myself, Do Boring Things. I start loading the dishwasher or some other boring thing just to make progress. This advice is most helpful to me when I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. I don’t worry about a grand plan. I just start doing something.
3. Be Faithful in the Little Things. Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” The context of this verse is how we handle our money. But the general principle applies to all of life. Being faithful in the little things is what makes you faithful for great things. Think of your favorite pastor/ Bible teacher. If you found out he yelled at his wife every night at home and watched inappropriate movies, would you lose a significant amount or even all respect for him? I would too. If he’s not obeying God faithfully in his personal life, how can he be faithfully obeying God in his public life?
I remember a story I heard a while back, told by a woman with a large women’s ministry in her country. She said, “I get asked by women all the time, ‘How can I start my own ministry? I want to teach the Bible? Where do I start?’ And so I ask her, ‘How is your marriage? Do you submit to your husband in everything?’ I ask her about other ‘small’ areas of her life. ‘Do you pursue holiness? Do you love the world or the things of the world?’ And so often I have to tell her, “Unless you are faithful in the little things, you won’t be faithful in what is much.” Lead yourself first.
4. 15 Minute Rotations… fun/work/fun/work. Make a list of to-do’s and put a mark each one either fun or work. Anything you don’t have to do would probably be considered fun. Then set the timer for 15 minutes and start on a work project. I usually break up the work projects into rooms—kitchen, living room, bedroom 1, bedroom 2, all bathrooms, etc. Every 15 minutes switch from working to playing. Things on my playing list would be writing, reading, and stuff like that. If you don’t have the motivation this second to clean, set the time right now for 15 minutes. When it beeps, start cleaning. In other 15 minutes you get to rest/play again. And the cycle repeats. You now have 15 minutes to relax before you will get to work. Have fun!