Was that the best use of your time at home?
You know what your house isn’t?
A multinational corporation with hundreds of employees, spinning plates, high targets and a team of project managers.
Yet how many of us — in the name of efficiency — try and work through our home duties like a corporate agenda?
Keeping on top of the home can feel overwhelming. So we tend to respond in one of two ways. One, by managing the home within an inch of its life. Two, by falling victim to “errand paralysis” and putting everything off.
Here’s how the first way works.
Family Unit vs Business Unit
One modern response to chore overwhelm is to start thinking like strategists.
We decide to tackle To-Do lists head-on by digitising them and sharing them with our team, ahem, family members. We plan our meals with the same level of detail as our marketing campaigns and automate shopping deliveries to keep stock high. We set monthly refurbishment goals — and track them.
According to a recent article in The Atlantic, some families are even resorting to using tools ordinarily confined to the workspace to project manage their homes.
Parents are finding platforms such as Trello, Asana, and Jira, in addition to Slack, a workplace communication tool (its slogan is “Where work happens”), particularly useful in their personal lives. In other words, confronted with relentless busyness, some modern households are starting to run more like offices.
Our relentless “fulfillment addiction” is encouraging us to bring a workplace mentality into the home. For women, it also feeds into a damaging “Second Shift” culture, where the end of the workday simply signals the beginning of a second one, one which involves managing domestic activities with the same perfectionism as the day job.
The work simply doesn’t stop, ever. As Alain de Botton points out in The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, “The challenge [in life] lies in knowing how to bring this sort of day to a close”, without taking on more admin on the other side of the commute.
Logical enough, but it’s no longer second nature to a generation defined by relentless busyness.
Whatever happened to carving out space for play, joy and quality family time?
Sure it can feel great pouring yourself into bed having achieved a long list of To-Dos, but if you haven’t also had time to also invest in leisure, this task overwhelm can directly impact your wellbeing.
So what to do?
It’s been well-documented that buying time promotes happiness. In other words, outsourcing. According to Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ashley V. Whillans “We feel like we don’t have enough time to do everything we want to do, and that makes us feel like we’re unable to cope with the demands in our everyday life”.
So we pay someone to do chores for us, and free up hours to enjoy doing the things we love.
And we end up spending time chasing joy, don’t we?
Not necessarily for Millennials…
There are, of course, those (ahem, Millennials) who don’t get as far as project managing their long chore lists because of what has been termed their “errand paralysis”.
A term coined by Anne Helen Petersen in her viral Buzzfeed article piece about “millennial burnout” it describes a group for whom being busy isn’t the core issue; it’s a pushback against doing boring tasks that they don’t want to do. Millennials, she describes, don’t prioritise personal tasks because they are overwhelmed with the anxiety brought on by needing to devote all hours to work, and simply don’t have the headspace to balance anything else. She writes:
My shame about these errands expands with each day. I remind myself that my mom was pretty much always doing errands. Did she like them? No. But she got them done. So why couldn’t I get it together — especially when the tasks were all, at first glance, easily completed? I realized that the vast majority of these tasks share a common denominator: Their primary beneficiary is me, but not in a way that would actually drastically improve my life. They are seemingly high-effort, low-reward tasks, and they paralyze me.
For Petersen, the issue is not so much having too much to do, but having a psychological barrier against doing these things in the first place. The real thing that takes precedence is work — and how to fit in more of it in a day — so Millenials hustle their way towards burnout and hope their home sorts themselves out, eventually. Even with more time available, they wouldn’t dream of managing their home like a business; they are too busy building their own.
Ultimately, the question for all of us is not how can we free up arbitrary units of time. It’s how can we manage our lives in a way that means that those free units of time are being spent on the right things.
As Walt Disney said, “A man should never neglect his family for business.”
Or pay to save time, only to go and waste it on the wrong thing.
HomeHero is a digital home manager, taking care of your chores, bills, maintenance and admin, to free up your time for what matters most.