Mental energy is something that’s been on my mind for the past few weeks. You have to bear with me here because I am not actually sure where I am going with this blog post. Hopefully, in about 1000 (2000, sorry!) words or so things will be a bit clearer for both of us.
You know when you have some kind of idea floating in the back of your head but you’ve not had time to fully consider it? Yeah, that’s what’s going on here. I’m finally taking the time to sit down and think about it and try to explain what I mean. Hopefully, it will lead to some big realisation, a light bulb moment, and then all my problems will be solved.
Or maybe this will just be a boring piece of writing and I’m sorry to subject you to it.
My lack of productivity
So, I’ve been getting frustrated with myself lately because I’ve not been feeling very productive. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some of my recent stories where I write out my to-do list for the day to try and keep me on track.
I’ve been finding it difficult to get things done and I’ve noticed that I feel I don’t have time to do everything. But then the things I don’t have time to do could have been done if I had just gotten up and done them, rather than being sat on the sofa on my phone thinking about how hard it is to do the things.
Mental energy is a mood state where you feel productive, motivated, and prepared to get things done. A lack of mental energy, then, might mean you don’t feel capable of much at all.
And I do not feel capable.
My negative brain
I feel like my brain creates barriers for me all the time. I would say that I’m naturally quite a pessimistic person, though I don’t like to admit it because I don’t want to be that person. I want people to view me as happy, joyful and fun to be around but nope. I am not, by default I am negative. Please don’t tell anyone.
I often think the worst, I fear the worst and if something else gets added to my to-do list, my brain goes WILD with all the reasons why I can’t do this simple task, or why I shouldn’t do it, or the inconvenience it will cause me.
You could say that my mental energy gets depleted very quickly and then I feel stuck.
I feel slugging and lazy and heavy.
On bad days, I think of all the steps it takes
and they’re all overwhelming.
For example, on a good day, I’m highly productive. My brain thinks of my list link this:
- have breakfast
- get us both ready
- go to the park
- have lunch
- clean the kitchen
On a bad day, my brain thinks like this:
- get up
- change Leo’s nappy
- go downstairs
- put the kettle on
- make a coffee
- make Leo’s breakfast
- put him in the highchair
- pick up everything he’s thrown on the floor
- wipe his hands and face
- have a shower
- get dressed
- pick Leos outfit
- change Leo
- put his shoes on
- get the pram from the garage
- fasten him in the pram
- lock the door
- walk to the park
So it’s the same tasks, but my brain just makes it seem like an overwhelming amount of tasks, then it’s harder for me to do. When really it’s much fewer tasks, I’m just making it seem harder than it has to be.
I think I am more time-poor than I actually am
Time has something that I’ve always struggled with. During my whole life, I’ve felt I’ve never had enough time to do everything I want to do.
I think part of the issue here is I want to do too much. I want to work out 5 days a week, maintain my 8 (yeah, don’t ask) websites, do better with social media, play the piano every day, look after my baby, clean the house, see friends, go for a walk, travel the world, plan my next home, clean my car and do today’s Wordle.
I just can’t do all of these things now I have Leo as I have to look after him, entertain him, feed him, take him to baby classes and all that so I don’t actually have a lot of time to do what I want. And when I do, I felt guilty that I’m not looking after Leo. If I hear Leo crying while my partner is watching him, I feel that pull to stop what I’m doing and step in. And I often do.
But I can’t put this on having a baby as I certainly did feel like this before having a child.
I know some of you will think this isn’t true as I used to blog every day, play piano two hours a day, work full-time and work out 5 times a week. But those are the things I loved so it was easy. When it comes to housework and boring tasks, I was rubbish at it all back then, too.
The more I have to do, the less I accomplish
This is the most frustrating thing about the whole situation. I get overwhelmed with a long list of things that I need to do that I just don’t know how to get started. Instead, I’ll have another coffee, scroll on my phone, realise it’s too close to Leo’s nap time to even bother. Really I’m just avoiding the things need to do.
And most of these things aren’t even a big deal. It’s just housework, general life admin, Leo related things or work. But I cannot get the mental energy I need to stand up and get it done.
The more time I have, the less I accomplish
If I have a full day of no plans, I struggle to get started. I have an extra coffee (maybe coffee is the problem?), then before I know it, it’s 11 am and I’m still in my PJs. I’m taking Leo for a nap in 1 hour, then it’s lunchtime. I blink and it’s 4 pm and I’ve not really done anything.
If I have a limited amount of time due to having plans or something, I do loads better.
For example, when my parents were coming the other week I managed to:
- Wash the pots
- Clean kitchen
- Mop the kitchen floor
- Tidy downstairs
- Hoover downstairs
- Hoover upstairs
- Tidy upstairs
- Shower myself
- Bath and dress Leo
- Straighten my hair
All before 11 am. If I didn’t have that time pressure, then I would probably still be sitting on the sofa thinking about doing those things now.
I do most of the cleaning on a Saturday these days as my partner has a half-day, he gets home around 1 pm so for some reason, I can focus on this time and have some get up and go inside me to get the house cleaned before he’s home. I don’t have this same feeling Monday – Friday.
I hate doing grown-up stuff
This is true. I just hate doing adult things. I want to do the things I want to do all the time. I hate cleaning, I hate washing my hair, I hate getting dressed and doing my makeup. I hate doing admin. I hate cooking and cleaning up after. I hate hanging washing out. It’s just more stuff that gets in the way of me doing the things I really want to be doing.
I feel weighed down by adult responsibility. I always feel astonished how some people seem to have it all together and can just clean without a second thought. I have a friend that mops her floors every day. That astonishes me. SHE MOPS HER FLOOR EVERY DAY! I just can’t imagine.
It all seems effortless to others but takes a lot of mental energy for me.
Mustering up the energy
A lot of the time it does feel like I have to mentally prepare myself to do something. But if I overthink it, it makes it worse. As soon as my brain starts telling me ‘just do this (nicer thing) first, then I know I’m spiralling into the land of not actually doing it.
So, what are you going to do about it?
Well, I need to do something about it because my days feel so much better when I don’t get stuck in this rut. Like any problem, the first step is actually acknowledging there is an issue.
I just want my days to have a bit more meaning. I don’t want to fill every moment of my day with something productive, but I want to accomplish what I set out to achieve each day so I can have those moments of rest and relaxation that truly are restful and relaxing, rather than just feeling guilty and like I don’t deserve this rest.
So here’s what I’m going to do differently to get more stuff done
Have a plan each morning
I really do need to list down what I need to do. This needs to be visual. It can be just on the notes section on my phone but writing it out really helps me commit. Well, it’s the first step to committing for me and it means I’ll be more likely to complete the task.
Estimate the time it will take
Sometimes my task might be something such as ‘put a load in the washing machine’. It only takes about 2 minutes to do this but I spend 30 minutes putting it off.
Writing the estimated time next to it helps me visualise how quick it actually is.
Eat my frog
Eating your frog is from a saying that means if you have to eat a live frog each morning, then you can go through the rest of the day knowing you have done the worst thing you have to do.
In short, get the tasks you dread done first thing, then you can stop thinking and worrying about this.
I have actually used this concept a lot at work before I left. I was in management for 10 years and I’ve had to have some very uncomfortable conversations with difficult members of staff. Rather than avoid it all day, I started to just get it out of the way as soon as possible.
It works, trust me.
Have productive mornings
Start as you mean to go on, eh? I really need to get up, shower, have breakfast and have a quick clean around to set my mind right for the day.
Try to get out the house daily with Leo
We go to Sign and Sign, The Little Gym and Waterbabies. So three days we are out of the house, it’s just the other days that are a bit more tricky! Now it’s warmer weather, this is getting much easier. In an ideal world I’d take him out somewhere in the morning to tire him out for his afternoon nap.
More walks to the park for us!
Stop being distracted
I don’t know how I’ll be able to do this. Can anyone tell me why the group chat suddenly gets really lively and interesting when you need to go and do something? It’s an ongoing problem for me.
Most of my distraction comes from my phone. When I leave it in another room, I can stop looking at it and checking my emails all the time.
I even find distractions out of nowhere just to avoid doing something!
Reward myself after
It might sound pathetic, but I need a pat on the head.
I’m not talking about something big here, but just something small like sitting down with a cup of tea and some mini eggs when everything is done.
How do you get on with your list? Do you struggle with the mental energy it takes to gear up for it before? If you don’t, please tell me your secret.