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Let’s have a chat about the mental energy it takes to do things

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…

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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.

mental energy it takes to do things

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.

mental energy it takes to do things

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.

mental energy it takes to do things

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.

10 comments

  1. Ah I feel this so hard! There is never enough time to do everything I want so I constantly start a new week feeling like I’m already behind! I definitely need to tone down my expectations of myself and how much I can actually achieve. It’s interesting to see your two different lists based on your mindset; I definitely have days where my lists are like the second one too!
    Amy x
    callmeamy.co.uk

  2. I think we always focus on having the physical energy to do things that we forget about the mental energy side of it! It takes a lot of mental energy to get things done, it’s hard to do things when you’re mind isn’t in it. A great post! x

    Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk

  3. Wait your list comparison was so useful, I have done that so much and I just realized what a bad habit it is with your help. This was so insightful into helping me understand some of my bad habits!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing. This post was refreshingly honest. When I’m struggling to get started I write a to-do list then set a time. Even if its just for 30 mins and see how much I can get done. It really helps and you would be amazed how much you can get done. Sometimes I just do 30 mins other times it motivates me to carry on.

  5. I don’t enjoy housework and all that kind of thing either – I definitely feel like I don’t have enough time in the day to do it all, it’s much more fun playing or reading with the kids or heading out to the park, haha! I tend to let the house get a little messy. At the end of the day, we get the kids to clean up their toys while I’m cooking dinner, and then when hubby is supervising them in the bath I clean up downstairs – do dishes, wipe down the kitchen, vacuum the house. It’s the time when I have no excuses and uninterrupted time as the kids are in the bath with hubby so I can get it done. It’s just too much to do during the day, and with the kids it would all get messed up anyway, so at least it is clean overnight, everything reset to 0 for a fresh start in the morning 🙂

    Hope that you are having a good week 🙂

  6. I am totally with you on this!! I HATE having to do the grownup stuff yet I’m the queen of procrastination and getting the cleaning done when I’ve got a ton of marking to do for school. Or I’ve got to finish my planning. Also I want the pat on the head too. I get really annoyed with my husband because he doesn’t do any of the cleaning or washing or washing up most of the time but if I say anything, mainly because I’d really like to feel appreciated, he thinks I’m having a go!
    By the way, I was searching Google images to find a picture of Clara Oswald in her tartan dress from Name of the Doctor to go with my blog post (I finally own the dress!!)and there you were in the search page, very near the top, in your tartan dress! Do you still have it?xx

    1. Oh, that’s a hame your husband doesn’t help out more or appreciate you! My partner is really good with doing housework, he’s better than me, to be honest, but he works long hours 6 days a week so I try to keep up with it! During the holidays he always does deep cleans though.

      And no, I don’t have that dress anymore as the zip broke on it! I have the red one though, but currently don’t fit in it haha. It’s one of my favourites.

  7. I resonate with this so bad! Especially since having a baby. I set myself a list, blink and its bed time with nothing achieved. I think there’s a very fine balance between burn out and productivity though so I’m trying not to pressure myself too much. I set weekly goals but have a top 3 tasks for each day and an ongoing list on a widget on my phone so every time I sit to look at it the first thing I see is my to do list! It helps a bit but I definitely still have the days where nothing gets done

  8. Aghh this is so bloody relatable! It’s quite comforting to know you feel a similar thing. Even though it’s obviously really rubbish. I’m struggling at the moment – I had childcare on Sunday, so was able to do everything I wanted to do, I had a clean house, the dog was walked, I was able to go to the shop and do some work. Now things are back to normal it makes me feel kind of resentful that I can’t do these things on a normal day. It’s weird. Kind of like a ‘look what you could achieve’ type of thing. Can definitely relate to your brain on good days and bad days, although I have to say those harder says when you give yourself ten times as much work to do is much more satisfying when you tick them off. Here’s to a (hopefully) productive day!!

    Claire.X
    http://www.clairemac.co.uk

  9. I am definitely becoming more of an early bird, and I get so much done in the mornings to be honest! My husband and I split household chores in half which works great for us!

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