No Zero Days

4 MinutesIn Blog

When I moved home to the UK from Colorado, I downsized from a three-storey house, to a home that almost fits into one of those three floors.

I read so much about not making big decisions in your first year of being widowed, but moving countries within six months chucked that suggestion out of the window.

And with it, had to go my hoarding and sentimental tendencies. As an aside, I had always thought my husband Jonathan an unsentimental person, but I discovered him to be the man who had kept every single scrap of the boys’ schoolwork since they started school. So many baskets of papers and things to get rid of stop

Skip after skip, charity shop after charity shop, the cellar in the new house was still full. And hanging over me. Eating away. Weighing me down.

And then I read the wonderful Guardian journalist Oliver Burkemann’s column about No Zero Days.

The issue is this – when we have something weighing on our mind but it feels like it would take a huge amount of time to fix, we just put it off. We do this ostensibly because we need to find a huge chunk of time to do anything about it.

The problem is threefold.

Firstly, we will never get that chunk of time. Nope. It is never going to happen. Have we looked at our life to date and when did we ever have that time?

Secondly, we waste significant mental energy by not doing the task and continuing thinking about it. That sense of guilt, frustration and procrastination sucks energy from us, making us less brilliant at the tasks we are working on.

And finally, not doing anything about it but thinking about it, which does not make the task less small or make it any more likely we will actually do it tomorrow

The only way to combat this, in the time-honoured saying, is one bite at a time. There is no other way to eat an elephant. It is not suddenly going to decrease in size and it is unlikely to simply disappear.

(Yes, on a rare occasion with a mammoth awful task, you luck out, but really, that’s your strategy? Hoping it somehow goes away?)

So, one bite. In my case, that meant taking one basket of things and sorting through it. Just one. And I felt so much better – which shows how mental a lot of our stuff is.

Doing something towards the task mentally made it feel much smaller, even though truthfully one basket was not making a particularly large dent in clearing the basement as a whole.

The idea of No Zero Days is that to create habits to get the task done, and the best way to work on this is to do something on it every single day. Whether that is a small basket of sorting, or 10 minutes on business development, or making a single phone call or writing a list. Actually getting on and doing something towards the task is the only way to make its mentally less taxing and also has the advantage of working towards completing it.

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