Even the most motivated, goal-oriented, focussed ones amongst us have some things that we just keep putting off. For me, one of those things is sorting my photographs. I’ve had cupboards full of prints, and devices full of digitals, and I’ve found one excuse after another not to look at them. Then, the other day, my friend texted me while she was organizing her photos, and we started “chatting” about how to make the task less overwhelming. It got me thinking about productive things to do right now and how to banish those excuses we keep making. So if you have a little extra time on your hands, let’s see if we can tackle some of those things together, shall we?
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1. Organize Your Photos
The excuses: I’ll have to do it all at once to make sure I don’t miss anything. What if I delete something accidentally? My print shop is closed right now, so why bother?
The solutions: Make it easy to break down the task. I had plans to make elaborate scrapbooks that I was going to make, but instead of inspiring me, those plans overwhelmed me. If you’re grouping prints by date and event, consider putting them into acid-free photo boxes. That way, if you find some extra photos from your last vacation after you’ve sorted the rest, you can just slide them into the box, rather than redoing an entire album.
If most of your photos are digital and you’re nervous about what to delete, back them all up to an external drive. Then delete the almost-duplicates or ones that just didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Sort your favorites into folders, ready to send to your printer.
Extra motivation: As you’re sorting through photographs, set some aside to send to friends and family. I’ll bet they’ll love a blast from the past and a reminder of special times. (Just don’t start texting them now, as I guarantee it will lead to more procrastination!)
2. Take More Photos
The excuses: What, I just finished organizing! I don’t have any talent. I have nothing interesting to capture, so how is this productive?
The solutions: Find beauty in the ordinary or stretch your creative muscles. Zoom in on a flower, create a flatlay, or try self-portraits.
If you’re on lockdown with your family, this is a perfect time to take family portraits. Even if you choose to hire a professional photographer later, you’ll have had practice posing without any pressure. (You can thank me when the holiday season rolls around!)
I’ve read my share of photography blogs, taken a class or two and have wonderful photographer friends who have given me advice. But I’ve realized that the only way to learn is by taking the time to practice.
The excuses: I have nothing to say. My hair is a mess. I’ve gained 5 pounds!
The solution: Realize that those who love you will love you no matter what you look like right now. Trust me. I joined a family reunion FaceTime chat with wet hair and hardly any makeup on, and my cousins were more concerned about my being comfortable than what I looked like.
I suspect that you’ll find that reconnecting with friends and family will feel more motivating, productive, and joyful than eating ice-cream while you binge-watch reruns!
Don’t have FaceTime, Zoom or other video chat options? Send a letter (remember those?) Write a note and tape it to your neighbor’s window. Drive by and chat from a distance.
If you’re reading this post during the coronavirus pandemic, please use the guidance from the CDC to determine what kind of contact/exchange is safe.
4. Clean Your Car/Freezer/Basement
The excuses: What will I do with the kids while I’m cleaning? It’s so boring. I’ll never get out of there alive!
The solutions: I always have my kids help me clean out the car, especially since they tend to make 95% of the mess. Even when they were little, they could take out things and put them in a box, and if they got distracted by a long lost toy, it was okay. I let them choose music on my phone, and made it into a game.
If you’re on your own, listen to an inspiring podcast or TED talk.
Extra motivation: When they were younger (a.k.a. less cooperative), I paid my kids a few dollars to help me clean the car. It gave me an opportunity to talk to them about work ethic, the value of money, and reasonable pay!
5. Create A New Habit
The excuses: I’m a creature of habit. I can’t change.
The solution: In our day to day life, habits are usually tied to other habits or routines. Now, during the lockdown, our daily routines have changed so it’s a perfect time to break old habits and start creating new habits. For example, I wanted to add collagen powder to my diet, so I started adding it to my morning coffee. (I never forget my morning coffee!)
If you want to learn more about habit stacking, you might enjoy these books from Amazon.
6. Declutter And Use
The excuses: What’s the point of decluttering, when I can’t make donations right now? I don’t know what to throw out! What if I need these later?
The solutions: During our “normal life” most of us have more stuff than we have time for. I have baskets of beauty samples I keep meaning to try, unopened Christmas presents, and plenty of ingredients in my pantry that I don’t know how to use. Take out those things that you’ve tucked away and put them to use!
I finally took out that millet flour I bought six months ago and made a new biscuit recipe that my family loved. That Sudoku calendar that I forgot to return after Christmas, is a much more productive pre-bedtime activity than scrolling through Instagram. And those beauty samples? The nice thing about staying at home is that you can work with a mask on your face and conditioner in your hair, and no one will be the wiser.
Extra motivation: You are saving money, reducing waste, and creating new habits while you are decluttering.
The excuses: Where? We can’t go out!
The solution: If you can’t actually get away, escape through a book, a documentary, or a virtual tour. I finally found the time to read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. I can honestly say, that a hike through the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the last things I’d ever want to do, but it was fun to “tag along” with Cheryl!
How is escaping from your current situation productive? You benefit from planning a getaway even if you can’t do it right now. According to this post by Cornell Chronicle, happiness comes from planning experiences and talking about them, as well as from the experience itself. If achieving happiness isn’t productive, what is?
Excuse: I have bigger things to worry about. I don’t know where to start. I don’t believe it works.
The solutions: If you’re wary about whether it works, this very practical advice from the HuffPost blog might help: How To Use Visualization To Achieve your Goals. Alone, visualization isn’t productive but combined with a good work ethic and common sense, it may lead you to something spectacular.
You can create a mood board on Pinterest. If you want to be extra productive, look for inspiring pictures in your magazines and catalogs before you declutter and recycle them.
9. Do Nothing.
The Excuses: I can’t. I’m Type-A. What a waste of time!
I’m sure you already know the benefits of a meditation practice, so I won’t go into it. If you’ve struggled to do a meditate, I’m with you. Meditation has become such a buzzword that it has now become something to worry about. Am I doing this right? Is this working? Uh, my foot is falling asleep.
I prefer to call it “doing nothing.” No pressure. No expectations.
10. Learn to Breathe
The excuse: I already know how to breathe!
The solution: Have you ever noticed that you’re holding your breath? Pay attention and you may catch yourself doing it. I do it while holding a tricky yoga pose, and sometimes when I’m struggling with writing.
The solution: Breathwork (different patterns for breathing) can help us maintain focus, manage our stress, and help us sleep. This post from Mind Body Green is a good place to start. Breathwork is a little more accessible than many types of meditation, and you may also notice results a little faster.
Do you have any other productive tasks you’re working on?