I’m working my way through a huge household project that’s been ongoing for more than a decade, the renovation of a large room on the second floor of my house. If it had been a kitchen or bedroom or bathroom, the need for functional space would have driven the project forward and it would be finished by now. This is more of a lounge with an office at one end, and nothing terrible would happen if I didn’t work on it for a while.
What is terrible, though, is how projects like this weaken motivation — not just for the project itself, but for other things. Even when we’re not consciously working on it, unfinished work of any kind commands a part of our attention and reminds us that we haven’t won this one yet.
I don’t know exactly how it happened, but a few weeks ago I reached an “enough is enough” moment and got back to working on the room again, with the intention of actually finishing it. Remove old plaster. Dismantle that useless half-height wall that separates the lounge from the office. Get out the measuring tape and the level and the L‑square, and check things. Haul away construction trash. Vacuum, vacuum, and vacuum again.
What’s notable is that I’ve borrowed ideas from The X Effect and NonZeroDay on Reddit, and am trying to keep a streak going by doing at least one thing a day, every day to advance the project. I’m not marking an X on an index card for every day I work on the project, but instead am assigning myself at least one small task to do before bedtime. Yesterday it involved pulling some nails from some old wood, then cutting it up and putting it aside for my next trip to the recycling depot. Today I took some measurements and cleaned up a bit. Tomorrow might be a good day to pry off a couple of pieces of old baseboard, move the whiteboard from the study wall, or even just sort through the tools and put away ones I won’t be needing for a while.
Funny how a big, intimidating project can suddenly seem like a whole bunch of little, eminently doable tasks, isn’t it?