View Full Version : Recurring Tasks: Depleting and Replenishing

02-20-17, 02:00 PM
I often have trouble with some very simple concepts. Take recurring tasks like buying groceries or washing one's hair. I frequently experience a mild shock when I realize I have to do these things AGAIN, when I have JUST DONE IT (well, maybe a week ago, but it seems like I just did it)! Since I am over 60, one might think I've had plenty of time to get into a rhythm and more or less automate these and dozens of other routine tasks that must be handled more or less "in time" for things to run smoothly. But, alas, no, I still trip over them.

For me even the most trivial matters still have to go on a "to do list" (and become the subject of inward nagging or screaming) or things will start to get backed up and chaos will slowly build up and burst out in a cascade of unhappy consequences. As many other posters have said, staying "organized" in everyday life seems exhausting, if not downright hopeless.

In another thread, I was re-reading the work of Roy Baumeister on "willpower" and the energy depletion involved in exercising self-control and making decisions. (Questions have been raised about his work, BTW, but the idea that self-control and decisions "deplete the pool" of remaining energy until replenished resonates with me.)

What I noticed is that thinking about these recurring tasks in terms of "depleting and replenishing" actually seemed to "lighten the load" a little. First, it helps me respect, conserve, and focus my limited energy pool. It's not unlimited, so I can't spend it on trivia and expect to have more for essentials. Second, virtually every recurring task can be viewed as "replenishing/preparing" for some other positive aspect of life, whether nutritional, social, professional, or just general domestic comfort--even if doing it is initially "depleting." Third, the same also goes for decisions, many of which should be automated so you don't "spend" precious energy making unnecessary decisions on the fly (such as what to have for breakfast or which socks to wear!). Decisions are depleting, so take some time to set up some defaults and SOP's, in order to make fewer and more important decisions.

Instead of thinking about "all I have to do" with the very limited energy I have most of the time, I'm finding it helpful...maybe even think in terms of investing/depleting the energy required to "make myself" do one of these recurring tasks. Of course that type of energy will have to be replenished somehow (maybe through sleep, drinking water, socializing, meditation or goofing off). But the payoff on the investment/depletion will be that some other aspect of life has been "replenished," however temporarily, making my life (or someone else's, which--if appreciated-- is the same thing) easier, more beautiful, more pleasant, etc.

(I realize all this might be pretty self-evident to anyone else...of course everyone eventually runs out of groceries and has to buy more! Duh! But for me, somehow the concept of depletion and replenishment is helping me be more patient and forgiving with myself about my lack of energy, and more mindful in the moment that, even though I'm depleting my energy, I'm also replenishing a slightly longer-term good. And that the lost energy also can be replenished--soon--just by taking a break. Then I can make another investment. And so on. Like breathing.)

Just wondering if anyone else would find this idea of depletion & replenishment helpful?