Blocks and Barriers

Have you ever crafted a to-do list for the day in the morning, full of motivation and inspiration that today is the day you are going to get things done!

…….and then bed time rolls around and you've only done one easy item…. maybe two if you're lucky.

What stops us from being our best selves and getting things done? Especially the things that need to get done that we've put off and put off.

I'm reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and it's really opened my eyes to how our individual self and others enclose barriers around us to prevent us from getting work done.

Like this, but invisible

I am absolutely 100% guilty of allowing myself and others to block me from doing the work that I want to do. My mind throws out excuses and it's easier to let myself fall into those traps than do the activities that will allow me to grow as a person.

Procrastination is a huge issue for me. Why do it today when I can put it off for tomorrow? I used to have a huge issue with doing the dishes but I've mostly over come that now. Why now? I got rid of the reasons that let me build up the leaning tower of dirty dishes. I have almost no counter space right now in my kitchen. I simply don't have the room to let dishes sit if I want a semi-functional kitchen. I use one plate, one cup, one bowl, and one of each utensil. They all get washed directly after using them. No muss, no fuss.

One big way I procrastinate is by napping. It's so easy to come home after a long day at work, change clothes, and fall into the welcoming arms of my comfy bed.

Well, not anymore.

I literally built a barrier to my bed to make it more difficult to get into. I didn't set out specifically to do that, but I'm happy with the result. My bed is now lofted 90″+ off the ground, and climbing (literally) into it is a chore.

Result: Definitely less inclined to take a nap if I have to emulate a spider monkey and climb into a wobbly loft.

I actually built the loft to get my bed off the ground and allow me more use of my limited space in my studio unit. As a result, I have an actual desk where I can use my computer and be more productive now that it's not hovering right outside my closet with the monitor on my dresser.

Look at that- by building the loft I actually eliminated two barriers at once. #winning!

Getting better at doing things by adding barriers isn't the only way to improve your life. Sometimes doing things better requires removing barriers we've put up already.

Take lunch, for example. It seems I fluctuate between being really good at packing my lunch for work and just grabbing food from the cafeteria downstairs. Why don't I meal prep for the entire week and just grab a container in the morning?

Because I don't have enough containers.

I got some of these bad boys for Christmas this year and that helped a bit. But I only got 5 containers, which isn't enough to meal prep multiple meals for the whole week.

So I spent $30 and bought some more containers. Now I have enough to meal prep the whole week and I will make that money back in 6 work days (since I average roughly $5/lunch). This will help bring down my overall food budget, let me eat tastier food during the work week at lunch, and eat healthier food than grabbing whatever mushy brown thing with soggy carrots they're serving that day.

(It's not that bad, but they have some hella weird combos and I'm tired of paying $5 for a chicken salad sandwich when I could make it better at home.)

Saving money is another area where I had to remove a block. This block was known as me, myself, and I. Ever heard the saying “We are our own worst enemy”? Here's a pretty graphic just in case you hadn't.

I do a pretty decent job at saving money each month…. because it's automatically taken out of my paycheck. I don't get in my own way.

I usually have money left over at the end of the month that I could put into my taxable account. Why didn't I do so?

Because it was difficult.

I had my money with Baird for my Roth IRA and taxable investment account. If I wanted to send money to them, I had to do the following steps:

-find my checkbook
-write a check
-transfer money to that account because who uses checks these days
-find an envelope
-find a stamp/buy a stamp
-forget to mail the letter for a few days
-wait some more for it to arrive at the office and for them to deposit it

Obviously that was about 3 steps too many for me. I couldn't be bothered.

So I eliminated those blocks.

I moved my money to Fidelity which has a nice fancy online interface. Now all I have to do is:

-login
-ensure money is in account
-transfer money
-party in my pjs

See how much more efficient that is? I got rid of most of the reasons why it was too much of a hassle. Now I have no excuses. (I'm sure I'll be able to come up with them still; I just don't have any legit reasons to not do it.)

It's my hope after doing all these things consistently that I can reset my bad habits and put better habits in place. It takes 18-254 days to change a habit. Obviously, I'm hoping those brand new better habits will settle into place closer to the 18 day end of the scale as opposed to the 254 day end.

Feel free to join me in my “be more productive” journey! Let me know if you have any bad habits in the comments!

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20 thoughts on “Blocks and Barriers

  1. We recently cashed in some “healthy rewards” points for new tupperware for the exact same reason… I was running out of containers for leftovers and lunches!

    I find that I also have to create mental or physical barriers at times to help foster the habits I am working towards. We have a wall hanging cabinet that we have named the “phone booth”. We try to park our phones there while we make dinner and spend time with our son in the evenings vs. always checking for work emails or browsing the web. The fact that our phones are behind a door and not laying on the counter really helps to keep us from them!
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…Our Financial Independence Mission StatementMy Profile

  2. Recognizing the barriers is the first step, but it’s easy to overlook them and write them off as status quo. To your point, ask the pile of dishes from dinner that still sit in my sink…

    Good article! I liked the point about saving the left overs of your bank account. Automation is definitely the best way to get started, but committing to save whats left over from your budget is the extra effort that will help you reach your goals faster.
    J Savvy recently posted…Spend Wisely: Be Savvy with your Money and Make More DoughMy Profile

  3. Another excellent and unflinching insight. Nicely said Gwen. I’m tempted to say “don’t be too hard on yourself”, but I don’t want to be an enabler 🙂 I will say that staying focused on “the now” is an important skill and can help in overcoming these types of hurdles. We’ve all heard the saying “Life is What Happens While You are Making Other Plans” (there are several of these types of quotes all meaning the same basic thing). Live in the present. Be present in all of your dealings. You can put savings and frugality almost completely on auto-pilot. That way you don’t miss out on the life part of things, while focusing too intently on the horizon.

  4. You are making me want to re think our environment. You have to make it too easy to do behavior that you want to do, and too difficult to do behavior you don’t want. The Art of War… interesting choice. I might have to pick that up off our shelf and read it again.

  5. Yesss!

    Also this line is amazing: “Definitely less inclined to take a nap if I have to emulate a spider monkey and climb into a wobbly loft.”

    Laundry is always a chore for me. I tend not to do it, so laundry piles up. I wash the huge pile of clothes, and then they sit there, for days or weeks, in the laundry basket. Because all the clothes are in the laundry basket, my husband has to root around the basket to find clean socks. Because he roots around, clothes end up on the floor. With all the clothes on the floor, I don’t know which are clean and which are dirty, ending up with more clothes in the hamper…it’s a viscous cycle.

    It got much better once — when I got rid of a ton of clothes a la Kon Marie / Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up. I’m starting to think I need to assess my closet situation again, as the clothes mountain is slowly gaining height. XD

  6. This is the second blog post I have read today on productivity… I haven’t read the War of Art, but it is on my “to read” list…

    Your approach seems so simple… Find the barrier, eliminate it… And yet, here I sit with multiple barriers stopping me from being as productive as I could be… This might be the kick in the butt that I need to at least start identifying the barriers. I’m so impressed by how well you have done! 🙂
    Jena recently posted…Random DeclutteringMy Profile

    • I’ve only scraped my knee on the ceiling twice so far, so I think I’ll be ok without the padding haha. Kitty cat LOVES the loft. He is very much enjoying the bird’s eye view of the apartment!

  7. I like your style, Gwen. I’m right there too on the procrastination thing. This week I’m going to make an effort to get up 1 hour earlier each day. No more excuses for not posting!

  8. Barriers is a good topic! I wonder how many barriers I run into in my life that I don’t even realize are barriers but I don’t know that there’s a better way. Artificial barriers like your bed are a neat idea — I’m going to have to brainstorm some uses of that concept.

  9. I only found this blog a few weeks ago, but the fact that you used a pokemon pic of Mr. Mine compelled me to comment. Mad props to you!

  10. I totally agree with the whole dishes thing! I used to be horrible at it, but I quickly learned that it is faster and easier to wash my dishes right after I use them, rather than letting food cake itself on the plates. Because I am too lazy to scrub, I will rush up after dinner to clean them. Oh how my priorities have changed!
    Mrs.Wow recently posted…Side Effects of EnoughMy Profile

  11. When I really need to focus I edit my hosts file on my computer so that all requests to the likes of Facebook and Netflix get redirected to localhost (I don’t remember if you have an IT background, but blocked, more or less). At the worst of times this will include mail.google.com as well

  12. Dishes! I hate dishes, my partner hate dishes. We both love to cook but we both hate cleaning up after ourselves. It’s terrible. We now try as much as possible to do it straight after, but if that doesn’t work, we try to do it together. Because that way, it goes by quicker and we are spending time together.

  13. Just don’t “party in those pj’s” too hard, the new loft sounds a bit shaky for a full on party…..

    Funny how we make excuses. I love the example of moving to Fidelity to make transfers easier. I use VG, and have set up quite a few automated ACH transfers (in addition to the savings I do at work thru my 401(k) to try to end each month with $0 in checking. Worse case, I go the OTHER way, and transfer $ back from VG to our checking account if we’re having a tough month.

  14. Hey, if you’re ever interested I recommend Influencer by Patterson, Grenny, and Co. It’s a pretty good summary of the social science of getting things done and changing habits. I have a copy you can borrow if you come through town again!

  15. AH! I totally agree with you! I’m amazingly unproductive at my home desktop. Hulu is too easily accessible, and I have no qualms binging on three episodes of .. whatever… chilling in my PJs. That’s why I’ve started taking my laptop to coffee shops to actually get work done. Can’t chill in your PJs there. At least … I am not quite at that level of comfort with my local baristas..
    I also actually just posted (for the first time! eee!) on my blog about the exact same thing about writing checks! I actually purposely go through the labor intensive process of writing checks when paying my credit card bills, so that my brain associates “spending” with “pain in the ass”. I do the exact opposite (automatic investment) when saving. Food for thought 🙂

  16. When I’ve had a frustrating day at work the last thing I want to do is get a workout in, but my trick to overcome that is to change out of my work clothes and immediately throw a sports bra on and workout gear. Even if I wander around in my garden or chat with my husband for a bit first it’s a reminder that I still have that item on my to-do list for the evening. It doesn’t always work, but 80% of the time I’ll still do some form of exercise.
    Mrs. Kiwi recently posted…June Spending Report for our Family of Two (Just 1 Month Late)My Profile

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