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:

-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!

As always, thanks for read­ing! Note that some of these links may be affil­i­ate links. If you click a link, there’s a chance I could make a few pen­nies to help keep the lights on around here! 

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21 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 à 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 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. Those con­tain­ers are great.

    For the longest time now I’ve been using mason jars, the kind with the wide lid. I bike to work every day and I’ve found that mason jars are 100% leak proof (nev­er had a leak in my 7 years of bik­ing). I don’t have to wor­ry about get­ting spaghet­ti sauce all over my stuff!
    Owen @ PlanEasy recent­ly post­ed…Hob­bies That Make Mon­ey – Earn Extra Mon­ey To Go Towards Debt, Retire­ment Or Fun Stuff!My Profile

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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 🙂

  17. 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

  18. I’m super late to chime in, but this is great stuff! Yes to remov­ing or adding bar­ri­ers to fix pro­cras­ti­na­tion. I am guilty of tons of pro­cras­ti­na­tion in things I real­ly need it want to do. With dish­es, I got bet­ter briefly while we were show­ing our house and need­ed it to be clean at a moment’s notice! It was so stress­ful yet almost relax­ing just keep­ing the house clean instead of let­ting clut­ter build up.

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