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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

How-to Friday: Tackling the unwanted jobs

How do you manage the tasks in your life and home that you despise? With a family as big as ours, I never reach the bottom of the laundry hamper. And just as soon as I've cleaned up from dinner, little Cindy Lou-Who is wandering into the kitchen asking for a snack.

I've never minded laundry or cooking. But I do have my list of oh-no, not-again, do-I-really-have-to kind of tasks. They are:

1. Picking up.

My mother-in-law once asked me whether she was more of the "neat" kind of housekeeper or the "clean" type. That's a question you simply can't answer when it's your mother-in-law. But I admit. I'm a cleaner. Scrub a toilet, vacuum the floors, wipe down kitchen counters? Yes, yes, and yes. But at the end of the long day, retrieve all the scattered fragments of our day and return them home? Oh, the torture.

2. Email/Facebook messages

I procrastinate. Silence for days, weeks, while my inbox bulges.

3. Meal planning

Must take inventory of what's left in the fridge, gather the cookbooks, consider the evening commitments in the week ahead, and commit to buying for the TWENTY-ONE meals I'll be serving. Whew. I'm overwhelmed.

4. Budgeting

Coupons? Nope. Sale ads? Uh-uh. Walmart? Gross.

I have no concept of the dollar's elasticity. I can't stretch it to save my life. And of all things, I'm married to an actuary. I think he dreams of spreadsheets and math models.

What's the answer to facing your unwanted tasks?

Wishing them away doesn't generally work, and hiring them out generally gets expensive (see #4 above). Here are 5 ways I've found to facing the jobs I simply can't stand.

1. Set a timer. This is a standard go-to for me when I don't want to do something. I give myself a little pep talk, and it sounds something like this. "Jen, give yourself 15 minutes to this task. You don't have to get it all done, but you gotta stay focused." I literally set the timer on my phone and work like a dog for 15 minutes. No coffee breaks. No answering the phone or scanning facebook. It's 15 unadulterated minutes of focus and whirlwind. And glory! So many things can be done in 15 minutes. An entire room vacuumed and dusted. My desk neatened, my papers filed. Receipts entered into the budget. And if the job's not done, I can commit to coming back to it tomorrow for 15 minutes, or, if the finish line is in sight, taking it all the way!

2. Reward yourself. I'm always looking to carve reading time out of my bloated schedule. To sit with a book for a half hour is delicious pleasure. Another pep talk is in order: "Jen, respond to emails/plan the week's menu for ___ minutes, and after that, you can take a break and read for ____minutes."

3. Hand off to the hubby. Get really good about communicating with each other about the jobs you find most fulfilling and easiest to do around the house. Ryan's a math whiz. It makes a lot more sense for him to pore over the spreadsheet, consider our spending patterns and giving priorities, and then determine our budget categories. I love to cook, and Ryan, well, he's boiled an egg or two in his life. He's happiest cleaning up after meals, and I'm grateful for the help. Sharing the workload is a must.

4. Involve your children. Managing a household, especially a big one, is not a one-person job. My three older children (10, 9, 7)  fold and put away all of their laundry and have been doing that for three years. Everyone has chores, including the twins (3) who know to neatly straighten their shoes by the front door, hang their backpacks on their hooks and bring their dishes to the sink. Each of our kids "owns" a meal: they're on call for that meal, day after day, to prepare food, serve the dishes, clear the table, and sweep afterwards.

5. Turn on music/podcasts while you work. New to Canada, I've recently become an instant fan of the CBS's satirical radio show, "This is That.' I download their podcasts and do my brainless work in the evenings. And I laugh. Outloud.  Something must be working there.

Hope you've found some of these suggestions helpful! Good luck with your laundry, your budget, your dog grooming, or whatever it is that you've been running from!