How to make life easier
As a chemist, I find sometimes I think in terms of that, when it comes to life. A catalyst, in chemical terms, aids a reaction to start. It’s also not (significantly) used up in that process. We catalyze reactions to reduce the amount of energy required to produce the end result desired.
As a homemaker, and adult human, there are rather more tasks than I care to think about which take a lot of energy to start doing, even when I know I want the end results. For these, I’ve been trying to find and set up catalysts, which make it easier for me to start, less exhausting to contemplate, and hopefully mean I’ll get more done. Being productive while burning less of my emotional and physical capital seems like a reasonable thing to want. I’m lazy, really.
A small catalyst? Magnetic hooks on the refrigerator, which hold the car and truck keys. Once the family was trained to put the keys there, and only there, the ability to walk out of the house with a minimum of fuss and bother finding keys which might have been any random location in the house or someone’s pants was really nice to have. There are a few things I’ve treated like this, giving them a specific place to live, where they can be found when wanted. My hat, my glasses at night, my son’s shoes… Ok, that last requires me to put them there, but then he’s not roaring around the house looking for them at odd hours.
A bigger catalyst? Keeping my home orderly and neat. If my desk isn’t chaotic, I’m more able to do… this. I don’t want to think about how long ago I drafted this post (just the title and subtitle) and got no further as I had distractions and clutter and it was very easy to wander off and not collect my thoughts into writing. For that matter, keeping my email inbox ordered is a chore I’ve been putting off and really, really need to tackle. I’ve started to get my library in shape, because I couldn’t find reference books I wanted, and realized that I’d bought a duplicate of a costly book because I didn’t remember I already had it. Reducing those sorts of costs is something that having a clean house helps with. I plan to move the organization out into the garage and shed when it’s not 110 in the shade… a few weeks, yet, here in North Texas. At that point it will be much easier to start projects because I won’t have to put out the energy to clean, find the tools, and only then start on them.
Catalysts come in all shapes and sizes. One of mine looks like a board strapped to my treadmill’s handles. A fancy board, but still… it’s a desk so I can walk and type at the same time. I already had wireless keyboards, and a large monitor in easy sight from the treadmill, so now I can be getting my badly-needed exercise while working on a story or this post. I can even work while on the treadmill, getting my steps in. The end result, I hope, is a stronger body with a better shape.
I have begun consciously considering catalysts when I find a task that I hesitate to begin. First, why am I not doing this thing, which I know needs to be done? Sometimes it’s a physical impediment. Other times, it’s a mental block. I used to have to make a lot of phone calls for the business I was running from home, and not only was I not fond of the phone, I really hated cold business calls to sell the services we provided. So, to get myself warmed up and over the initial hump of effort, I often made a call to a friend or family member to chat for a few minutes before starting in on the cold calls. That assurance of welcome carried me over into the times where I knew I wouldn’t be welcome (and, by the way, this is not a business tactic I recommend, it wasn’t my choice then, either). I think the mental hang-ups are the most tricky to overcome. Anxiety is generally based in long-term training, and will take equally long (or even longer) to train yourself out of those mental frameworks. That, I’m still working on, and it sometimes takes external input to make me realize where I’m at and what I’m doing to myself.
I don’t expect life will ever be easy. There will always be struggles and trials to overcome. However, if I can ease some of the friction in my daily routines, get myself stronger and have a deeper pool of mental energy to expend, I’ll be in a better place to succeed. That, itself, may be the catalyst I need to react when crap happens, and survive everything life can throw at me.
Cedar’s Substack is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.