On-task with a 10-day schedule

I thought my house would be cleaner. With the Covid lockdown, and practically all hours spent at home, I thought I might spend more time keeping things tidy.

Early on, I saw a woman on YouTube who offered a less painful approach to the daily clean-up. She stood in the kitchen and set a timer for 10 minutes. Then she cleaned until the bell rang. She then went to the next room and set the timer again. The idea being that one would continue the process until every room had been visited.

So I tried it. Cleaning was a lot faster! But four months into the lockdown, I’ve only cleaned two rooms for ten minutes each. The timer, it seems, makes the work no more enjoyable or interesting. And that is the root of the problem.

I grew up with ads showing women smiling sweetly as they swept, mopped, dusted, scrubbed, changed diapers, and folded clothes. And I was brought up to believe that the best wives are those who cook exquisite meals—while listening to their husband’s complaints as he waits ready at the table (provided he and the rest of the family show up).

I know that there are a people who enjoy cooking – just as there are people who enjoy any endeavor. However, I think most cookbooks are purchased in a futile search for inspiration. Maybe, if the perfect recipe is found, one suddenly enjoys the hot blast of an oven or the hiss of steam. The slimy feel of meat on the hands. Maybe the pile of food-caked dishes afterward will seem worth it.

I’ve watched my share of cooking shows, where the star has every item pre-measured and ready in advance; in a spotless kitchen stocked with glistening pans. No cats or crumb-filled toasters on the counter. No husbands washing hands in the sink, as a hot pan vies for the same position. And these master chefs are always smiling, because they are selling the idea that cooking is easy and fun – even after preparing family meals for years on end.

So months have gone by, and only the kitchen has received a thorough cleaning. I still do daily chores that cannot wait, and finish larger household projects as required. But I spend every moment possible learning new things and indulging in new experiences. I love the way it feels when the light-bulbs are flashing in my mind. So I developed a scheduling technique that maximizes brain growth, rather than desperately waters brain wilt.

During Covid, I’ve put myself on a rotating ten-day schedule. And I’ve found that ten days is the magic scheduling unit. It’s just enough time to accomplish goals, but allows time for the unexpected, since all plans go awry from time to time.

Every ten days, I write out what I’d like to accomplish. Next to each item, I make four to seven check-boxes. Below is an example:


Goals for next 10 days:

Practice guitar x4 (1/2 hr or more)   □ □ □ □
Practice piano x5  (1/2 hr or more) □ □ □ □ □  
Translate several pages of Spanish novel x7 □ □ □ □ □ □ □  
E-bird (5-10 minutes) per day x7 □ □ □ □ □ □ □
Practice reading music (10-15 minutes) x7   □ □ □ □ □ □ □
Transcribe notes (1/2 hr) x7 □ □ □ □ □ □ □
Read for enjoyment (10-30 minutes) x7 □ □ □ □ □ □ □    
Read 2 bird articles □ □
Practice using new computer program (1/2 hr sessions) □ □ □

Fr   Sa   Su   Mo   Tue    We   Th   Fr   Sa   Su


Notice that no item has ten check-boxes, since ten would be self-defeating. Life is constantly throwing curve-balls, and there will always be the unexpected that needs attention.  There are also times in which you just lack the energy to do all that you’d like, and it’s important to honor your body when it is exhausted. However, if nothing unusual comes up, this doesn’t mean that you can’t place ten checks side by side, since you can always exceed your goals.

I hope this scheduling technique is helpful to you. I’ve used it for months and have easily stayed on track. That being said, I would never use it to create a house-cleaning regimen. Although I was raised to believe that women should love mind-numbing chores, we all know that they don’t. And those women who seem eager to clean? Well, let’s face it. They’re probably faking it.

Published by cafsamsel

Carol Fullerton-Samsel is a nearly-native Floridian who lives with her husband of 25 years and three rescue animals. She is a [mostly] vegan, alcohol-free, [relatively] caffeine-free, Buddhist writer and day-hiker. Her novel, The Clones of Langston, was a Reader’s Favorite medalist and a New Century Writer Awards finalist. It tells the story of cloned workers who are abandoned to form their own society. As the facility housing them erodes, they discover a challenging new world—our own.

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