Have you ever faced a bout of lethargy that prevented you from getting up and completing a task?
Has your brain ever felt preoccupied with lists and reminders of work but your limbs just wouldn’t comply?
Well, if you have, like most of us, welcome to the generation of Errand Paralysis. Why a generation? Let me come back to that later.
Yes! There is a concept called Errand Paralysis. As the name suggests, it is a condition where an individual is unable to perform his/her planned tasks efficiently, or at all, which results in a huge pile of to-do lists and endless reminders. Think of Errand Paralysis as a relative of procrastination; both hail from the same family, but are different at their disposal to affect an individual’s life.
Errands are an integral part of our lives that need our immediate, and sometimes, undivided attention. Be it a 20-year old student or a 40-year old housewife, errands have kept us all, on our toes.
Coming to the "generation" of errand paralysis, Anne Helen Peterson in her viral Buzzfeed article, ‘How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation' talks about how and why are Millennials more prone to premature burnout, and thus, to errand paralysis. Errand paralysis was a term coined by this generation to sort of describe a part of the catchall expression ‘Adulting’. In other words, it is that phase in one’s life where they are supposed to manage themselves completely with little or no support from their families in terms of helping them sort out their priorities.
Errands do not always hint at heavy or difficult tasks; the task can be as simple as depositing a cheque in the bank below your house; or returning a book that you ordered online. Minimal tasks like these end up making us feel overwhelmed and exhausted.
Why does this happen? Why are we not able to gather ourselves together to complete a task which concerns us? Or as Peterson puts it- ‘the task’s primary beneficiary = us (the task doer)’ (in most cases). There is an evolutionary explanation for this. Errands have been present since way before the “millennial era”. Did people suffer from errand paralysis then too? The answer is an astounding NO. The reason why we are more likely to fall prey to this is that we are in constant need of validation and stimulation from our surroundings. A huge part of its credit goes to social media. Imagine that you are posting a picture on your Instagram handle, for which you have put in great efforts with regards to creating an aesthetic background and wearing the best apparel you have, and don’t forget the endless editing after that. What happens when you upload it? Naturally, you will procure a certain number of likes, probably more than your previous uploads because of your unmeasured efforts for this one, and a few comments too, with lots of emojis and exclamations. Ask yourself, what made you click a picture in that manner, and what made you upload it? If you are honest with yourself, you are very much likely to admit that it was the social stimulation
that follows the uploading of a picture.
Another reason linked to this tendency of ours is that we live in a busy world, which Dr. Samir Parekh calls the “hustle culture”. This brings with it a lot of competition and stress.
Now, in the midst of all that going on, running an errand seems like an accomplishment
1. It feels like “I made it! All by myself!”
2. We are doing it with the knowledge that we ain’t getting a reward for this- the social
How to get out of this seemingly vicious cycle? The reason why I use the word ‘seemingly’ here is that it’s not all that bad. Once you make yourself familiar with why are you facing errand paralysis, you get some sort of clarity and you are halfway there. The next step is to devise a plan, a plan exclusive to you and your beloved schedule. Some methods which may help you combat errand paralysis are:
Errand paralysis has got a lot to do with time-management. One can combat errand paralysis by prioritizing their activities with regards to the urgency and importance of tasks. Having the following four categories to divide work/activities/errands will assist you in your
plan. The categories are: Urgent + Important ; Urgent, but not Important ; Important, but not Urgent ; Not Urgent + Not Important.
According to the Zen philosophy, “Your desk is a mirror that reflects your mind”. No matter how much we relate to this phrase, only some of us are actually going to get the work done of cleaning our desks. The act of cleaning or decluttering is therapeutic in itself. Try it for yourself and you’ll be surprised by the results. As Shunmyō Masuno puts it, “The key to keeping your mind invigorated is to first put the things around in order.”
3. Keep a to-do list handy:
Psychologist Rachna K Singh believes that managing a to-do list and ticking things off is therapeutic in the sense that it relieves you of the mental load. According to her, errands don’t have to be spread across an entire day; you can assign a specific amount of time to get things done. But make sure not to be fooled by excuses that crop up due to the reasons mentioned above.
4. Reward yourself:
Jazz it up a notch by keeping a goody at the end of your journey, something for you to look forward to. Maybe a long bath or the permit to watch an extra episode of your favorite show. Allow yourself to be creative!
This is the most important of all- Breathing. It is an involuntary process, we seldom stop and look within to feel the movement of air entering and exiting our lungs and nose. Completing errands is challenging in today’s times. Hence it is important to make sure that you don’t beat yourself down in the course of running errands. Be mindful of the need of the hour and work accordingly. Don’t give in to excuses; stay true to yourself. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Complaining has never helped anyone achieve anything good in life. Errands are a part of our lives, and no matter what, we will have to deal with them. But we do have a choice to explore our options with a touch of creativity and efforts to help deal with Errand Paralysis effectively. So, surprise yourself!