Large Household Projects: Overcoming the Fear

 March 2014

By Nan Hayes for Caring Transitions®

As we move full-swing into the 2014 residential real estate season, many folks will take on the daunting task of preparing a home for sale. This kind of large household project is not very appealing to most of us, and may be especially overwhelming for homeowners who are downsizing to a smaller residence. If you are one of many people faced with such a project this spring, but you find yourself putting it off week after week. We’d like you to know you are not alone!

Among the many human phobias, there is actually a label for the fear of large things. It is called Megalophobia. Megalophobia is usually related to large objects such as jetliners, cruise liners and elephants, rather than large tasks, so we feel it may be more appropriate to name the fear of large household projects something like "MegaloTaskoPhobia." Regardless of the name, the dread people experience when faced with a large undertaking is not only real; it is quite common. Research performed by scientist Janet Polivy reveals that we truly do fear big projects. We often fail to commit to long-term goals or take on large enterprises because we will most-likely “abandon ship” at the first sign of distress. Research shows that simply getting started on a project can be a hurdle in itself, as we tend to visualize all the very worst parts of a project first and foremost, forcing our brain to deliberately find ways to avoid those bad experiences. We fail to embrace what is perceived as a “monster” of a project, because our brain prefers to engage itself with other less daunting items. It tries to make us feel “too busy” to tackle the big, scary projects. Consider this, have you ever needed to finish a large presentation at work and found yourself making a number of phone calls, scheduling inconsequential appointments and opening your mail instead?

Even when financially motivated to list a house on the market, people clearly have some fear and productivity obstacles to overcome!

Even when motivated, it’s tough to stay disciplined!

At Caring Transitions we recognize that many of our clients want to move ahead, but simply become bogged down in the process of completing a project. This is especially true of tasks that have many facets. Clients often cannot navigate all the way through a marathon-sized project to the finish line. In many cases the solution to this obstacle can be found in effective planning.

Productivity entails taking time to understand all the phases of any given project and then planning or scheduling for each phase. A household move project which also includes an estate sale typically has over a dozen project phases and may take over 100 separate steps to complete! People who don’t prepare well may try and multi-task their way through a project of this size. While on the surface this type of multi-tasking may seem productive (because our brain feels busy), it is usually counter-productive as individuals move aimlessly from task to task without really accomplishing anything of real value.

In many instances, homeowners fall into this multi-task pattern because they don’t recognize the breadth of their project. They may only allocate a few days or hours to accomplish weeks of labor. This miscalculation of time can create chaos, stress, and eventually, may cause the project to fail.

So how do we fight this impulse and avoid failure? Caring Transitions suggest people carefully schedule the many tasks associated with moving and downsizing, making room for as much productive time as possible. It is important to work in short increments without distractions. Sitting down at the end of each day and prioritizing tasks for the next day is also very useful and aids in accountability. When individuals are able to see how much “real” work they accomplish in a day, they are better able to plan realistic assignments for the following day.

Yes, there are productive methods to help you complete household projects!

The following are just a few reminders to help increase your project productivity.

Exercise discipline

Scheduling specific blocks of time to perform work and time to take breaks can increase individual efficiency. Studies on human energy cycles by Peretz Lavie support the theory that humans are more focused and more productive when they schedule tasks for 90 minutes at a time, allowing for 15—20 minute breaks. This formula can be applied to work, education or sports performance, and is based on the human body’s natural rhythm. Labor cycles of 90-15-90-15-90 provide us with greater energy and focus than trying to complete 5 hours of work in one fell swoop. This approach is similar to the way an athlete trains for a marathon; opting for dedicated sessions of high performance drills instead of attempting to run all 26.2 miles from the start.

Avoid miscalculations

When it comes to large tasks, miscalculations in the amount of time needed to complete each step may be common, but also expensive! How many times have you seen a road repair project extended by a municipality, only to cost tax payers and local businesses a lot more money? When homeowners miscalculate the time needed to prepare and plan for large household project, it may also be costly. Moving companies are often confronted with clients who claim they will complete their own packing prior to moving day, yet when the driver arrives nothing is ready to be placed on the truck. The homeowner then has to foot the bill for packing materials, extra labor, and in some cases, overtime fees, secondary storage requirements or worse, they may be forced to postpone the move for a later date. When homeowners take the proper amount of time to prepare, schedule work, and understand tasks, their move is more likely to have a better outcome.

Recognize when you need help

We all have times in our life when we just can’t plan ahead. And when that time comes, asking for help is not a sign of weakness or vulnerability. It is simply another way of taking control of the situation you find yourself in and understanding that some things may be best completed by others.

Whether you are a busy executive, mother of young children or a senior adult moving in late life, you may decide to call upon family members to help get your project off the ground. For some, reaching out to family is a great way to find support, yet for others, “family” brings a whole new set of problems and issues. Even the most well-meaning relative may unintentionally fail to respect the timelines, possessions or personal wishes of those they have been asked to help.

In those instances, qualified resources such as Caring Transitions provide professional support for many types of large household projects. Even when you simply need help getting your project underway, Caring Transitions can determine the scope of your project and expedite the many steps required to complete each task. Our trained and trust worthy staff members assist with sorting, organizing, downsizing, packing, unpacking, estate sale and online auctions in order to complete your project on time and within budget!

Are you a victim of "MegaloTaskoPhobia?" We can help!
Let Caring Transitions evaluate your next project using our state-of-the-art Project Accelerator!