Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Netflix Notion

Those who know me well or have been following this blog will be aware of my love of all things orderly. I like plans, schedules, to-do-lists and wherever possible I colour code. It makes me happy.

However, this often leaves me in a bit of a pickle. As a single mum, I have no one at home with whom to share the domestic chores, not that they were shared in my previous life but that’s a different story. Plus, as I’m now a working mum things are a lot more hectic than they used to be. So, my to-do-list is fairly extensive.

But the thing that begins to cause a problem is that I plan to fit more in a day than is humanly possible. This is not the realm of the single, merely the overoptimistic. I constantly underestimate how long a task will take and overestimate how much time I have. For example, I constantly forget to build in time to eat meals, go to the loo and answer the phone when it rings. How dare people interrupt my plans in such a fashion?!

I certainly never ever choose to schedule time for nice things like sitting down with a cup of coffee, reading a magazine or the essential task of doing nothing (see Lessons From A Health Spa).

As a result, I fail on a daily basis. Sometimes I manage to fail on an hourly basis. It’s exhausting.

Not only is it depressing to have a half ticked list, I then shunt all the outstanding tasks into the next day meaning I start each morning looking at a list of jobs I should really have already done. Cue an even lower mood.

The problem, as I’m sure you can see, then builds and builds. My process each day becomes…

1. Look at the list and feel down at how long it is
2. Feel annoyed at the things I should have done yesterday
3. Feel anxious that if I couldn’t do them yesterday I’m unlikely to be able to fit them in today either
4. Look at a job, such as the ironing, and know I won’t get it finished in the time planned so ditch it and scour the list for something more achievable
5. Start a job with rising angst, which makes me less efficient and even slower than usual
6. Eventually complete the task and realise the list will not get finished
7. Re-allocate excess items, including the ironing, to other days
8. Repeat steps 5 to 7 until noting I’m late for the school run
9. Arrive last at school pick up without a snack for the kids
10. Go home and do more jobs
11. Berate myself for failing to achieve
12. Completely fail to notice how much time all the planning and re-planning has taken.

The above is not a useful format for a successful life – being happy, relaxed and getting stuff done.

So, I’ve found a new way of doing things. I call it the Netflix Notion.

When the kids have gone to bed in the evenings, I’ve recently found myself enjoying the delights of Netflix. I’ve gone from Orange Is The New Black through White Collar and am now relishing the rather unexpected crush I have on Hugh Laurie, playing the lead in House. Wow! Who’d have thought it? I’m told I should also watch him in BBC’s The Night Manager but it’s disappeared from iPlayer so I’ll have to track that down another time.

Anyway, I should warn you that the joy of such a TV drama can sometimes become a bit of an obsession. It’s the danger of having full box set, series “on demand” or Netflix available to you. Binge watching. You watch one episode but then get caught up in the story and decide to watch just one more before going to sleep. But then the cliffhanger is so good you have to see the next one too. And then you don’t get to sleep until 1am! Perhaps that’s just me.

Anyway, I noticed that each episode is 45 minutes long. It goes really quickly but tells an entire independent story as well as developing the overall plotline leaving you gagging for the next installment… and another moment with House! So I decided to bring into play the Netflix Notion.

Last night, I stood in my kitchen and tackled the ironing pile. It had got to crisis point as we no longer had any clean-ironed clothes to wear and action needed to be taken.

But rather than look at it thinking “this is going to take me hours and I’ll never finish it and I hate it and I’d rather sit down and I’ll just do it tomorrow even though I’ll hate the sight of the un-ironed pile of clothes when I get up in the morning…” I changed by internal dialogue.

Instead, I chose to iron for one episode, and one episode only, of House on Netflix. Just 45 minutes. Then I would go to bed.

But after one episode, I couldn’t stop. How could I switch off not knowing whether House was going to… I won’t spoil the plot line for you. Watch it!

So I watched another, then another and I finished the ironing. I told you there was a lot there! I was ridiculously, proudly, ecstatically, happy. Sadly, things weren’t going quite so well for House but, again, you’ll just have to see for yourself why.

Anyway, I went to bed, slept better than I have for days and came down to lots of piles of neatly ironed clothes this morning. I smiled, and then thought to myself “what shall I spend 45 minutes doing this morning?”

I didn’t put the TV on, that really would be obsessive. But I decided to give myself 45-minute segments to achieve whatever I could achieve.

So this morning, I’m writing my blog. Regular readers will probably have noticed this post and the previous one were a little behind my usual schedule. That’s because I couldn’t find time to write it and knew how long it took to create, rewrite, edit, find pictures, add hyperlinks and upload. But today, I’m doing things differently. I’m writing for 45 minutes.

If I can’t write my post in 45 minutes then maybe it really isn’t something that fits into my life right now. And that’s where I’d got to. I felt the same about going running, swimming, to the gym, painting my nails, filling and enjoying a relaxing bath. I spent hours not succeeding at doing the chores and deciding that there was absolutely no way I could fit in any of the nice stuff either.

Again, not a model for a happy successful life.

So here I am, having written for 45 minutes. I CAN get things done in that time when I get on with them and stop stressing or trying to do them perfectly. I didn’t panic about my word count, keep jumping up to do other more urgent tasks and I even ignored the phone ringing, something that doesn’t come naturally to me. But this was my time to do what I’d set out to do and I didn’t have to allow someone outside to intrude on that. First draft done, and as I’m here I might as well do the edit and find the photo too!

Now that I’ve succeeded twice, with the ironing and writing, I know I can do it with anything. So it’s time to give myself permission to do something nice! I’m off to pour myself a cup of coffee and sit down for a bit of “doing nothing” time to let my brain wander. And be happy.

Trust in the Netflix Notion. It’s a rubbish name but my 45 minutes are up so I’m moving on!




  1. That's a brilliant idea :)

    I like to apply the 45 minute rule to exercise. 30 minutes doesn't seem enough but an hour is way too much time especially if you are trying to drag your oversized bottom along the seafront for a run!

    You are a genius SBP xx

    1. Thanks Clare. It's the oversized belly bouncing around my middle that causes me the problem! But let's keep at it… 45 minutes at a time. Love SPB xxx

  2. What a fantastic idea! 45 minutes sounds like the perfect time. I'm a bit like you for making a huge long to do list which feels satisfying, yet also leaves me panicking that I can't get it all done. I do try and alternate tasks between ones that aren't so bad and ones that I really don't like, which helps me to get through them.

    1. Thanks Jennifer. Great idea alternating tasks between the rubbish ones and the not so rubbish ones. Don't forget to slip some treats in there too! We need to make time for cake... for our sanity, obviously. Right, I'm off for a chocolate chip brownie! Love SPB xxx