Small Wins: 10 Ideas to Give Your Day a Boost

February 1, 2021 Updated: February 1, 2021

Because so many of us are “staying home”—working remotely and schooling virtually—managing our time well and resisting temptations that distract and lead to procrastination can be quite challenging. There’s a lack of external accountability that, while freeing, can also encourage slacking off from doing what we know we need to (and even want to) do.

How often do you find yourself at the end of what felt like a busy day only to realize you hadn’t accomplished much at all? When was the last time you began a day intent on tackling your to-do list, but wound up frittering your time away on distractions and procrastination?

The next time you find your motivation lacking or your day getting away from you, rather than wallowing in despair or beating yourself up, give yourself a small win by completing one tiny little task. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that act as obstacles to handling the bigger things. What’s more, the feeling of accomplishment after completing even the tiniest task can be surprisingly encouraging.

Here are some examples of small wins you might aim for to give you just the boost you need to turn your day around.

Make Your Bed

You can probably make your bed in under two minutes. Remind yourself of this fact and get it done. Do it as fast as you can, let go of perfection, and bask in the success of a made bed that just made your entire room look a whole lot better.

Empty Your Sink

Are there dirty dishes sitting in your sink? Wash them or rinse them and put them into the dishwasher. This task is probably no more than a five-minute chore. When the sink is empty, give it a swipe and get it clean and shiny. A clean sink makes the kitchen feel altogether cleaner and under control.

Open Your Mail

Do you have a pile of unopened mail taunting you and causing you anxiety? Take 10 minutes to open each piece, and handle whatever it is. Chances are, a large percentage of it needs only to be shredded and put into the recycling bin. The rest may require some action that you can choose to do immediately (it’s always the best idea) or set aside to do very soon. Just having opened and sorted the mail will relieve the anxiety of not knowing what was in there, if you had missed a deadline or important notification, and reduced the volume of the pile altogether.

Get Dressed

Pause for a moment and look at what you’re wearing. Did you sleep in that? Is your hair still wet from your shower an hour ago? Are you ready for prime time if someone comes to the door or if you have to run a quick errand?

Take the time to get fully ready each day. More time at home has a way of sucking the motivation to get ready right out the window. However, when you don’t look your best or feel presentable, it can have a detrimental effect on how you approach your day, how you interact with others, and even what you’re able to accomplish in a day.

So, get up, get dressed, and smile back at that lovely person in the mirror.

Put Away Your Laundry

Do you have a pile of clean laundry waiting to reach its final destination? How long has it been sitting there? Have you been pulling from that pile for each day’s new outfit?

It’s time to get that off your couch, your floor, or your bureau, and into its rightful spot. Celebrate after each little item gets put away—the socks matched up and back in the sock drawer, the pants from last week neatly hung in the closet, your favorite pajamas in your pajama drawer, etc. One by one, diminish the pile until it has disappeared and your once occupied surface is now clean again.

Fill a Donation Bag

Take out a bag from your last grocery shopping and walk around your home with it, filling it with items you no longer need. When the bag is full, place it at your front door or in the trunk of your car to ensure that it makes its way to the local donation center. This may take 10 minutes, but you’ll feel immediately less burdened and more accomplished for having made your space a bit cleaner. Do this regularly, and you’ll begin to let go of clutter for good.

Add Easy Tasks to Your List

For some of us, the very act of checking off an item on our list brings us a disproportionate amount of joy and motivation. Add super-easy items to your checklist, like brushing your teeth, hanging up your coat, or having a glass of water. These are not too difficult to do and you’d probably do them if they weren’t on your list, but they are good for you nonetheless, and the act of checking them off may just lead you to want to check off more items.

Add Fun Tasks to Your List

You’re in charge of how you spend your time, so don’t be such a tyrant. Why not enjoy some of the items on your to-do list? Add to your list things such as having a snack, playing with the kids, taking time to yourself, or calling a friend. You’ll get the joy of checking them off and the benefit of adding joy to your day, which will keep you going through the more mundane items.

Make a Gratefulness List

Another list? Yes. Make a quick list (spend one to two minutes) each day of five things you’re grateful for. Gratitude sets your perspective straight and encourages you to live life to the fullest.

Treat Yourself Kindly

The voice in your head says more to you than anyone else, so make sure it’s not killing your motivation at every turn. Begin to take notice of the way you speak to yourself in your mind and treat yourself generally. Aim to, as psychologist Jordan Peterson puts it, “treat yourself as if you were someone that you are responsible for helping.”

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @barbaradanza