House & HomeMom's LifeThe KitchenWork and Passions

"It's faster just to do it myself."

by Meagan Francis on February 15, 2013

Here’s a post from the archives that seems especially relevant right now, as I’m looking around at random messes and piles that I should really tell the kids to take care of…

The dishes, not washed correctly the first time. The towels left wadded up on the floor. The toys and candy wrappers (hello, post-Valentine’s Day mess!) strewn over the table.

I really should get the kids to clean up their own messes. I know. But so often, it just seems faster and easier to do it myself. 

The thing is, that’s true…but only for today. Tomorrow I’ll have to do it myself again. And the next day and the next. I save a moment, but what do I lose?

It’s such a crippling mindset, and only hurts us in the end. It’s like the time equivalent of “pennywise and pound foolish” – minute-wise, and hour foolish.  It’s what makes me resist instructing other people to do what I usually do. It’s what makes me resist creating systems to manage things better in the future. It’s what keeps me from trying new products and new technology and keep on stumbling along using “what works” instead of taking the time to explore what might work better.

Still, it’s easy to see why we fall into that trap. When every day seems like a breathless rush from activity to activity, deadline to deadline, chore to chore, it’s hard to imagine where we’ll find the time to train the kids to properly scrub a pot or organize the closet so we can find our stuff more easily in the future. But it’s so worth it, something I realize every time I set aside the time to do so and then watch how much more smoothly things run.

The trick is slowing down so that the “urgent” doesn’t keep getting in the way of the important. We can’t properly delegate in the midst of panic. As I ramp up my work life over the next month or two, I’m going to have to set aside serious time (even if it means dropping one or two things that no longer fit) to create new systems to help me and make sure the helpers in my life really understand what I need from them. It’s a time commitment, but sometimes you have to spend time to save time.

Some tricks I’m planning to try to help:

  • Set aside certain times of the day or week for organizing, instructing, and creating new systems. It’s difficult for me to think about much besides writing on a Monday morning, but Wednesday at 3 PM might be the perfect time to take a look at what I’m doing, tweak, and instruct. If your routine is very fragmented, you might consider setting aside 10 minutes a day rather than a bigger block of time each week.
  • Do  less in general.  This is something I’m always striving for, but it can’t hurt to give myself a reminder every now and then.
  • Assess. Time for some serious reflection. What’s currently on my plate? Why is it all there? Are all of my activities in line with my priorities? Is there anything I can temporarily put on hold until I’ve freed up the time for it? Is there anything I need to let go of for good?
I don’t expect this to happen overnight. In fact, I can’t expect this to happen overnight. Delegating is a process, and if it’s done correctly, it ought to take a while. But I’m taking steps to get the help I need…starting today. Even if it would seem “faster” to do it myself.
Do you ever fall into the “It’s easier and faster to do it myself” mentality? 


Want more ideas
for creating a happier home life?

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily @ Random Recycling February 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Clearly this resonates with me ;)
I recently had to remind myself not to tell husband he didn’t go a great job of doing the dishes because he may never do them again. While I may do a better job (who are we kidding, I DO do a better job!), letting him do the dishes allows me the quiet time to read stories to my daughter. That’s what is really important and I need to remember to ask for that time whenever I can.


Alison February 16, 2013 at 7:18 am

I decided to not tell my husband ‘thank you’ for doing the dishes, taking out the trash, starting a load of laundry, etc. Simply because no one says that to me when I’ve done them. It’s expected. And, yes, if someone helps me out with various chores without being asked I am thankful, but I typically reserve that for the kids.


Tragic Sandwich February 28, 2012 at 5:50 pm

I’m not dealing with this at home a lot, because at less than two years, Baguette’s chore-completion abilities are still quite limited. But I do deal with it at work, and here’s something I’ve learned:

It’s faster to do it myself. But that doesn’t mean I should be the one doing it, or that it’s the best use of my time.

Learning that and living it, of course, are two different things.


Meagan Francis March 2, 2012 at 6:07 pm

You’re right. It’s faster, but that doesn’t mean it’s smarter. And you’re so right that it’s NOT easy to live what you know logically :)


Sharon at Momof6 February 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Guilty as charged! Just this past weekend my husband offered to clean up the kitchen while I relaxed with a glass of wine by the fire. As I took advantage of that opportunity, I watched him get all of the kids involved in loading the dishwasher, washing and drying the pots and pans, etc. And he reminded me then that I should delegate to them every night….
Yet tonight, when dinner was done, I noticed that the hour was getting late, and I sent them all upstairs to get their teeth brushed and their showers done while I cleaned up the kitchen.
When will I learn? Surely I could have held two of them back to help me in the kitchen?
I need to make a more conscious effort to do this!


Meagan Francis March 2, 2012 at 6:09 pm

My husband is better at getting the kids to do chores than I am, too! He doesn’t have the same control-freaky feeling about the house and all of its inner workings as I do. Plus, I think he tends to see the kids for what they are – capable young men – while I sometimes see them as large babies :)


Adri February 19, 2013 at 9:41 pm

OMG…that is me to a tee!!! So often I click on your Blog only to learn something from it…every..single..TIME!!


Sarah February 28, 2012 at 10:38 pm

I have also found myself saying “It’ll be easier if I just do it.” when my husband offers to do something!

Sometimes I think it will be easier, but the thing is that if I don’t give myself a break every once and a while I find myself a little more stressed out over time, and that’s not cool. So, while I may think I can do it best I know that letting others help is much easier on me!


My Little Otter February 29, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I have to remind myself on instances in the past where I stuck with something for the kids {usually enforcing something I don’t feel like enforcing} and how, one day, it finally CLICKED.

My kids could clear the table at 3 and 4. Now at 6 and 7, we’re still tackling cleaning toilets/mirrors, but I keep to it. I made myself stand in the bathroom with them yesterday while they cleaned just so I could help and give advice.


Magen February 29, 2012 at 6:47 pm

So here’s the thing. I’m actually pretty good at delegating…but my husband pointed out yesterday that as soon as I clear something off my plate I add something new! And it’s totally true. I am about to finish a huge project at my daughters school and I’ve been looking forward to a break. But then this afternoon I arranged to participate in another project with out even thinking. I need to work on doing LESS.Thanks for this reminder.


eila March 1, 2012 at 11:26 am

Oh, Magen…. I am so with you. Yesterday, I took an exciting step to get my own life in better “check”. But {drum roll} that also involved taking on another big project to get to that end goal (enrollment in an integrative health and nutrition program). I think some people are wired to be do-ers. In fact, I’d venture to guess that most of us busy moms are! I feel guilty simply using that extra half hour before the school bus arrives to read a book (even if everything around the house is “buttoned up”)…. and like you, if I finish a project, I usually have another waiting in the wings. The part of Meagan’s post that resonated most for me– and that I hope to improve upon in my own life– is to create a schedule. With young children’s need and managing my home to juggle, it can’t be too rigid. But just setting aside time to do X, will help me to feel accomplished (as a consummate do-er) and perhaps open up more blocks of time so I don’t feel guilty just take some time for me…. work in progress, that’s for sure. Posts like this one make it seem doable though!


Meagan Francis March 2, 2012 at 6:10 pm

I do agree Eila, some of us are hard-wired to be “doers.” I definitely fit that description. But part of being an effective “doer” is not doing EVERYTHING, I think. Knowing what you have to let go of so that you can take on that exciting new project.


Laura March 5, 2012 at 1:56 pm

So true. There are two things that help me remember to delegate:
1. If I do it all on my own I am too busy and it makes me grumpy. Not good for anybody.
2. I am raising my children to be responsible adults. It is easier to do it on my own but it is good for my children to learn!


Nina February 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Absolutely. I have to remind myself to pass the baton to my kid so that eventually he’ll do things himself even if at the moment it takes so much time to train him. But once he knows how to do it, I’m so grateful since that’s one less task for me to do.


Alison February 16, 2013 at 7:24 am

My biggest problem is follow up. I can ask (I should be telling) my daughter to clean the bathroom or pick all her belongings up off the stairs, but unless I stand over her shoulder it doesn’t get done. Checking back in ten minutes doesn’t work either. I am so preoccupied with my own tasks it slips my mind. I’m just not the whip cracking type…but then I will go off the handle at the end of the day when I’m left with a mess. I need a major overhaul for sure. It would make my life much easier.


Adri February 19, 2013 at 9:48 pm

My battle with being a ‘doer’ is that I like putting my hand up, but tend to do everything as I’m not one who puts their hand up and then expects people around me to do all the work. It reminds me of a story my mother told me about my grandmother (her mother in law). She used to put her hand up for all this charity work, fundraiser and community work, then call my mother and ask her to make 10 boxes of lamingtons, 60 cakes, etc etc. My mother had enough on her plate with young kids! So I tend to commit to something whether it be a project at the school etc and just do it all on my own. Housework, well, guilty as charged, I’m control freaky thinking no one does a good enough job better than I do. My kids want to do ironing and I won’t let them because I don’t think they’ll do a good enough job. That’s it, now that I’ve read this article…I’m going to let them have a go.


nicoleandmaggie February 22, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Now see, if you don’t do most chores most of the time, there’s plenty of things that the kid can do that would just get put off if the kid didn’t give it a stab. Like cleaning the six year old’s bathroom.

Additionally, many chores can be done together. If the kid is slow, it doesn’t really matter, he’s learning from doing it himself and watching you do it at the same time.


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