rogue

Unread emails. Unwashed clothes. Not replying to texts. Why millennials can't do the simple stuff.

We each keep to-do lists. Lengthy ones. Ones that are often added to without subtracting much.

Recently, we went to visit our parents, and found a to-do list from 2008.

Nothing on it had been completed.

Do you understand?

We have a crisis of productivity when it comes to the menial yet critical tasks that make up our everyday lives. And. It. Is. Making. Us. Very. Anxious.

LISTEN: You’re probably suffering from errand paralysis. Post continues below. 

Want to hear to more?  Subscribe to Mamamia Out Loud.

Between us, the list at the moment looks like: fines that need to be paid, licenses that need to be renewed, tax that needs to be done, appointments that need to be made, bags of clothes that need to be donated to Vinnies, scripts for medication that need to be found, dogs that needs to be washed, and family members we’ve been meaning to call back for six years now.

Over the years, we’ve given our inability to complete… things… various names. Avoidance anxiety. Laziness. Once we diagnosed ourselves with adult ADHD which was not at all relevant to the problem at hand but helped in the moment.

So when we read Anne Helen Peterson’s article, ‘How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation’, we gasped in recognition when she referred to errand paralysis.

“I’d put something on my weekly to-do list,” Peterson writes, “and it’d roll over, one week to the next, haunting me for months”.

We thought it was just us and now someone else is speaking about it… publicly.

“None of these tasks were that hard,” she explains, before listing things like vacuuming her car and donating books to the library.

But then she moves onto the godforsaken subject of emails.

“A handful of emails… festered in my personal inbox, which I use as a sort of alternative to-do list, to the point that I started calling the ‘inbox of shame’.”

We don’t like to think about emails. They’re traumatising.

So, why are we so desperately incapable of doing the little things?

Somehow, we’re both managing to hold down jobs (for… now), rent an apartment, feed ourselves (sometimes badly) and generally operate in the world without breaking anything. So why is something as simple as paying our phone bill (oh… we both just had a sinking feeling in our stomach) so impossible?

ADVERTISEMENT

Peterson thinks it all comes down to burnout.

“Why can’t I get this mundane stuff done? Because I’m burned out. Why am I burned out? Because I’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time. Why have I internalized that idea? Because everything and everyone in my life has reinforced it — explicitly and implicitly — since I was young.”

We like this justification because it implies we are very busy but also important. It makes us feel like we are just doing too much which is why we’re so lazy.

And we’re not the only ones. Peterson’s argument has gone viral. Millennials everywhere feel like they’ve finally been seen. But there’s something we need to say. And it’s going to make a lot of people very mad.

Yes, we’re busy.

But… we also spend a lot of time on Instagram.

We go on… quite a lot of holidays. We had 10 hours sleep last Friday night, and sat in a dog park for no reason the other day for 45 minutes.

Are we really more burnt out that our grandparents were? Because we’re pretty sure Nana worked three jobs and raised seven kids and her errands got done because they had to.

If she were here right now, she’d be barking, “IF YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO MULL OVER ERRAND PARALYSIS THEN YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO GET YOUR SHIT DONE.”

So true, Nan. So true.

Thus, we have an alternative theory to Peterson, but don’t worry. It still positions us firmly as the victims.

We simply have no respect for our future selves.

Future Clare and Jessie are future Clare and Jessie’s problem. Put it in their basket. Present Clare and Jessie gotta check Facebook.

It’s likely a life stage that will pass, but if it’s not, then SEE YOU IN JAIL BECAUSE WE HAVE PARKING FINES LIVING SOMEWHERE IN OUR HOME OR LETTERBOX OR CAR THAT ARE EIGHT MONTHS OVERDUE.

Alternatively, we’ve been both gifted and cursed by being given more to procrastinate with than any generation before us.

But there’s one thing I’m sure we can all agree on.

Our never-ending to-do list is everyone’s fault but ours.

This story originally appeared in Mamamia’s Deep Dive newsletter, written by Clare and Jessie Stephens. You can subscribe to Deep Dive right here

00:00 / ???