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The tools and knowledge for productivity. Les outils et connaissances pour la productivité.


Psychological productivity tactic: turn on your household machines or robots to motivate yourself to get started on your own tasks


Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The next time you’re at home and need some motivation to start working on whatever tasks you have ahead of you, try this trick: begin by turning on a household machine / robot and then start working on your tasks. Knowing and witnessing household chores getting done in your home might just provide you with the boost you need to get a good productive streak started.

How this works

There are three concepts at work here. The first is that the action of starting various household robots gives you an easily accomplished task to begin with (e.g., Item #1 on to-do list: load and start dishwasher), which then gives you momentum to keep going and move onto the next item on your to-do list. Second, being aware of these various robots performing their work and hearing the background noise they generate provides an ongoing motivating effect: you feel like there’s a team getting things done, that there’s some sort of productive energy at work in the house (which is technically true: both robots and biological creatures expend energy to perform their tasks). Just after I start the washing machine or dishwasher and then sit down at my desk, I often find myself thinking “with these machines already at work, I will have accomplished so much more in an hour from now,” and my robot won’t stop until its task is complete and neither will I.” Third, there is the added bonus that some of these robots, such as the washing machine, need you to tend to them after a certain time, so you end up needing to take one or several short breaks throughout your day. A new work-break cycle can then start once you set another robot to work, such as the dryer.

This is a tactic I first heard about a while back on an episode of the Cortex podcast (I forgot which episode; hopefully someone remembers and they can send me a quick message so I can directly link to it here). I’ve also seen other people mention this tactic on various websites (such as the r/productivity subreddit), so I know I’m not the only person who has found it useful. It’s a bit of a bizarre trick, in that it seems mostly effective if you are able to somewhat anthropomorphize the robots in your house. Thankfully, this will only get easier for us all, as robotics and AI companies are pouring serious resources into making their products seem more and more human.


Here’s a short list of some robots / machines who can work alongside you while you’re at home

These first few machines / robots are the most common. They typically require you to turn them on but they then need you to tend to them after they’ve completed a cycle of work.

  • Dishwasher

  • Washing machine

  • Clothes dryer

  • Oven

  • Slow cooker

  • A microwave cleaner (the microwave is the robot doing the actual work here)

These next few machines are usually autonomous. In order to obtain the benefits of the tactic proposed in this article, you would want to program them to go to work while you’re also at home.

There are also newer robots which are semi-autonomous: you will need you to place them in their area of work and it’s probably a good idea not to get too far for safety reasons or in case they get stuck. These are excellent robots to get the productivity boost we’re looking for, if you have a task you can complete while you remain nearby (such as work to complete on your laptop or another household chore which can be accomplished nearby).

Finally, there are also automated tasks you can have running on your technology devices (desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, etc.). Though these processes are unlikely to produce any background noise unless they’re equipped with spinning hard drive disks or have particularly loud fans, you’ll still know that your devices are hard at work alongside you. If you plan on getting work done on a device (such as a laptop), it’s probably not a great idea to run any of these processes at the same time – as they can slow your device down and distract you – but you can recruit the other devices in your home into your team of robotic workmates.

  • Install or download new software, media, updates, games, etc.

  • Create file backups (cloud, disc, USB drive, portable hard-drive, another device)

  • Run a virus scan

  • Defrag and optimize your drive(s)