There's a common routine at home where I find myself acting like a malfunctioning robot.

When we bring in packages, there's a nice big surface in the kitchen where we can open them up. Then I put the empty boxes on a smaller table next to that surface. I treat this table like a "do this on your way out" shelf. There is a door to the outside right next to this table that leads to where we keep the bins. So the next time I go out this door, I visually remind myself to grab that box on the way out.

After many repetitions of this I was growing tired of seeing those boxes looking like a stack of garbage in our home. "But it's there only temporarily," I told myself. But it's as temporary as a single rain drop while it's raining. There is always some random assortment of boxes temporarily there.

Then I wondered, "how much extra time does it really take to just take it directly to the bin each time instead?" I mean, it would be more time, but multiplied by zero to four boxes every day, how much time am I really getting back here that makes it worth it to have this eyesore?

So I timed it: 31 seconds. That includes opening and closing the sliding door behind me, putting my outdoor slip-on shoes, lifting the lid of the recycling bin, etc. "This is ridiculous," I thought in that instance, and vowed to just stop putting things on that table.

That lasted for a little while but I soon found myself saying "I'm not going to take it outside. This time it's just really not a good time." And knowing that was literally 31s of time I supposedly didn't have. Somehow in that moment, it really didn't feel like it was true any more. How did I lose my objectivity? There must be something more to this than just laziness.

Then there were occasions that I finally dragged myself to overdue tasks on my to do list. I kept pushing them because they weren't the quick ones. Fixing one of the garden stakes outside so the tree was straight was going to take too much time, so I moved to other tasks.

Wait, something happened to my objectivity again.

When I put up that stake, I watched a whole YouTube video to learn, practice, and implement making a special kind of knot that could be roped around a stake and a tree, then easily tightened later by pulling on two ends should it require later maintenance. That's exactly what this task was.

That's when I realized what was going on: My brain is trying to use units of cognitive strain to measure how much time something takes. It's not just that I don't want to do more cognitively straining tasks, I take it a step further and perceive the time that will pass as greater.

I wanted to see how far this went. Years ago I began making calendar events here and there for chores I needed to do. I didn't need the event really. I just wanted to keep track of my predictions for how long they'd take and revisit them later.

A lot of it was normal. I found I was generally a little short or a little over the time I estimated. Then I found some interesting outliers. Why am I way overestimating how long it takes to mow the lawn? Of course I don't like to do it, but I didn't like the chores I perceived accurately either.

I realized the cognitively easy task of pushing a mower was actually a cognitive strain in that I couldn't do anything else. My attention had to be fixed on obstacles the whole time and the activity inhibited me from cognitive easing activities from my other chores. When I was running out to pick up groceries, I didn't want to have to make the trip, but I could listent to music in the car, amuse myself with what else I could buy.

How can we get our objectivity back? Timeboxing is a tried and true method for productivity in general.