Important Life Lessons from the Machine that Sucks Dirt Off My Floor.
One of my best middle-of-the-night purchases was a robot vacuum.
I had been contemplating purchasing one for a while, so it wasn’t exactly spur-of-the-moment, but looking at the dog hair on the carpet late one night convinced me that it was worth a try.
If you haven’t seen them, the robot vacuum is a handy little self-propelled machine the size of large pizza that cleans your floors.
It’s no muss, not fuss — all you have to do is program it and periodically empty the tray. The robot vacuum is fully programmable — it starts, stops and recharges automatically. If it gets stuck or the tray is full it will give you helpful warning beeps but otherwise it just does its thing.
Because I have an innate need to anthropomorphize things, I named the robot vacuum Reggie. Reggie the Robot. I know, I’m super creative.
At first, she acted like I was crazy, but I have even got my roommate calling it Reggie now. “Where’s Reggie?” she will ask if she doesn’t see him wandering around cleaning. The other night she came out of the bathroom and I heard her say, “Oh hi Reggie.”
Reggie may be a machine, but he exemplifies some important life lessons for all of us.
Never Give Up.
Reggie can be determined. A little stubborn even. When he runs into a corner or gets trapped under the couch, he keeps turning and moving until he finds a way out to freedom. If he runs into an obstacle going in one direction, he adapts and tries another.
He doesn’t upset, he just keeps persevering.
It’s a good reminder that we often run into obstacles, but sometimes we just need a different perspective. Looking at a problem another way can make all the difference in finding a solution.
Psychologists point out that how you perceive obstacles can impact your ability to address them. Like Reggie, keeping your emotions out of it can help you address challenges more logically and effectively.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy offers a method called STOP that can be helpful when you hit a roadblock. STOP stands for “Stop, Take a step back, Observe, and Proceed mindfully”.
This technique can be a good way to take your emotions out of the picture and think about the problem in a more neutral way as if someone else was facing it.
You don’t have to give up, just change your perspective and try something different. We’ve all had the experience of being “stuck” on something. When we distract ourselves or take a different approach it can make all the difference.
Keep to a Consistent Schedule.
Reggie wakes up every night at 6:55 p.m. — mostly because I couldn’t get the remote to land at a 7:00 p.m. wake-up, but that’s totally user error. He moves through the same rooms of the house, keeping the same speed, until 8:25 p.m. when he starts heading for his charger.
His workday is short but effective. When he works, he works. When he’s not working, he’s not working. He doesn’t work overtime or vary from his schedule.
Humans, like robot vacuums, like consistency and routine. Keeping a balance of scheduled time for work, rest, and leisure is the key to good mental and physical health.
A consistent schedule is even more important now when many of us are working from home. The lines between work and home are more blurred than ever.
Sticking with a daily routine can reduce your stress levels and improve your mental and physical health. An important part of maintaining a routine is reducing decision fatigue.
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study that found that every time you make a decision, you add stress. Creating a regular flow of your day and routinizing things like meals and daily habits will be beneficial.
You don’t have to schedule every second of every day, but setting boundaries on your day can really make a difference — for you and for your family. Don’t forget to schedule some “me” time.
Take Time to Recharge.
The robot vacuum is programmed to head back to his charger as soon as his batteries are drained. He returns to the dock and with a little beep, Reggie rests as he recharges his battery.
How often do we continue to work and press on even after our human batteries are drained? Taking time to rest is important for us all.
Mental Health America identifies sleep, relaxation and exercise as the three main keys for keeping yourself healthy and dealing effectively with stress.
Experts recommend that adults get 7–8 hours of sleep each night, and quality of sleep is almost as important as quantity. It’s a good time to overhaul your sleep hygiene, recommit to a bedtime schedule, and give your bed a little update to make it more comfortable.
While there’s no set recommendation for how much you should relax, you should definitely find some time to relax every single day. Whether it’s yoga, meditation, listening to music, enjoying hobbies, or even taking a hot bath, relaxation helps release stress, decrease pain, and improve mood.
Another stress reliever? Exercise. You’ve heard this before: experts recommend that you get some exercise most days. A mixture of aerobic exercise, like cardio, and strength training will provide the best benefits.
Ask for Help When You Need It.
When Reggie needs help he doesn’t hesitate to ask for it. He’s not ashamed to seek outside assistance.
After he’s exhausted his known solutions, Reggie sends out a signal to let me know he’s in trouble. When I hear his beeps I know that he is stuck somewhere, something is trapped in his rollers, or his collection bin is full.
Asking for help can be difficult for most of us. In many cultures, we are raised to be rugged individualists who are self-reliant. But sometimes we can all use a little help, whether it’s from a friend, family member, mentor, or outside expert.
There are benefits to seeking assistance when needed, including developing new skills, creating empathy, and increasing connection with others. Asking for help also can benefit the person who’s assisting — we all like to be needed and feel useful.
M. Nora Bouchard, an executive leadership coach and the author of “Mayday! Asking for Help in Times of Need” says that people often hesitate to ask for help because they don’t want to give up control, appear needy, or be rejected.
She suggests keeping framing your need as a conversation about a difficulty instead of an outright request — often people will step forward to help without you asking.
Other tips including keeping your requests manageable, building a support team, and making sure that you reciprocate when someone else is in need.
There’s no shame in needing help sometimes — we all do. Just be sure to ask for help before your problem gets to a crisis point.
Cleanliness Reduces Stress
Reggie is a surprisingly effective appliance for day-to-day cleaning.
I have a dog who sheds more than you would ever think one animal could shed, and I used to vacuum all the time. Now, I let Reggie handle the day-to-day work and I do a “big vacuum” with the upright every five to seven days.
Clutter and mess can be damaging psychologically. It increases our sense of overwhelm. Conversely, addressing your clutter can make you feel better.
In a survey of 2,000 adults conducted by OfferUp, they found that 61% of Americans report feeling less stress after tidying up and 54% of people report feeling relaxed after cleaning.
You don’t have to have floors you can eat off of, but a few minutes of daily tidying can make a big difference. Make your bed. Put dirty dishes right into the dishwasher. Wipe up the sink. Pick up your dirty clothes. It can all make a difference in how you feel about your environment — and your life.
My recommendation? Get yourself a robot vacuum. Reggie has made a big difference in my life, and he will help you too.