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CONTROL CHIC: Tackling small tasks helps people to regain control during the pandemic

New research from the Current Account Switch Service shows people are finding a regained sense of satisfaction when completing minor tasks but are still delaying important decisions for too long

  • Recently, young millennials in particular have felt their control on their lives slipping with two-thirds (65%) saying they feel less in control than they did a year ago
  • Four in ten people (43%) saying completing small tasks helps them regain that sense of control
  • Changing banks accounts (159 days), cleaning windows (117 days) and mowing the lawn (104 days) are some of the tasks put off the longest
  • Kate Nightingale, consumer psychologist, has developed new advice on small changes you can make to help you feel more in control
  • Jo Ainsley, Senior Manager of the Current Account Switch Service looks at why this is the time to check if your bank account is still the right one for you.

Over the last year, some of us have slipped into some bad habits; not washing windows, not keeping the house clean, not keeping up with our finances. Today, new research* from the Current Account Switch Service shows that four in ten of us say that completing small tasks helps us to feel more in control.

Jo Ainsley, from the Current Account Switch Service asks if it’s time we took back control and looked again if our bank account is the right one for us. The Current Account Switch Service has also partnered with consumer psychologist Kate Nightingale, and developed a series of tips to help people bring more order to their lives.

To complement that feeling of control, this new animation, designed specifically for the Current Account Switch Service visualise these points.

Dealing with life admin can be a pain so it’s understandable small life chores can end up being delayed. Four out of ten (43%) say they’ve felt less in control of their lives during the pandemic but have been able to regain a level of control by ticking small chores off their to-do lists.

The Current Account Switch Service is designed to help people switch to a bank account that suits their needs, helping them on their way to feeling more in control of their finances. But some people don’t switch even if they know it would benefit them.

That is because financial tasks are the ones people put off the longest, with checking the suitability of their bank account put off the longest, at almost half a year (159 days). Reviewing utility suppliers like gas or electricity found itself on the backburner for a period of 128 days and claiming back work expenses was de-prioritised by 84 days.

With over a third (38%) of people citing boredom and lethargy as a hindrance, many people are missing out on the opportunity to upgrade their finances so that their current account better meets their needs.

It’s not just money, though. The research by the Current Account Switch Service shows that while people have been confined to their homes in lockdown, tasks such as mowing the lawn have been put off for as long as 104 days and cleaning their windows delayed for up to 117 days.

Inside the home, the research suggests that we have deferred tidying out the ‘junk/bits and bobs drawer’ for almost 150 days after we’d planned to.

To support control-chic theme the Current Account Switch Service has produced a short film that shows how a switch can help people reclaim control.

Jo Ainsley, Senior Service Lines Manager at Pay.UK, owner and operator of the Current Account Switch Service, said:

“I think it’s fair to say that over the course of the past year everyone has, to some degree, experienced a loss of control in their life. It’s fascinating to see that the everyday tasks, particularly financial ones, that we often take for granted, can help us regain an element of control and make us feel better.

“The Current Account Switch Service is a simple and stress-free way to switch your current account to one that better meets your needs. As this research shows, switching offers the control we all can benefit from during this uncertain time. We want this research to show people why it is so important to remain on top of financial admin – people waiting nearly half a year to review current account providers could mean they’re missing out of a wealth of benefits. Our mission is and remains making customers aware and increasing financial empowerment.”

The Current Account Switch Service has teamed up with consumer psychologist Kate Nightingale who explains how tasks that seem menial can be interpreted as small wins, ultimately making a huge difference to how we feel about ourselves.

Kate Nightingale commented:

“A sense of control is crucial to our overall wellbeing, yet restrictions over the last year have denied that feeling for many of us. Turning to everyday tasks, such as household admin or personal finance tasks, can help regain that sense of control by making us feel like we’ve achieved something.

“This is because completing the small tasks on our to do lists releases dopamine, a reward neurotransmitter, which increases motivation to achieve more. Task completion, such as doing your monthly financial plan, also gives us more belief and trust in our abilities, which in turn enhances our motivation and perseverance.”


  1. Combine chores with things you enjoy – Doing things we enjoy makes us better at completing tasks, because we naturally avoid things we don’t want to do. So, the best way to get through your to-do list can be to combine it with something you like doing to trick your mind into thinking you are doing something fun rather than an unpleasant chore. For example, if you’re paying bills, why not combine it with an at-home beauty treatment?
  2. Record your successes – Remembering and noting down our recent successes increases our overall sense of control and can therefore make us perform future tasks to a higher standard. If your to-do list is piling up and you’re feeling overwhelmed, I’d suggest starting the day by writing a ‘success list’ of every ‘small win’ you achieved last week, and why not make it a weekly habit?
  3. “Superman pose” - Standing in a superman pose (hands on hips, chin held up high!) for a few minutes has been shown to affect our confidence and therefore make us perform tasks to a higher standard. This is called ‘embodied cognition’, which stipulates that certain body positions activate subconscious associations in our brain, which in turn impact on our thoughts and feelings. So, why not try it out before one of those dreaded tasks and see if you feel more powerful?
  4. Small interventions – Our brains hate conflict and adore consistency, so if you have a habit you want to change (for example taking the bins out more regularly) you should introduce ‘good triggers’ into your environment (such as a reminder sticky note by your front door). This ‘good trigger’ will remind you of the habit you want to implement, and your brain’s instinct will be to influence you to stick to your promise. The more often your brain registers the sticky note by the door, you more likely you will be to keep taking the bins out!
  5. Split it – Splitting large tasks is the best way to approach our to-do lists, as a lot of people have difficulty self-regulating their behaviour on bigger goals. The rush of dopamine and sense of satisfaction gained from completing one smaller step gives us motivation to continue to the next, making it easier to complete the whole task. For example, splitting your chores throughout the week, such as hoovering on Monday, weekly shopping on Tuesday and so forth, will give you the ‘psychological fuel’ to get through a vast to-do list.
  6. Pat yourself on the back – Taking a step back to celebrate the progress made on a task increases our sense of ownership over our own success, which therefore further enhances our agency and self-efficacy, ultimately making us feel more in control. For example, saying to yourself ‘I did this, well done me!’ after cleaning out the fridge might give you the motivation for a task you’ve being putting off, such as reviewing your finances
  7. Introduce a simple daily and/or weekly routine – Choosing a routine and sticking to it makes us feel proud, in turn increasing our motivation to complete other tasks on our to-do lists. Rituals could be as simple as taking a 20-minute walk, checking your bank account, or making a plan for the following week
  8. Set the mood – Entering a task with positive emotions makes us perform better and feel more satisfied afterwards. This is because positive emotions are contagious so can change our attitudes, as well as making us feel more optimistic and hopeful, which in turn makes success seem more achievable. Why not shake up your mood before a task like doing the hoovering by putting on your favourite song first and see what happens?
  9. Set your budget and stick to it – Setting a budget allows us to exercise self-regulation, which in turn impacts our agency and therefore increases our sense of control. Sticking to our own standards of spending not only evokes pride and satisfaction, but also empowers us and allows us to feel more in charge. This in turn makes it easier to achieve any other goals or take up to-do list chores we’ve been putting off
  10. Celebrate, Acknowledge, Reward (CAR) – This 3-step process is a tried and tested method we should use after completing any difficult task to help motivate ourselves for future tasks. Celebration enhances our sense of satisfaction from achieving a goal, acknowledgment ensures we attribute the success of the task to our own abilities and effort, and rewarding ourselves activates dopamine which means we think of the task with positive associations for next time. The three steps should be directly proportional to the difficulty of the task, so the celebration can range from a jump of joy to treating yourself to a weekend away!

*The research was carried out by Mortar Research which conducted a survey among 2,120 respondents across the UK. The research was conducted online in March 2021.