3 Science Based Reasons You Hate Your Contractor

Every year twenty eight million home improvement projects are completed in the United States and when its your turn it’ll start in the worst way possible. You have to do your own research to find a contractor because you and friends don’t know any. I mean, who keeps contractors on speed dial? There’s no way around it. So you google “contractors near me” and brace for that inevitable disappointment.

But why does finding a contractor suck so badly? According to science, there are actually reasons at play:

1. The Chemicals

You know how crossing things off your “to-do” list feels great? Like, really, really, great? That’s because it’s sort of like getting high. When you complete something, your brain starts releasing serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin regulates happiness, and it’s the same thing that floods your brain when you take drugs like ecstasy, giving you that awesome warm-and-fuzzy-I-love-everything feeling. Melatonin, which causes drowsiness, works in concert with a chemical called adenosine — also causing drowsiness — which increases throughout the day. The longer you’re awake the sleepier you get, and you can thank adenosine for that. Before you fall asleep, you feel exhausted — because you worked hard today — and that exhaustion is fulfilling to you. You fall asleep knowing you got.shit.done. and melatonin keeps you asleep so you can wake up and kick ass all over again tomorrow.

“Your body knows that completing a home improvement is stressful, so as your near project start your body prepares by releasing cortisol, orexin, and adrenaline, which are stress hormones.”

Your body knows that completing a home improvement is stressful, so as your near project start your body prepares by releasing cortisol, orexin, and adrenaline, which are stress hormones. They give you energy, that project management fight-or-flight kickstarts your body for the duration of the renovation. Your heart starts beating faster, alone with your breathing. your brain starts producing different brainwaves.

Everything changes. “It’s almost like we are different people when we are under stress” says Dr. Edward Pace-Schott, a Harvard psychiatrist.

this changes… ev’ry-thing

All of these chemicals are supposed to be released at very specific times, but your contractor doesn’t care. They constantly change project scope and budget, forcing your brain to play catch up, stress out, and pump all these hormones out at the same time.

It’s the “cocktail shaker” effect, with all these neurotransmitters and hormones bouncing around inside your body confusing you. The chemicals clash, and your drag though your project groggy and tired, a phenomenon known as…

2. Project Inertia

Coined in 1990, project inertia refers to that disoriented period between starting your renovation and actually starting your renovation. The more abruptly you learn that you have to get a project done, the worst the case of project inertia — and it is directly related to which planning stage you’re currently in. Some planning stages are easier than others, and theses are when your body wants you keep working. Somehow, miraculously, your contractor always catches you with bad news at exactly the wrong time.

Planning your renovation actually takes a lot longer than you may think. The pieces of your brain responsible for your basic physiological functions perk up almost immediately, but your decision-making and self-control pieces, like the prefrontal cortex, “take longer to come on board,” as Maria Konnikova pointed out in the New Yorker.

“Planning your renovation actually takes a lot longer than you may think.”

And she’s definitely right. When you mid-project planning, your memory suffers as well as your alertness and ability to focus, according to several studies.

What’s more, you’re only sort of planning. A recent study took homeowners that were ready to get a project completed out of their homes and brought them to a home & garden show. They strolled the aisles and spoke with contractors, a cycle “more typical of the beginning of a renovation than it’s completion, showing that these homeowners are physiologically still planning, despite having gotten up to the point where they’re ready to hire somebody for the job.”

These homeowners may have had a melatonin-hangover. The drowsiness hormone is supposed to vanish as we approach project start. It’s supposed to be replaced with those wakeful stress hormones as we near breaking ground. Instead, “the hormone typically dissipates two weeks after project completion,” as neuroscientist Kenneth Wright concluded.

3. Social Jet Lag

You’ve heard of your body’s “biological clock” before, right? It’s actually called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN for short), and it’s in your hypothalamus. It’s what helps you “maintain a sleep-wake rhythm very close to 24 hours,” as per Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

But it’s not exactly 24 hours, so it needs external cues like light to guide it. Your eye senses light and most of it is processed into images your consciously perceive, but some of it goes to your SCN, where it interacts with certain proteins. When you mix outside influences with your SCN, your get your circadian rhythms, which is what dictates when your body releases all the chemicals from section one, “The Chemicals” controlling happiness and stress.

This is you.

If you ignore your circadian rhythms because you’re a human living in 2017; because you watch HGTV as you’re falling asleep and review project quotes in bed; because you have a neighbor that’s working on their home early in the morning; if you use reminders to follow up with your contractors and find yourself tired all the time, it’s called social jet lag. It’s a measure of project timing. If your biological clock and social clock differ by an hour or more, your are socially jet lagged. You and 70 percent of the world’s population.

Social jet lag didn’t exist before technology. And that’s why it sucks so much: if there wasn’t an inert urgency to make house a home — to keep up with the Joneses — , you wouldn’t force yourself to tackle such a stressful situation before your body was ready. You wouldn’t be so rudely kidnapped from happiness.


Maybe that’s what the people at ARPANET were thinking about when they introduced the network of networks in 1983. The internet was, since basically it’s inception, “a way to communicate and connect people to information.” They were offering some respite from the pain and suffering of social jet lag. They thought they were doing the world a favor. We can’t blame them; they didn’t know it would make everything much, much worse.