5 Ways to turn tiresome tasks into positive practices
Whether it's cleaning the bathroom, filing paperwork or planning meals, everyone has a task that they hate doing. Chores may not be difficult, or even time-consuming, but we see them as tedious jobs that we begrudge giving our time and energy to. Seeing as they're a necessary evil in life, wouldn't it be better to turn them into something more positive, to pass the time a little less painfully?
Breaking a big job down into small, doable chunks can help but it may not change how you feel about actually doing it. There may be little wiggle room to change the task itself – there aren't many different ways you can clean a toilet and, unless you pay someone else to do it for you, you're going to have to get up close and personal with the bowl eventually. However, while the task itself can't be changed you do have control over how you approach the chore, your attitude towards it. If you tell yourself you hate doing a particular job you'll believe it. You are the person who gave the task, whether it be cleaning the toilet, tidying your desk or weeding the garden, undesirable status so you are also the one who can elevate its position in your mind.
Here are 5 ways to turn tiresome tasks into positive practices:
Find the fun
What lifts your spirit and boosts your mood? Think about how you can inject elements of play into a boring chore to liven it up. Perhaps you could listen to your favourite album or comedian while you wash the car. Maybe timing how fast you can wash up or load the dishwasher could turn into a new family competitive sport. Or perhaps tuning into a podcast will turn clothes ironing into an opportunity to be inspired and spark ideas. Challenge yourself to plan as many meals as you can out of the food you already have and a set number of fresh ingredients. Give some thought to what you can add to the task to make it less serious and more enjoyable.
You can use the chore you dislike as a chance to practice mindfulness. Rather than distracting yourself with the radio or telling yourself how much you don't want to do the task, focus your thoughts on the job in hand. Pay close attention to exactly what you're doing as you pick up each toy and place it in the box or cupboard. Notice how your body feels as you bend and stretch, the weight and texture of the doll or teddy. Count the number of lego bricks or jigsaw pieces as you gather them together. Allow your mind to focus only on what you're doing, and let go of any judgement you have of the chore, as well as what else is on your to do list, what happened earlier that day and what might happen tomorrow. Concentrating on one task not only allows your mind to take a break from juggling its usual myriad of thoughts, it also enables you to complete it more quickly, as you're not distracted or trying to multi-task.
In contrast to using the chore to be mindful, you could do the opposite and let your brain wander to wherever it pleases while your body carries out the task. Opportunities to daydream are becoming rare as we have so many ways to occupy our attention. So take a task that doesn't require much concentration and let your mind drift off and meander in whatever direction it pleases. By allowing your mind this freedom you might come up with an idea or solution that proved elusive when you actively tried to think of it. One caveat to this is to be aware if your day dreaming turns into ruminating. If you find you're going over and over something that's worrying or troubling you, with no resolution, consciously let that issue go and move on to something unrelated.
List the benefits
While everyday chores may be tedious, most of them will benefit us in some way. A clean home is a more pleasant environment to be in. A vegetable patch or flower bed that's been weeded will give a greater chance of a bountiful crop. A tidy wardrobe will make it easier to find the clothes you want to wear when you're in a rush to get ready for work. Consider how completing a necessary but uninteresting task will make your or your family's life easier, less stressful, more fun or healthier. There could be all kinds of benefits lurking beneath the surface of a chore, just waiting for you to discover them, and by doing so feel more positive because of them.
Plan your reward
Whether you're able to add fun, be mindful, daydream or find a benefit in a chore or not, you can give yourself a reward to spur you on to completion. You can rate the task by how difficult it is, how boring you find it, how much time it will take and match the reward to it. Make the reward personal and applicable to you so that it presses the right motivation buttons to get you to the finish line. What works for one person won't work for someone else so think about would really feel like a reward for you, that's achievable in the time or budget you have, and make sure you carry through with it when you complete your tedious chore.
Some tasks are never going to be anything other than a chore to physically do. By adding in an element of fun, practising mindfulness, allowing ourselves to daydream, recognising the benefits or rewarding ourselves on completion (or a combination of these elements), we can alter our perception of and attitude towards the task. Turning it into more of a positive practice and less of a necessary evil.