Make Mundane Tasks More Enjoyable

>> Friday

BOREDOM MIGHT seem like a minor problem, but it is fairly widespread and a significant source of problems. Boredom is a low, debilitating state somewhat similar to depression. And because it is negative and unpleasant, it is probably not good for health or relationships.

Common responses to boredom often cause people to do all manner of stupid, self-defeating, counterproductive things. Making boring tasks less boring is a worthy goal.

Most people in most situations don't have to be stuck feeling bored, even if they are doing things they find boring. There are quite a few things a person can try to make their tasks more enjoyable. This is my list of things I've found effective:

1. Make the task more challenging. Sometimes I can simply speed up, and it makes the task more challenging (and takes less time). You can't do this with all things, but it's great for the kind of physical tasks that don't require careful movements.

Moving more quickly is just one possible way of increasing the challenge. Doing a better job, or doing the task more efficiently (less wasted movement, more organized), or listening to a lecture on CD while working all of these can add a more challenging element to a dull task.

2. Use a comparison reframe. The human mind naturally and quite automatically compares our circumstances to something else usually something better. In other words, "This task is boring compared to going out to dinner with my spouse or watching a great movie." Which is true.

But it is ALSO true that this task is really FUN compared to starving to death, running for your life in terror, or dying of some horrible disease.

Yes, you may be saying, that's certainly true, but...

And I say, "But nothing. It is true. And it is equally valid (and more justifiable) to compare your task to something much worse than to compare it with something better. And when you do, instantly the task is less irksome.

You can make a comparision reframe any time you wish, and it always works, never wears out, and (unfortunately) never lasts for long. But then again, a good meal doesn't last long either and that never stopped us from eating!

3. Make a game out of your task. Set up some kind of target. For example, let's say you're grocery shopping, which normally you find boring. This time, however, you make a game out of finding bargains. You try to get everything on your shopping list while at the same time trying to beat your record of saving money.

At the bottom of the receipt, let's say it says, "You saved $29.50." That's your best record so far. Your game is to try to beat that record. Automatically a task is less boring when it has become a game.

There is nothing inherently fascinating about running back and forth or putting a ball into a circular piece of metal. But add some rules and goals, and basketball can be very fun and not at all boring. Why? Because those rules and goals make it a game. Set some goals and boundaries for your task and see if you can make it into a game.

4. Have a strong purpose in life. With a clear, important purpose, everything in your life is less boring, including what most people consider boring chores.

When you feel you are going somewhere, and when you feel your goal is important, it casts a new and vibrant feel onto a lot more moments of your life.

You may already have an important mission but have forgotten it, or maybe you have just not thought about it in awhile. It is very common to get bogged down in (boring) details after pursuing a goal for awhile. The significance of the goal is lost in the day-to-day effort to accomplish the many steps that need to be accomplished, as well as all the other mundane but necessary tasks of maintenance and survival.

Fairly often, it is important to step back and remember what you're doing and WHY. Remember its importance. It makes a difference.

And if you don't feel you have an important purpose, finding one should now become your most important purpose, and you should pursue it with commitment. It will transform the quality of your life. No kidding.

5. Recognize your choice in the matter. Almost everything you do is actually optional. And yet almost everything you do FEELS like something you HAVE to do. And there is a huge difference emotionally between doing the exact same thing, but knowing you WANT to do it, versus feeling you HAVE to do it.

But you and the rest of our culture have done a very good job of convincing you of all the things you HAVE to have, do, or be. Yet almost none of them are really a MUST.

On the other hand, most of them are something you really would CHOOSE to do if you had to choose them over again. For example, I feel like I "have to" exercise. But I really don't. That one is pretty obvious. But I also feel like I have to own a car, so I have to maintain the car and pay the insurance, etc.

But I really don't HAVE TO have a car. I really don't. And neither do you.

However, I really WANT to have a car, and while I am thinking of it this way, the maintenance on the car doesn't seem quite so distasteful and I feel less grumbly about doing it.

This one is not a cure-all, but it helps, and it is the truth.

6. Meditate every day. Meditation is a mental-training exercise that has been associated with some religions, but the exercise itself is not religious and needs no religious associations to do it perfectly.

An enormous amount of research has been done on meditation and it is, without a doubt, one of the best things you can do for your health and sense of well-being.

But for our purposes here, it is something that can make your everyday boring tasks significantly less boring. For one thing, it calms the inner agitation, the inner feeling of impatience that is at the heart of the experience of boredom.

Another important side-effect of meditation is the simple contrast between meditation and normal everyday boring tasks. What is normally considered a boring task is much more interesting than the unbelievably boring task of sitting there with your eyes closed repeating a single word over and over. The contrast between the two is vivid. After meditating, even very boring tasks are not boring at all.

But you also get a kind of psychological training when you meditate the process trains you to find even this ultimate boring task endlessly fascinating and challenging. And that training spills over into the rest of your life.

THOSE ARE MY top five suggestions. I also suggest you choose the one that most appeals to you at the moment and really give it a good try.

3 comments:

PhD in Yogurtry 3:34 PM  

would love to see tips on getting oneself into the meditation mode. going from the hectic/busy "can't stop now" to slowing down and making meditation a part of my day. its long been a goal of mine, but i'm just too busy and too tired to make the time (tic). i know i need it. i hate the idea of slowing down (unless its zoning on the couch). gotta work on that. spend some time just being in the now. just being and breathing.

Adam Khan 5:34 PM  

I don't know how to get into a meditation mode without meditating, and meditating is simple and easy to do. You don't have to do it for a long time. You don't have to do it every day. You don't have to make an arduous chore out of it.

Try this: Just for today, without any future commitment to it, meditate for ten minutes. When you're done, you will feel more relaxed. You will be in a "meditation mode."

Adam Khan 5:15 PM  

In a recent article in InteliHealth, it said: "In a commentary to be published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in April, experts say there's a possibility that the more bored you are, the more likely you are to die early."

Read the whole article: Being Bored Could Be Bad for Your Health.

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