Each time I look at my desk my conscience rumbles and a quiet sigh passes my lips. I know it needs some serious cleaning and tidying up, but I just don’t feel like it. Besides, what’s the use of putting in all those tedious minutes if after two days all the order has fallen back into chaos again? I know it’s just my lazy mind speaking and that I always feel much better when my desk is neat and tidy, but I guess not doing what one is supposed to do is just one of those perks of being human.
And I know I’m not alone here. A stack of piled-up dishes, a dusty attic full of old rubbish or a shed badly in need of paint are familiar sights to many a household. They are the silent reminders of our fun-loving, duty-eschewing nature. And let’s face it, it’s not the end of the world to have, say, an unkempt garden. But on the other hand, wouldn’t it be great if we could take all the loathing out and do the things we simply have to do with joy and enthusiasm? Yes, you can have a clean desk and a beautiful garden every day. Here’s three different approaches to getting those tedious jobs done:
1. The Mary Poppins Approach
Don’t hate it, love it! Instead of wallowing in a sense of dread, try to convince yourself the job at hand is actually fun. Mary Poppins was a master of this art. “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun,” she cheerfully exclaimed. Often that sense of dread exists only in our head (I know it sounds like another Mary Poppins slogan, but this one is actually mine), so we just have to tell ourselves it is something we enjoy doing. The trick is to really believe it. So think ‘fun, fun, fun’ and throw yourself heart and soul into the activity. You may find it will really be enjoyable, or at least not the ordeal you thought it to be. And before you know it, it’s all done! In Mary Poppins’ words: “Every job you undertake, becomes a piece of cake.”
2. The Zen Approach
One reason why we don’t like doing certain things is that we are all the time thinking of all the things we might be doing instead. According to our mind the grass is always greener in the neighbour’s garden. So when we are cleaning the house, we think about watching TV and when we are watching TV we think about cleaning the house. A famous zen proverb says, ‘When walking, walk. When eating, eat.’ Try this approach for all those so-called tedious jobs. When you clean the house, try to think only of cleaning the house (likewise, when you are watching TV, really enjoy watching TV!). Whatever it is you are doing, do it with your full attention and focus. Feel the dishwater on your hands, be conscious of the texture of the pots and pans and focus fully on the rubbing of the dish brush. Your work itself will become a meditation. To your wide surprise, at the end you will feel energized and refreshed, instead of numbed and dulled.
3. The Old-Fashioned Approach
If all else fails, and you can’t turn that little switch in your mind, try the approach your mother used on you when you were still a kid. ‘You can watch TV only after you do your homework,’ she used to tell you. Even though doing homework never really became fun, at least it was done, and you could watch the A-Team. Why not employ that tried and tested method again? Be your own parent and sternly tell yourself that only if you mow the lawn/clean the aquarium/walk the dog, you’ve earned yourself an hour TV time/a piece of cheesecake/a new pair of shoes. Ideally the reward should match up to the tediousness of the task, so be prepared to clean quite a few aquariums for that new pair of shoes.