How to Make Tedious Tasks Enjoyable

One of the household chores my parents assigned to me growing up was cleaning dinner dishes. It felt compulsory and as a result I would avoid it.

As I got older and did the dishes more often, I actually relized that I often enjoy washing dishes. It’s theraputic—feeling the warm water on my hands and watching as dirty plates come clean feels good.

The same goes for cleaning in general. When I am busy I often neglect tidying up, but cleaning and organizing my physical space is actually quite enjoyable.

Whether it’s cleaning, cooking, or making anything it is tempting to fixate on the end result. To feel that the process is a burden and wish for the end result (like clean dishes) without the work. But when you are actually present almost any activity can be deeply fuffilling. Everything from tie-ing your shoes, to cooking dinner, to washing the dishes can be an enjoyable activity if you stop fixating on having it done and just get lost in the doing.

There are very few activities that are objectively unpleasant. I once had to dig out a broken septic tank at my summer job, and I can say 100% that was unpleasant. But there were many other jobs there like picking up rocks, planting grape vines, and stripping plants of leaves that on the surface look tedious but were quite enjoyable if you just stuck with it.

When you have a task that will take a while, and you would prefer not to do it, the tempation can be to mentally escape. To put your mind on other things and fixate on being finished. A interesting podcast can be a great distraction during tasks like this, but often the unenjoyable task gets worse when you are fixated on finishing. Time stretches on and the it becomes almost torturous.

Almost any task will become unbearable if you are dreaming of being finished, but almost any task is enjoyable if you are present and doing it well.

It’s counter intuitive, but a lot of less enjoyable work, becomes more enjoyable the more you devote to it.

The next time you have a task to do that you don’t want to do, instead of mentally trying to escape, pay more attention to it. Pay attention to the smallest details. When you’re doing the dishes, notice the way the water feels on your hands and the plates feel under your fingers. When you’re writing a blog post you’re resisting, notice the sounds of the keys clicking as characters spill out on the page.

Instead of thinking of the finish and being somewhere else, be more present with the task. Pay more attention and see how the things that you though you didn’t enjoy become pleasant and pleasurable.

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