Finding Zen in the Tedium
As often happens, I was recently talking about my son and his attitude regarding chores. Doing the thing parents do, commiserating and getting advice from another parent who’s been through it, Leon shared what his family does for chores. As you may know, the two of us are talkers…. which means this led to a whole discussion about what chores are palatable, or even enjoyable, and what chores you would happily pay anyone else to do. So, I started thinking about WHY we enjoy those chores, and they’re different for each of us. For my son, it’s weed eating. For me, it’s vacuuming. My sister really gets into mowing and prefers a push mower. For all of us, these tasks free our brains (more or less) for other pursuits. Sometimes it’s an audio book or music and dancing while performing the chore, and sometimes it’s using the time to zone out, internally philosophize, or analyze some other issue.
So, what’s my point? My point is we have “chores” or tedious tasks in our work, too. Instead of complaining about that task, trying to avoid it, putting it off, etc., use the time to let your brain loose on something else. You know those tasks where your brain goes on autopilot? Maybe it’s pesky administrative work like updating tickets, adding notes for other technicians, writing an update email, or something else. Those tasks don’t challenge you, don’t push for a creative answer, or even provoke mild interest. Those things still have to get done, whether we want to do them or not.
Some things DO challenge us and/or require some creativity. Those are the things we get excited for. Sometimes we’re so excited that we don’t want to work on anything else until the problem is solved, challenging script is written (and working!), or it’s complete to our satisfaction. Those are the things we love to work for. Even when it’s just challenging, and not fun, we get satisfaction out of meeting the challenge and succeeding.
So, those tedious tasks you have to do anyway? That interrupt the fun or challenging parts of work? Let your brain wander a little while it’s going on. Give your brain a little free rein to multitask and think through a challenge. Talk aloud or play music during those tedious tasks if it helps. Don’t let the tedious task suffer as a result (that’s key!). Sometimes, though those quiet moments of tedium can really help get a new perspective on another issue.
When I was in school still, I would use chore time to ponder on some difficult homework, at times. Or use it to think critically about some literature I had read for school (I was a member of the Literary Criticism UIL team, so I practiced a lot.) To this day, I use chore time at home to think through things I’m struggling with, from how I want to tackle a kid challenge to a speaking event that’s making me crazy. I find the sort of half-focus during those times changes the way I perceive the problems. It keeps me from focusing too hard and over-analyzing. I encourage you to find your Zen in the tedium as well.