By Crabby McSlacker
It's not exactly a shocking confession: I am a foot-dragging, excuse-making, pathetic, whiny chore-hater.
So the title question "How Do You Make Chores Fun?" is not just a rhetorical question. I'd really like some advice!
And yeah, I have some tricks that I use that help a lot that I'll pass along, and I've gotten way less lazy and petulant than I used to be. But I still dread most forms of manual or clerical labor and make a huge melodramatic production out of it when I'm forced to do any.
A brief search of the interwebs was not much help: I kept finding pretty much the same small handful of ideas I'd already "invented" myself.
So I'm hoping someone has some thoughts?
Why Are Chores So Hateful?
Given that I often seek out various forms of exercise, it doesn't really make sense that exercise that is actually productive should spark temper tantrums and endless piteous sighs and moans.
My suspicion: the problem isn't the work involved, it's the screwed-up brain contemplating the work that has the problem.
For example, consider the scenario where this Specially Engineered Functional Fitness Apparatus appeared one day at my gym. But pretend it was a shiny pretty aqua color and you had to sign up to use it because it was so popular.
Same activities--different meanings. Because I'd totally sign up!
It's sort of like the interesting study Dr. J at Calorie Lab brought up recently: pre-schoolers who are told vegetables are good for them tend to hate vegetables even more as a result, because their immature brains can't conceive that something can be good for you and likeable at the same time.
Sigh. I apparently have the brain of a truculent toddler when it comes to chores. Thus most of the "Hate Chores Less" Tips that work for me involve changing how I think about them.
1. Make it a Game
There are actually apps designed for this, like choremonster, though they seemed mostly aimed at kids and family task delegation.
But there is also an interesting article over at Annie Murphy Paul's site that talks about what makes an activity interesting (or not) to your brain, with implications for how to gamify tedious chores. Apparently, your brain likes a task that you are pretty darn good at, but not perfect. It doesn't like to be overwhelmed, but it doesn't like things to be too routine and simple either. So if you can tweak your chore to provide just the right amount of difficulty you can manipulate your interest level. Many chores involve some sort of speed/accuracy trade-off, so you may be able to play with this.
Start with the smallest, simplest piece that you can do and still get right 80 percent of the time. Keep practicing until you’re consistently getting close to 100 percent right and starting to feel a little bored. Then raise the bar. Add difficulty, complexity, speed.So if you can fiddle with the way you approach the speed and complexity of the elements of your task, and then add an element of competition (either with yourself or some imaginary or real competitors), you can trick your brain into finding a different meaning in your activity. You are not doing some necessary and annoying bit of drudgery, you are trying to WIN at a "game" and become ever more awesome in your mastery of your universe!
So yeah, see if you can break your chore into rounds and time yourself.
While simultaneously trying to minimize any errors inherent in the task. (Note: don't be an idiot: if you are clambering up and teetering around on a shaky ladder cleaning the gutters of a 3 story building, "errors" due to excessive speed could be most unpleasant).
2. Practice Mindfulness/Cognitive Reframing and Give Yourself Major Credit!
Often, the mental torture we endure when embarking on endless thankless chores is self-induced. Few of these activities are physically painful, and if we were able to just "be" with them instead of fighting against them we wouldn't be nearly so miserable.
So again, the chores become a game, but the "game" this time becomes catching our screwed-up thoughts and taming them. This can be done by consciously reframing them, or by not engaging with them and returning our attention to our present physical sensations and anything that might be reasonably pleasant or redeeming about them. (Colors, textures etc). Bonus: "winning" at this particular game is one of the Ultimate Secrets of Lifelong Happiness, so it's worth playing whenever you can remember to.
For example, anyone but me ever have thoughts like:
"I've only just started and I have so much to do! I'll never be done with this!"
"I shouldn't have to do this at all, someone else should be doing it!"
"Why can other people do this quickly and easily when I'm so slow and crappy at it?"
"There are a hundred other things I should be getting done now, why am I so behind on everything?"
If you made a conscious, reasonable decision to do this task, then these thoughts are not your friends. Don't continue to hang out with them. You can find better mental companions and get self-improvement "credit" at the same time!
3. Music Makes Any Sucky Task Much Better
Or educational podcasts or stand up comedy routines or erotic vampire/zombie fiction or whatever else might be mind-candy while your body is otherwise occupied.
4. Break it Down and Switch it Around
Some people hate to start and stop things, and prefer to immerse themselves in a single task for hours at a time.
But others of us have shorter attention spans. I find sometimes it helps to mix it up--think of it as a "circuit" chore-workout and move from station to station. This is especially true when something is mentally challenging or odious. It can help to switch from physical to mental tasks, depending on what sounds the least loathsome.
As I mentioned before, sometimes the Ten Minute Trick to Tackling Hideous Tasks can be quite useful, and can even make this...
...suddenly look like a refreshing break rather than a pain in the ass.
5. Reward Yourself!
Enough of this...
And it's time for...
...whatever anti-oxidant filled nutritious reward your body would appreciate.
[Oh, and btw, after a chore-filled week as we transition to our summer digs, I am now rewarding myself and tagging along with the Lobster on one of her business trips.
This may, unfortunately, mean more crappy camera-phone shots and yet more tedious tales involving health/fitness challenges on the road. And I may eagerly read comments yet still be lame about how often I reply to them for a few more days.]
How do you guys approach chores? Any advice?