3 Tips For Finding The JOY In Mundane Tasks
By Dr. Karyn
Hello DK Leadership Community!
Happy New Year! I’m a big believer in stopping to write down our goals – both at work and home. I like to do it over the Christmas holidays, and as I was doing so last week, I was reminded that although the process of setting inspiring goals is an energizing experience for me, I realize this is not true for everyone, which is the point of this entire article!
A simple challenge we all face is that life is filled with many tasks that need to get done, even though they are not energizing – and in fact may be just the opposite! These tasks are frequently draining, dull, boring and honestly just exhausting for us (commuting to / from work; giving 360 feedback; grocery shopping; housekeeping, cooking, exercising etc.). Our lists may vary when it comes to WHAT we find energizing or draining: for example, some of us enjoy exercising, while others of us find it rather dull. But the principle remains the same – we can ALL learn how to find joy in tasks that are important to do, whether or not they excite us.
Now, your first response to this may be to ask, “Why is this important?” And I can think of many reasons, but the simplest answer is, “Why not?” Honestly, if you could do the same task with joy or do it with none, which would you prefer? Why would anyone choose NOT to feel joy? A second reason to think about this topic is because our moods and emotions are contagious. This is a principle of emotional intelligence. If we feel joy, we feel better about ourselves, we are more relaxed, our body language changes, we smile more, and others around you sense it and will often mirror it right back. As a manager – people will want to work harder for you when you are joyful, and as a parent – I guarantee your kids will want to be around you more! Managing our emotions – especially joy – is important. And the research supports this!
Psychology Today says that “Engaging in tasks that are monotonous or unstimulating seems to be a prime cause of boredom” and LIVE Science says that boredom has been linked to “negative outcomes, including low academic performance, high dropout rates, mistakes on the job, depression, anxiety and a lowered sense of life purpose”.
So what’s the solution? Try following these tips, and watch how they impact not only your joy, but the joy of those around you, as you share it with them!
Tip #1: Make A List & Reset Your Attitude
Take 5 minutes and brainstorm a list of tasks at work and home that need get done – but that you find dull or draining. Next, circle your top 2 tasks that you want to tackle first. I like to choose 1 for work and 1 for home. Finally, CHOOSE to reset your mind and really pay attention to your thought patterns. What are you telling yourself? Is it “I hate this job”, or is it “I’m thankful I have work”? Do you tell yourself that “I can’t stand commuting”, or is your message to yourself that “I’m so thankful I can afford a car & drive to my work”? Just by CHOOSING to reset yourself to a grateful mindset – you will feel more joy!
Tip #2: Use The “Piggyback” Technique
I figured out the power of this technique (“Piggybacking” is my name for it) years ago when I had stopped over to visit one of our cottage neighbors (who also happens to be one of Canada’s top interior designers). She would frequently encourage me to come over anytime, so that’s what I often did. This one time however, she was cleaning her cottage as I arrived, a task I think most of us would not look forward to. But what became clear to me as we visited that day was that rather than just trying to get it over with, she was doing this work in a state of joy!
Now let me backup for a moment. I’m not sure if you clean your own home – but I do. And before this day – it was always an “un-joyful” experience. I wore “work clothes” (clothes that no longer really fit, or were terribly out of style) and I was usually racing to get the unpleasant job done as fast as possible, all the time maintaining an irritated mood (I’m being honest and vulnerable here). But on this day, as I spoke to my neighbor, it was obvious to me that she was having a JOYFUL experience. She had energizing jazz music playing loudly throughout her cottage, and she was wearing a fabulous dress (stylish yet functional – a far cry from my unattractive cleaning outfits)! She also showed me the flowers she had just picked from her garden to liven up her space, and even brought out her beautiful new cleaning products that smelled fantastic! She had “Piggybacked” cleaning her home (a mundane task) with other elements that she really enjoyed and found inspiring (styling, music, flowers, fashion). The result? She was energized, joyful, and inspired – AND she got the task done!
That day changed my perspective, and a new habit was born! I started making a list of tasks that I disliked doing – and I began pairing them with things that I found inspiring. I even started sharing this simple technique with my coaching clients (many of whom became hooked on this simple technique right away)! Here are some of their examples, to inspire you:
JOY = Mundane Tasks + Things That Inspire You / Lift Your Spirit!
A Few Examples From Others…
JOY = Commuting To Work + Listening To Podcasts
JOY = Commuting To Work + Calling Your Mother, Whom You Love!
JOY = Traveling For Work + Going Early & Getting A Massage At The Airport
JOY = Waiting In Lines + Using The Time To Sort Through Pictures On iPhones
JOY = Writing Reports + Going To A Funky Coffee Shop
JOY = Grocery Shopping + Discovering A Great Farmers Market
JOY = Cooking + De-cluttering The Kitchen & Buying 2 Inspiring Cookbooks
JOY = Cooking + Signing Up For A Cooking Class With My Family
JOY = Working Out + Signing Up For A Yoga Series With 3 Close Friends
Tip #3: Share With your Friends
Once you’ve tried our “Piggybacking Technique” with a few dreary tasks, repeat Tips 1 & 2 as you go through your day, and just watch to see the positive impact it has on yourself and those around you! You will likely feel more energized and inspired, and you may even find that you are more productive! So once you have noticed the positive changes for yourself, make sure you share it with someone you know who could use a lift. It’s a great response to be able to give someone the next time they complain about a task that they simply haven’t found the joy in yet!
Personally, I love easy and simple tips that just make our lives at work and home more enjoyable – and this is one of my favorites. That’s why I shared it with you!
Your Leadership Coach