To-do a different approach

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During the day we do a lot of activities: some of them are entertaining, challenging and make us enthusiastic, others on the other hand are either boring or not entertaining and so we usually do them against our will. Most of these activities anyway are in our to-do lists and so there is no way we can skip them. For example we have to wash the dishes, to clear out our house and to the laundry even though we would do everything rather than wasting our time doing these things. What is even worse is the fact that most of the times the tasks we don’t appreciate are the ones we have to do daily or at least 3-4 times a week and this makes us even more frustrated.

However, the way we feel about a particular task is given mainly by the way we approach it rather than by the task itself. When something is “boring” it’s because we have defined it as boring in our mind, when something is “too hard” it’s because we have never done it before and so we have fear of failure. All the actions we don’t like are the ones we have decided, either consciously or unconsciously, that we don’t like to do. Yes, our mind judges every activity and this judgement highly affects the way we live. Anyway the way we look at things can be changed, by influencing our thoughts boring activities can become acceptable, impossible ones can become hard, easy ones can turn out to be essentials and so on.

Common reasons we don’t like certain activities

In order to change the way we look at our activities we have to first understand the reasons behind our natural desire to get rid of some of them. The simple answer “I don’t like doing this” doesn’t help you in the process of changing your point of view toward any particular task. When you say that you don’t like doing something without stating any particular reason you simply get stuck and can’t move further. Instead when you identify the reason that prevent you from appreciating a certain activity you can analyse it and find some ways to change your viewpoint. So let’s see the most common reasons we don’t like doing certain activities:

  1. Repetitiveness. It’s very common that in the long run we get annoyed by activities we have to do every day, like for example cleaning the dishes, going to work, studying. Most of the times as we keep doing this activities for days and days we gradually forget the reason why we are supposed to do them and therefore we develop a sense of frustration and disappointment;
  2. Boredom. This is usually referred to the activities we consider either too easy or senseless. If we don’t value a task as interesting or challenging we will probably associate it with feelings of nuisance and unwillingness. If we manage to change the way we approach this kind of activities we can also get rid of the sense of boredom that they give us;
  3. Fear of success. When we consider something as too hard for ourselves we do everything we can in order to avoid doing it. What really stops us is not the task, but our mind. The approach should be exactly the opposite: skills are developed only by means of practice and so we should be really enthusiastic when we undertake a new kind of task;
  4. No revenue. Sometimes we have the idea that we get absolutely nothing from doing certain activities, that no one would care whether they get done or not. For example you could think there is no reason to stay 20 minutes more at work if you aren’t paid for it, or that watering the plants is just a waste of time. But this is just a limited point of view. Sometimes the revenue we get from doing something that seems senseless is far beyond money or appreciation from others;
  5. Someone else should do this. This one is probably the most irritating one. We are really frustrated when we have to do someone else’s work. In our mind the idea that anyone has his own duties is so ingrained that we could even start a very though discussion just because we don’t want to do a 5 min task that we think is not up to us. Be compassionate with other people rather than aggressive, a little task won’t kill you. If you are willing to do something for others, they will probably help you too.

Building a New Approach

Understanding the reasons behind our desire to skip certain activities is a great starting point, but it’s not what we are aiming for. Even if you realise that you don’t like to cut the grass because you have to do it every weekend, this doesn’t mean that from now on you will suddenly change your mind and love doing it. Once you have realised why you don’t like doing something you have to move further and try to change your mental approach toward it. The place where you are supposed to act is your own mind. In fact, as I stated at the beginning of this post, the real reason behind our disappointment, frustration and nuisance lies in the mind rather that in the action and therefore only by changing the way we perceive a certain activity we will be able to make it more pleasant. If you just try to fool yourself by telling you that the action is really entertaining and that you are excited by the idea of doing it you will get absolutely nothing. What you need to do instead is to comprehend that all the negative thoughts that you associate with an activity are false, and that only by actually doing the activity you will get rid of them. Facing this concept might be quite complicated but try to think about your life and you will probably realise that this is true. For example, if you have to drive for 400 km you might feel overwhelmed and frustrated at the beginning but as soon as you start driving you will most probably be so much focused on the activity of driving that you will eventually forget about your anxieties. And this goes for almost everything.

If you want to try this new approach, based on acting rather than thinking on what we don’t like about our tasks, you can start right now by just following the following 4 steps.

  1. Be aware: Understand the reason that makes you do the action, realise the what you will get by doing it and what you will lose if you don’t. Be honest with yourself, don’t overestimate the advantages nor the disadvantages of doing the task. If you find out that you have no reason to do something just don’t do it, but don’t rush into any decision. You might be tempted to think that most of your to-do tasks are useless but they aren’t: you go to work because you need money ( you can change work if you want but you can’t live without any source of income), you clear out your house because you want to live in a comfortable place, etc..
  2. Start as soon as possible: procrastination is your worst enemy, the more you wait the more you will be disappointed by the activity and the idea of doing it. The more you think about what you have to do, the more you will get frustrated. The more you think that you aren’t capable of doing something the more you will be frightened by it. But as soon as you start you wipe away all of your fears and all your reasoning upon the action becomes reasonless;
  3. Focus on the activity itself: When you start doing your action forget about everything else. It’s just you and your action. Be aware of what you are doing, recognise your feelings. Care about nothing but the quality of you work, become just an entity doing that activity and nothing else. Don’t put the autopilot, try to do any activity the best way possible;
  4. Appreciate the result of your work: realise that doing it wasn’t that bad at all. What really stopped you was just your mind but you managed to overcome your fears and anxieties. Relax a bit to reward yourself and then begin the following activity. If you stop too much pondering about the next task you will start to think that it is hard, boring, useless or whatever and this is exactly what you are trying to avoid. So, just move forward and do what you are supposed to do next.

 

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