Let’s face it—there are many things we don’t want to do. How many people wish they didn’t have to prepare dinner, do the laundry, write Thank You cards, make their beds, or do their taxes?
But it’s not just at home where we must deal with mundane tasks. At the office, we’ve got emails, administrative reports, and all sorts of paperwork that half the time seems unnecessary.
Not wanting to do these tasks doesn’t mean we don’t have to do them. In fact, they are often much more important to our lives than say Netflix, the Playstation, or YouTube (aka the things we enjoy).
But that’s life—part fun, part mundane. Not everything is meant to be fun.
That being said, mundane tasks don’t have to be the equivalent of a root canal. There are ways to turn mundane tasks into more meaningful work.
Can You Turn Mundane Tasks Into Something Meaningful?
I started my career teaching kids, and if there’s one thing I learned from teaching them, it’s that getting some of them to do homework or other mundane tasks was excruciatingly painful.
As a teacher and parent, I often have to figure out ways to turn the mundane into something entertaining or, at the very least, not so mundane. I’ve learned that the secrets of turning mundane into meaningful or enjoyable are threefold: acceptance, speed, and distraction.
What I’ll offer in this article are some possible solutions for dealing with mundane tasks and, therefore, improving your attitude and overall well-being.
Step 1: Acceptance
First of all, we must accept that many mundane tasks cannot be avoided. Doing one’s taxes is about as much fun as watching paint dry, but the option is having your bank account frozen or even ending up in prison.
Just because we don’t like something, doesn’t mean we get to sweep it under the rug. It still needs to be done. Otherwise, there will be repercussions (sometimes painful ones).
In AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), there is a 12-step program that they use to rehabilitate addicts. The first of which is admitting they have a problem. The same is true when it comes to mundane tasks.
Simply admitting that a task needs to be done is the first step to doing it. There are those people who like to excuse doing a mundane task by simply saying to themselves it’s not that important.
That might be true if you leave your laundry for a day or two. But a week and your hamper might say otherwise.
Instead of viewing a mundane task as unimportant, it’s wise to approach it from a different angle. What are the consequences of not doing it?
Thinking of the negative effects will push us to take action.
What if my partner sees a pile of clothes in the laundry room? What will my mother do if I don’t make my bed? What will my boss do if this isn’t done?
Bestselling author Brian Tracy wrote a book entitled Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. It was devoted to one single concept: doing what we don’t want to do first.
Mundane tasks are often things we don’t want to do, so they fit the bill.
Do the laundry first thing, and you won’t have to worry about it later. Kids that do their homework when they get home can enjoy the rest of their evening without worry.
Step 2: Speed
As I mentioned earlier, I started my career teaching children, which taught me a lot of valuable skills in my present vocation as a productivity consultant. I would rack my brain for ways to turn dull, boring games into high-octane ones that got the kids’ blood pumping.
I found that one way to get kids excited was to simply ramp up the speed. So, how does that help us?
The problem with mundane tasks is that they are often time-consuming. We might have to listen to a lecture on statistics as a requirement for our work, but how helpful will it be for most people? Answer: not much.
As such, there’s no need to sit there for two whole hours listening to it. The solution? Speed it up!
Most software today offers the option of changing the playback speed. It’s even available on YouTube.
What many people don’t realize is that increasing it to 1.25x does not change our ability to understand that material. In fact, with some materials, you could increase it to 1.5x and still be able to keep up.
That’s a 25% or 50% reduction in time invested, meaning we get to get back to doing what we want to do or other things we need to do faster.
Always Look for Ways to Speed Up the Process
There are other ways speed can be applied to mundane tasks.
A few years ago, I wanted to learn how to edit audio files, so I popped over to YouTube and spent a few hours learning the ins and outs of Soundforge. No heavy lifting and it got the job done.
During the lockdown though, I wanted to learn to how master an audio file. In a nutshell, mastering is a way of taking audio files and getting them ready for professional use. It turned out that doing it in Soundforge was rather tricky, so I moved over to Adobe Audition.
One YouTuber gave me step-by-step instructions on how to do it and I was off to the races, but the real secret came at the end of the video when he explained that after going through the process (which took roughly ten minutes), I could save the whole process and apply it to any new files I might have.
This means that the next time, I wouldn’t have to go through all the steps again. All I’d need to do is apply the saved process to my audio file and I’d be done.
A process that would have taken me an hour in Soundforge ended up becoming a five-second process in Adobe Audition.
The lesson here is two-fold. First, always look for ways to speed up the process. That might not work for things such as ironing or cooking, which require precise amounts of time to accomplish.
But while we might not be able to speed up the cooking process, we can improve our preparation time by working on our cutting skills, keeping our knives sharp, and using the right tools for the job.
Second, sometimes the solution is to change how we do it.
Again, it doesn’t always work, but when it comes to tasks done with Excel, Access, or other programs, some alternatives may suit your needs better. Be willing to explore them.
Step 3: Distraction
One of my favorite ways of dealing with mundane tasks is by chunking. Chunking is doing two tasks at the same time where neither one affects the other in any substantial way.
My favorite form of chunking is combining yoga with TV. Most people who watch TV simply sit on their couch and munch on their favorite snack. I prefer to kill two birds with one stone.
The older I get, the more I understand the importance of stretching and keeping in shape—enter yoga. Now, I could do what my wife does and simply dedicate 30 minutes each morning to doing yoga.
But as a productivity consultant, I am always looking for ways to speed up processes. I simply do yoga while watching Netflix.
Do I get the full relaxing benefit from yoga? No, not entirely. Do I sometimes miss a few lines from the show because I’m doing a pose? Sure. But what I do is get both activities done in 30 minutes.
Another example is driving. We drive to our kids’ swim practice. We drive to the supermarket. We drive to work. We spend a lot of time in our cars. The problem is most people use that time to listen to the news on the radio or sing along to their favorite songs.
Not altogether bad, but it’s not the best. As the late great Jim Rohn used to say, “Turn your car into a mobile classroom.”
That’s precisely what I did. I got rid of my Beyonce CDs (I’m dating myself here) and started listening to the likes of Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Dan Kennedy, Brian Tracy, and Brendon Burchard. Let me tell you, not only did I not miss listening to music, but I found myself more energized and excited about life.
The point is we want to distract our minds from mundane tasks. Try and forget we’re pumping iron and our muscles are burning by listening to music or, better yet, some personal development material.
Mundane tasks are, by nature, dull. Doing the laundry might not seem like much compared to giving a presentation to a multi-million-dollar client, but it still needs to be done. Not only that, but they can also be time-consuming.
However, by making a few simple changes, you’ll be surprised how mundane tasks can become meaningful work.