Some mundane projects are unavoidable, but you can avoid the dread and procrastination.
I’m going to start off by making a prediction about you, the reader. Prepare yourself for my incredible powers of intuition: you are tired of loading the dishwasher. Are you amazed? Of course not, because everybody’s tired of loading the dishwasher. Even your aunt that took your plate at thanksgiving and assured you she was pleased to do it — she was lying. She hates doing dishes too.
Here’s another prediction: you’re also tired of folding laundry, replying to business emails and flossing. Especially flossing.
I’m not actually a fortune teller, I’ve just realized the same thing that most everyone over the age of seven has realized — life isn’t always shout-out-loud-and-do-a-jig exciting. We all have mundane tasks we must complete regularly. These tasks cannot be avoided (not for lack of trying, of course). At home there are always dishes, laundry, cooking and cleaning to do. At work there may be invoicing, supply ordering, inventory taking, or countless other menial tasks that no one has figured out how to teach a computer to do yet.
Here’s my last prediction: every once in a while, you’ll take a look at that tedious task and you’ll think to yourself, “If I have to do this one more time, I’m burning down my house and moving to Aruba.”
This is where I can help, because my house is not on fire and I am not in Aruba — despite having made this desperate vow to myself many times in the past. And lucky for you, I’m going to share with you my trick for motivating yourself to get through the humdrum work quickly so you can spend more of your time doing the stuff you actually want to do.
But first, let me tell you a few things that HAVE NOT worked for my procrastinating, instant-gratification-obsessed brain.
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
I chug the sugar and chuck out the medicine. Every time.
Just think of how happy you’ll be later if you get this done now.
I can’t, I’m too busy thinking about how happy I am not doing it right now.
Make a game out of it!
Thanks, but I’ve graduated elementary school and that just isn’t going to work on me anymore.
If the above “tried and true” tricks have proven as unsuccessful for you as they were for me, it’s time to put on your dancing shoes — because I’ve got a new motivation technique that’s going to help you not only get tedious chores done quickly, it will also help you keep time more accurately and stop overdramatizing the daily impact of mundane tasks.
The E vs R Method
Enough talk, let’s get right into it. Start by thinking of a project you’d like to complete, then break it up into 5-8 smaller tasks to create a list. I’m going to make a list of kitchen chores because it’s the most relatable, but your list can be anything that you’ve been trying to get done. There, you’ve got your list. Now under each item on your list, write the letters E and R with ample space between them. E is going to stand for “Estimated”, R will stand for “Reality”. Take a moment to look at the tasks on your list, and give your best guess on how many minutes that task will take you (note: if you think a particular task will take you longer than 25 minutes, consider breaking it into two smaller tasks). Try to be as realistic as possible with your estimate, remembering that most things take a little longer than you think. When you have your guess, write it next to the E on your list.
After you have your E column filled out, you may choose to add the minutes together for an overall project time estimate.
Now the fun starts. Put some music or an audiobook on, open a timer on your phone, and press START. Go to work on the first task on your list while your timer runs. When you’ve completed the first task, stop your timer and jog down the real time it took to complete that task next to R. Immediately restart your timer at 0 and get straight to work on the second task on your list. Repeat this for every item on your list. Don’t pause, don’t think, don’t feel sorry for yourself, just restart the timer and go.
When you’ve completed the last task on your list (and have sufficiently celebrated), take a moment to look over where the differences between E and R were most noticeable. What took you more time than you thought? What took you less time? Remember these differences and use them to make more educated estimates when you have to do this project again in the future.