How to get the most out of the least inspiring tasks

University hallway, break after the first Microeconomics test. I’m being questioned on the subject of the best places to go to around the city by a few students who have just arrived. In the end of the break, somehow, one of them goes back to class with a thoughtful expression on the face, because as is often the case the original topic of the conversation took a sharp U-turn elsewhere. And it all started with an innocent “I hate homework”…

How many of you have sometimes said to yourselves “I hate (or “wish I didn’t have to do/go to”) school/ university/ homework/ my job/ paperwork” (circle all that applies, feel free to expand the list of boring but necessary activities)? I most certainly did quite a few times in my life. However, there are things we all know that we are supposed to learn in school, university, or work place, and there are other things we don’t even think we can get out of those institutions. This is what got my classmate all thoughtful: besides the well-known “social skills” and “conflict-solving” skills, public speaking, reason and argument, proper research and critical thinking that are the expected “extras” one can expect to, with due amount of dedication, pick up at the afore-mentioned places, there are some valuable skills we aren’t often aware we can be getting:

1. You learn to do things you don’t like to do. Why the heck is that any important? Well, quite simply, because the whole life we are faced with the necessity of doing things we don’t like to do. Like filing the tax reports. Or going to the doctors for preventive check-ups. Even the happiest person with their own business that s/he absolutely loves, a wonderful family, great friends and fulfilling interests will, during the course of their life, need to do things that aren’t something very agreeable to them, yet necessary. It is, therefore, a valuable skill to acquire to learn to accept the fact that some things simply need to be done, whether or not one likes them. Unlike choosing to drown oneself by activities one does not like but that are not necessary at all, things like filing a tax report (a necessity, for most people) won’t probably lighten anyone’s mood, but will save them the trouble of dealing with the consequences of not filing it.

2. Time management. Some people never learn it and go through life constantly frustrated at the missed opportunities, unfulfilled plans, stress and other annoyances. Some pay decent cash for time management courses later in life. We’ve got, nevertheless, a great training for time management available to us at no cost at all – in schools, universities and at our jobs. It’s not a grand science only available to a few – all it takes is knowing how much time a certain task takes one to do and, with the notion of the fact that it’s better to be prepared a day or two ahead of the “doomsday” (aka deadline day), assign a specific time segment to the task at hand. You won’t argue with the university, trying to make them move a class or the office hours of your work-place an hour ahead or an hour later just because it’d better suit your life, would you? That’d be ridiculous! You simply make sure the rest of your schedule to the best of your ability smoothly encompasses those fixed hours. Why not do the same then for a task at hand? Why not say that on this day, from this to this time, I’m doing this task (homework, project), and treat it as an invariable commitment? A friend calling you during a class or during your work saying “hey let’s run to the movies in 10 minutes” is, probably, unlikely to make you grab your coat and flee. Why cannot the same principle apply to home-given tasks? Cleaning, for example?

3. Priority setting. This goes hand-in-hand with time management, and the respective courses also receive many willing (and paying a big buck) participants. You need to assess what is the most labor-intensive, attention-demanding and pressing task. Then do it first. You would feel a great sense of liberation when the biggest chunk of “have to do” pile is behind you. Dedicate the needed time to that task, then spread the rest of the smaller tasks around your free time so that you both have time for that movie with a friend and have everything done in time. Give yourself treats for being ahead of schedule and doing everything properly, if internal motivation isn’t enough.

4. Becoming more intelligent in several dimensions. Beyond the curriculum, if we’re talking about a school setting. The trick is that you can actually teach yourself to learn, instead of being satisfied with merely doing the minimum and getting by. And knowing how to learn, together with being willing to do it and active in pursuing it, is a priceless skill to acquire that can enrich one’s life and understanding in all the plains.

Ok so you hate a certain topic, class, or project at work. Question: can you avoid it altogether? Most likely answer: nope. So you have two options: 1. To “suffer” through it all, doing the least you possibly can that’d get you by just short of failing or 2. Make the very best out of it. How? Easily. Well, not really, but doable. Much easier, still, than suffering through the entire process and dealing with a trash end result. If it is a subject that you hate, find what all it applies to in real life. Find something interesting in it for yourself. See reality through the prism of that subject – you’d realize its real value, beyond the abstract value of learning some theory, it will become “alive” for you, and thus much more entertaining. MAKE it fun if you think it isn’t. This may require additional research, but hey – that’s what search engines are here for (besides, of course, looking up some porn and free downloads 🙂 ). It may also SEEM to require a bit more effort, but trust me you’re wasting by FAR more energy and time complaining about the daunting task, worrying about it, hating the idea of doing it, stressing over the fast-approaching deadline and feeling sorry for yourself and the fact that you’re faced with having to do something sooooooooo terribly annoying.

If a subject/project has, in your eyes, no practical reflection in reality (although every subject does, even advanced mathematics) – then at the very least perceive it as an exercise for the brain. Cognitively active people have better memory, more fulfilling lives and less chances of developing nasty conditions like Alzheimer’s in senior age. Learning and understanding for the sake of exercising the brain is just as good for you as going to the gym when you are young and fit – it’s not to lose weight (or to get a decent grade, or to merely pass) that you’d do it, it’s to avoid ever having to face all the difficulties that may arise from gaining many extra pounds and having no muscle strength on top of that, back pains, muscle cramps, headaches, fatigue – consequences of a lazy lifestyle. Brain needs exercise just as well. And finally, by learning to think about things and subjects you may not like, you gain perspective and critical thinking. You are forced to pay attention to things you voluntarily would never bother with, and inevitably you can learn a lot. If you so wish. A similar principle applies to work projects. And, in the end of the day, overcoming the difficulties and oneself and accomplishing much better results than the “mere pass” will do many more wonders to one’s productivity and self-esteem that any psycho-trainings (another multi-billion-dollar industry) can ever dream of.

So, next time you’re faced with a daunting task, instead of allowing it to spoil your mood and kill your motivation for the time of its duration, why not instead use it to your most and absolute advantage? Get all you can and then some from not merely doing it, but doing it well, on time, learning the most you can about the subject and its implications while you’re doing it, and ending up with not only an accomplished task, but a whole lot of valuable life skills, sense of accomplishment and higher self-esteem. Happy learning and project completion to everyone!

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About in shade

A cocktail of personality traits hard to digest for some but ultimately soothing for those who can. I observe, enjoy, travel, interact, photograph, dance, contemplate, write and love my way through this life's countless occurrences. This blog is a way to share with the world and its people some of the treasures they give me every day.
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