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Adulting: Rushing the Mundane...

If I have a big pile of laundry in front of me, my energy is focused on getting those pieces folded and put away. And fast. I typically don’t see mundane tasks, like laundry, as an important part of my day. I want to get through the chore and move on to the more meat and potatoes of my day: work, writing my blog, meaningful conversations, taking time for loved ones etc.

So bottom line: I rush.

I know rushing is not the answer. I know I need to learn to enjoy the seemingly menial tasks of life. So, to better convince myself, I thought I’d do some research. (Yes, I’m nerdy and quite proud of it.)

Surprisingly, I found encouragement in an article published by The Harvard Business Review concerning the workplace: “Find Purpose in the Even Your Most Mundane Tasks at Work.” The authors, Valerie Keller and Caroline Webb share that reminding employees of the greater purpose for their smaller tasks can be beneficial:

…even a brief moment of reflection on a “personal why” can help us rise to a challenge by immediately boosting our performance and resilience.

My first thought: I am not interested in inspiring employees. I’m trying to enjoy folding pairs of socks, in my house. But really, their suggestions reach beyond a cubicle at work and are helpful for personal “business” as well. Keller and Web recommend asking three questions, that would work surprisingly well with anything from corporate issues to washing that hedgehog mug for the 316th time:

1. Ask: “Who else, apart from myself is going to benefit from what I’m doing?”
2. Ask: “What really matters most to me? What does that suggest I should do now?”
3. Ask: “If I get this task done well, what bigger aspiration or value of mine will it support?”

I started this blog talking about laundry, put let’s apply their questions to something like cooking. Maybe you are like me in a different way: You aren’t a huge fan of cooking. While grateful for food and your ability to purchase it, you don’t look forward to chopping those veggies or stirring in those spices. You find it confusing, a little intimidating, and VERY time consuming.

So, you can go down my usual path with me: rush through this chore as quickly as possible and hope the best flavors turn out. Or we can take a few minutes to answer Keller and Web’s questions and realize three truths to help motivate us. I’ll go first:

1. My cooking is going to bring nourishment to myself and anyone who joins me at my table. (I.e it’s not ALL about me and what I feel like doing.)
2. Good health REALLY matters to me. I need to give meal preparation time and energy since what we put in our mouths has a huge impact on our mental and physical health.
3. I want to show others love. People can experience love through a carefully prepared meal. (Note: it doesn’t have to be made from scratch. The key is “carefully” or wisely prepared meals.)

After realizing these answers, I feel a little guilty for slumming my way through so many meals. But the purpose isn’t to give out guilt: the purpose is to bring the “boring” tasks into connection with tasks we are passionate about. Thinking how this is possible is like knotting them together with a string. And the more we remind ourselves of this connection, the bigger that string will grow – until we have a giant rope with a knot in it that we can rely on. In other words, a truth that helps us keep moving, even on some of our harder days.


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