By Sophie Harvey
During these strange times, routine has been vital for me, both for pacing purposes and for my sanity. It helps give me a structure and a reason to get up in the morning, but equally routine can sometimes feel quite mundane. A friend once asked me ‘How do you get through mundane tasks?’. This question has echoed in my brain for a while and I am finally getting down to my response.
My first thought is I suppose it comes down to motivation. I could be all intellectual and reference the work of Daniel Pink, who believes that motivation is driven by autonomy, mastery and purpose. However, this is not a research paper, so I will simply share my thoughts. I think one of the most useful tools I use, when I am doing a mundane task, like unstacking the dishwasher or exercising, is I ask myself is ‘Why am I doing this?’ - is it an external reward or an intrinsic value? Both can motivate me, especially on days of intense fatigue and pain.
For instance, for intrinsic motivators, I try to leverage values that are important to me. An example is that one of my values is I love to learn new things. So, if I am struggling to feel motivated to get out of bed, I try to remember ‘I get to learn something new on my course today!’. Or while unstacking the dishwasher, I may leverage my love of my family, by thinking ‘I am unstacking the dishwasher to help my family.’ Again, it is asking yourself why you are doing that mundane task.
There are some tasks which I especially struggle with, such as exercising. So, in this example, I use spending time with loved ones as an external reward for exercising. For instance, I think to myself, ‘If I build up my muscles, I will be able to walk in the woods with my partner for longer.’ Also, for tasks such as the dreaded housework, I know some people listen to an audiobook on while they do the washing up, or put the radio on while they are cooking, or have the TV on while they are ironing. Personally, I will pop on a podcast or listen to music as I am cleaning or doing the laundry. This makes me more motivated at the prospect of doing these mundane jobs because I get to do something I enjoy while doing them!
Overall, I think this is a very personal thing, but I suppose whether you’re leveraging intrinsic or extrinsic motivation, it’s about asking yourself – ‘why am I doing this, what meaning, or value can I add to this mundane task?’ It’s about finding that reason you are doing that mundane task and reminding yourself of that reason on a regular basis. I am by no means perfect at this (it is a work in progress), nor am I an expert on this sort of thing, but I do hope these thoughts help you in some way! Take care of yourselves!
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