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Hate Chores? Make Them Less Painful with These Tips

Hate Chores? Make Them Less Painful with These Tips
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Few of us actually enjoy doing chores. Even happiness guru Gretchen Rubin admits that one of her “pigeons of discontent” is having to do errands.

But, chores and errands are an inevitable part of responsible adult life. Even if you still refuse to consider yourself a “responsible adult,” you have to admit that stepping over mounds of dirty laundry and running out of clean plates to eat from can eventually get tiring.

So, how do you make this inescapable part of your life a little less awful?

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Sure, you can bone up on the latest productivity tools or learn how to put together a really killer to-do list. But let’s face it: actually doing the chores is still gonna suck. Which is why I like to play these little games to try to distract myself from how much I hate what I’m doing:

The Amazing Race: Chore Edition

    Are you the competitive type? Get out a timer and see how quickly you can wash those dishes, fold that laundry or dust the entire house. Then try to beat your record next time. (Just be careful not to get so wrapped up in speed that half the dishes wind up on the floor in pieces. That does not count toward your record.)

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    Better yet, get bonus points for delegating the work and try to get other members of your family into the competitive spirit. Can your husband wash the car faster than you can wash the dog? Can your son clean up his room (properly, not stashing everything in the closet) faster than your daughter can clean up hers? Up the ante with prizes like “winner gets to choose where we go out to eat.”

    Pump Up the Jams

    Nothing can make an unpleasant task more fun than some quality tunes. If you’re in an “I-hate-this-why-me” sort of mood, scream along with something horribly emo and allow yourself to feel the therapeutic effects of venting teen-style. If you can’t help but feel pumped every time you hear some quality jock jams, make yourself a playlist containing stadium song greats like “Eye of the Tiger” and “Get Ready for This” and pretend that instead of sweeping the floors, you’re playing the final minutes of the NCAA tournament.

    Dance around like a fool for some bonus calorie-burning points. Put on a jersey, even, if it helps get you there. The neighbors are probably going to think you’re weird anyway, so why not run with it?

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    I’ll Give You a Cookie if You Pick Up the Dry Cleaning

    Never underestimate the effectiveness of bribes, even self-assigned ones. Promise yourself that if you can get this particularly yucky project or errand over with, you can have [fill in a particularly tempting thing here]. Maybe it’s an hour of watching your favorite guilty-pleasure reality show. Maybe it’s a favorite drink or snack that normally doesn’t fall within your diet. Maybe it’s a well-deserved nap. The rarer the treat, the more effective its bribing power.

    (Don’t) Take It Out on a Customer Service Rep

    Granted, this one actually combines two things people loathe (chores and dealing with customer service on the phone), but bear with me. As long as you’re going to be stuck on hold for 20 minutes listening to crappy elevator music, you might as well get some stuff done around the house, right? Put the call on speakerphone and use your mounting frustration to infuse your chores with extra energy—especially once the rep actually comes on the line and starts giving you a hard time.

    You’ll probably have a more effective call since you’ll be channeling your anger into your chores instead of directing it at poor Joe in Idaho (who’s really just doing his job). And you’d be amazed how vigorously you can Swiffer a floor when you’re arguing over cell phone charges. Plus, at the end of it all, you’re rewarded by having knocked two dreaded things off your list in one fell swoop. Not too shabby.

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    What tricks do you have to get unpleasant tasks over with?

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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