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Hate Chores? Make Them Less Painful with These Tips

Hate Chores? Make Them Less Painful with These Tips

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 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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