Every household has a list of mundane tasks that need attention each week. These are the ordinary, every day things that are repetitive, usually pretty tedious, appear unproductive, are largely thankless – and yet are necessary. They’re the time consuming little tasks that move our lives along, such as grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, writing reports, vacuuming, blitzing the shower, laundry, making appointments & paying bills, feeding & exercising the dog, updating spreadsheets, cleaning the pool… The list seems endless once you start and, whilst no one activity takes up all your residual enthusiasm and (notional) free time, they do sneakily combine to eat great chunks of it. Sometimes what’s left is a you that’s simply run out of available energy resources or, as my family calls it, ‘spoons’.
Sadly, there’s no magic fix to the list or to the probable exhaustion – not unless you have staff that will see to your every whim. I don’t – so I was out in the noonday sun last week, mower and edge trimmer to hand, sunhat and fly net in place – this is Australia, so the last two are mandatory. Weeks of ignoring the lawns had left them shaggy, unkempt and potentially dangerous for foot traffic (we have a dog). It was well past time for action.
Despite the ultra-light electric mower, trudging up and down behind it across the ankle-deep grass and then thrashing the trimmer around to tidy up the edges was hot, sweaty work. The combination of a 30-degree day, dry easterly winds and puppy that, unable to get to me to save me from the apparent horrors of mowing, took to impersonating an entire pack of howling hounds, was mind-numbing. Thank goodness for the fly net, since that at least kept the bomb-diving flies at bay!
Like many repetitive tasks, however, mowing the lawn doesn’t require much active attention, so my mind was free to wander around and consider plans for my rapidly approaching dog-and-lawn-free holiday. I started listing the things I needed to do, to get, to pack, to arrange before I leave and to slot those into my mental schedule. Doing so provided the following epiphany with regards to more mundane chores:
- Make a to-do list
- Don’t ignore it
- Prioritise the tasks
- Chunk them into things that can be done at more or less the same time
- Schedule as many of them as you can (Monday is often my mundane-day)
- Set calendar reminders so that you remember what needs to be done when
- Remember that even if you only do one small thing on the list it’s one less thing still to do
- Stop before you’re exhausted
- Out-source where possible – to family spouse, kids or hired help
- Accept that not everything will get done every week
It’s actually surprisingly sensible advice and I’m going to try to follow it myself from now on, which goes to show that doing mundane tasks can have unexpectedly good results. There is one more thing I’d like to add, though, and that it to remember to acknowledge the tasks you conquer. Tick them off your list and allow yourself to feel satisfied at having completed whatever it is – no matter how long your list may still be.
I must admit that ticking ‘mow and whipper-snip lawns’ off my list felt pretty good and, once I’d cooled down and settled the howling hound, it was gratifying to note that the (quite tiny) front and back lawns actually looked darn fine!