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  • Writer's pictureJudy

Sept. 12, 2022: The Therapy of Mundane Tasks

Mundane tasks. Those routine, repetitive, sometimes boring, often mindless tasks that must be done. They are a necessary part of any productive life, and they are there in all aspects of our lives, whether work, health, or personal. We can put them off, we can delegate them, we can ignore them. But at some point, they must be done.

However, not all mundane tasks are the same. And they are not the same to everyone. Delegating (aka. paying some else to do them) is a viable and often used option. Which tasks those are will vary greatly for everyone. It is through the cost/benefit prism that we often make decisions about what tasks we can and should pay someone else to perform. Which tasks we can “get off our plate”.

Some mundane tasks, though, can be comforting and provide a sense of accomplishment. For example, I enjoy completing weekly housework. Dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning tend to be therapeutic for me. I also enjoy weeding and puttering around in my gardens. While we gladly pay someone to mow the lawn, I want to be the one to pull the weeds and trim my flowers.

A friend once told me that her favorite mundane task was ironing, and she loved it so much, she even thought of offering to do a friend’s family ironing in exchange for them driving her daughter to a weekly after-school activity. A task she hated.

So why is it that there are some mundane tasks that some of us enjoy doing? Psychologists say there is value to these tasks.

Benefits of mundane tasks:

- They give our brain a break.

o They require very little active work in our brain to complete the tasks. That means they are not as mentally taxing as other tasks we must complete.

- They allow our minds to wonder.

o Because our short-term working memory does not need to be engaged for many of these tasks, our mind is free to wander, to think, to ponder, to plan, to reminisce. These things can be comforting and productive.

- They give us a sense of accomplishment.

o When the task is done, it can be crossed off a list. We can see the clean house or the folded laundry.

- Some are physically good for us.

o Housework, gardening, taking the dog on a walk. These tasks have a physical component that can be a positive.

Sometimes that mental break we get as we file papers or tidy a closet, can spark a solution to an ongoing problem, or can allow our creativity to get us through that writer’s block. We emerge with not only that chore done, but ready to embrace our real work.

So, instead of lamenting about how many mundane tasks fill our day and week, reframe them as the opportunity that they can be.

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