All of us are alike in many ways. We all eat, sleep, breathe, love, interact with people, and spend 24 hours every day doing something. Our areas of difference, however, are what make us individuals. We all have habits (I always park in aisle 10/11 at Wal-Mart.), preferences (I choose Prego spaghetti sauce over Ragu.) and quirks (I cut my fingernails very short when I am stressed.). And then, as my grandmother used to say, we all have our own “ways.” I have a way of grimacing in an unattractive manner when concentrating very intently. I grew up hearing, “Stop scrunching up your face! It’ll freeze that way!” I also have a way of finding pull-through parking spaces because I hate backing vehicles, and I have a way of avoiding tasks that I really don’t want to do.
As a matter of fact, I am quite skilled at finding ways to skirt around doing jobs that I don’t want to do. Here are three job-stopping tactics that I successfully employ when I want to dodge a distasteful chore.
My first job-stopping strategy is to over-analyze the task at hand. For example, if I need to wipe down my greasy stove top, I stand in front of the appliance and take inventory. Yes, the stove top is greasy and needs to be wiped down. However, it seems imprudent to settle for wiping down the stove top when the burners are blackened with baked-on food and in far worse shape than the actual stove top is. The filter for the vent above the stove top is covered with dust; the back splash is be-speckled with food particles; dust bunnies, coins, and runaway allergy tablets reside underneath the stove; and the oven needs to be cleaned. It is impossible to decide where to begin! Therefore, I deduce that since I don’t have time to do a thorough job today, I’ll wait until another day when I can do the job right. The greasy stove top, which I really didn’t want to clean, goes untouched, providing proof that this strategy works.
Another strategy that works for me is to avoid tackling a particularly distasteful job by addressing other tasks instead. Let’s say that my overloaded, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves need to be dusted. This is a monstrous endeavor involving a ladder, cleaning rags, a vacuum cleaner, various cleaning products for the different types of items on the shelves, and the stamina of a rock climber. Yet, the job needs to be done. However, upon reflection I realize that I also need to go to the bank, return some library books, and visit the Post Office. In fact, these jobs are more time-sensitive than the shelf-dusting. If I don’t take care of them right away, I risk bouncing a check, accumulating overdue book fines and getting my Mom’s birthday card to her a day late, so I put on my coat and head out the door. At the end of the day, the bookshelves are still coated with dust, but I did take care of three jobs instead of just one. I even managed to get in a little window shopping. Truly, I am an efficiency expert.
A third job-stopping strategy I often employ involves simply asking myself these questions: “Will doing this job really make a positive difference in the lives of others?” “Is there not some more noble, charitable, or service-oriented task that I should address instead?” Thus, when I recognize that 14 items of clothing are waiting to be ironed, I ask myself who will benefit if I spend my time ironing them. Will anyone’s day be brightened? Certainly mine won’t be. Will a relationship be strengthened? Who will receive encouragement or pleasure from the fact that my ironing is done? Probably no one will. However, my granddaughter will be ecstatic if I tell her we are going on an impromptu outing to Monkey Joe’s. A friend who is feeling blue will be cheered if she and I go to lunch. My mother, who lives 600 miles away, will delight in a long, rambling phone chat with me. Shouldn’t I choose to bless rather than to press?
It may be true that greasy stove tops, dusty bookshelves, and wrinkled clothes deserve more attention than I give them, but consider all that I accomplish by choosing to neglect them! In the category of Avoiding Unpleasant Jobs, I rate myself as functioning at the professional level. However, reaching this high degree of expertise does not happen overnight. Like any skill, this one takes years to master. I will give a tip, though, to anyone interested in becoming more adept in this area: It helps if you’re already good at rationalizing.