This week, some ideas of the book Feel-Good Productivity by Ali Abdaal struck a chord with me. Ali came across the message from a song from Mary Poppins, which begins,
In every job that must be done,
There is an element of fun.
You find the fun and snap!
The job's a game.
He decided to apply this idea to his own life. In a late-night burst of inspiration, he grabbed a Sharpie and a Post-it note and wrote nine simple words: What would this look like if it were fun? Then one day, while tackling a boring task that he didn’t want to do, he sincerely asked himself, “Could I do this differently? Could I add music or humor or get creative? What if I tackled the task with friends or promised myself a treat at the end?”
After experiencing the transformative effects of this thinking process, it has become a guiding question in Ali’s life.
Just as it took some time for him to connect deeply with the question, I had this question in my mind for several weeks. “What would this look like if it were fun?” Then I realized that unconsciously, this fundamental question underlies everything I do daily, seeking a more enjoyable approach.
“How could I practice the same piece of music differently today to make it more fun?”
“Is there a way to make this process a little more enjoyable?”
I like the idea of making a conscious and ongoing effort to make tasks more fun. After all, we are naturally drawn to seeking good times in life! When I shifted from unconsciously seeking fun to making it an intentional part of every task, I found that I could seamlessly and more easily integrate the fun factor.
I always encourage my piano students to be creative in their daily practice. Sometimes, just by tweaking minor details, daily tasks can become much more enjoyable!
Here are several ideas that I’ve experimented with:
1. Work on computer-related work at my favorite cafe. Something about the cafe environment gives me an extra boost of energy that turns undesirable work into fun—whether it’s doing taxes, composing email responses, scheduling, writing a draft, or reading a chapter of a book that I’ve been putting off. Often, after a couple of hours of work, I feel a sense of accomplishment from deep work, which I find fun. I wondered why I couldn’t do the same thing at home. Interestingly, and fortunately, this trick of going to a cafe always works for me.
2. Put on a piece of music while doing chores. Music in the background often gives me spring-cleaning energy.
3. Create a mini reward system. Whether it’s a snack, a cup of matcha, lunch, going surfing, watching YouTube, or a hot bath, I make it a reward for completing x, y, and z. By placing the reward after the task, I find it effective to tackle the work with a bit more ease.
4. Practice a performance wearing concert shoes or a special gown. This extra effort makes the whole run-through practice more vital.
5. Do tasks with friends. One of the most enjoyable activities during the COVID-19 quarantine was meeting with my students weekly on Zoom and practicing simultaneously for 30 minutes with their computer audio muted. Many commented that the 30 minutes flew by like 3 minutes and was fun. There are similar “study together with me” or “read a book with me” models on YouTube, where people do things together, even virtually. Doing things together with others can be a powerful tool.
6. Impose time limits. Setting a time limit often turns a task into a game. What if I only had a 15-minute time block or a 5-minute limit to do a task that I feel lazy? I set a timer on my phone or a time cube. Not only does this help me complete the task more efficiently, but it also gives me a dose of motivation to get started.
Do you have tasks you don’t enjoy doing? Have you considered reframing them to make them fun? Please share your tricks with me!