Mindful Moment: Dreaded tasks

October 03, 2016 | Julie Luzarraga

Mindful Moment: The dreaded tasks we put off

Rarely is there a day full of only pleasurable experiences.  Most days include the tedious tasks of life that we don’t really enjoy.  It could be doing the dishes, paying bills, or a certain part of your job.  It’s the stuff we have to do even though we don’t like it.

When we don’t like it we tend to dread it and put it off.  When we finally sit down to the dreaded task; we’re more likely to wish away time, travel off in our minds, or get lost in the narrative.  We grumble, we blame others, and we look for any way to not be doing what it is we need to get done.  Ironically, this makes the time go by slower and robs us of any opportunities to learn and grow from the tasks we don’t like.

This week, see if you can be mindful to the dreaded tasks.  Instead of trying to make them more pleasurable by distracting or splitting your attention, see what happens when you bring mindfulness to just that task.

  • Identify a task you don’t like and you tend to avoid.
  • Set aside dedicated time to complete the task. Write in your calendar if you have to.
  • Limit the amount of time you set aside. Make it enough time to get some of it done, but not too much time that it is unrealistic for you to stay mindful to the task – think around 20 minutes.  If the task takes a long time, work in 20 minute increments with breaks in between.
  • When you set to work, set your intention. Take a breath, and silently say, “and now I am [insert the dreaded task].”  For example, “and now I am filing.”
  • Set a timer. Setting a timer takes away the compulsion to constantly look at the clock or wishing to be done.
  • Continue to bring your attention back to the present moment, even if it feels boring, frustrating, or tedious.
  • Welcome the feelings, even if they are uncomfortable or not pleasurable. You can label the feelings – “ah, this is boredom.”
  • See if you can relax into the feeling, the task at hand with an “oh well” attitude. You can even sigh and say “oh well” out loud as a reminder that this moment is what it is.

You never know, you may find that the dreaded tasks that you typically avoid aren’t as bad as you thought.

Mindful moments are short practices to be used throughout your week to relax, integrate and center yourself.  Inspired by the wisdom traditions and science, mindful moments are meant to be accessible and simple enough for anyone to practice.  Many teachers and leaders in integrative medicine have influenced our approach to mindful moments. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”  Pema Chodron would say it is “practicing in the gaps.”  Look for the weekly mindful moment every Monday.  May it support you in finding your center to live life to the fullest.

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