Mar 142012

I have a list. You probably have one, too. It’s that list of things to do that is sitting on your desk. Some of the items get done quickly and are scratched off the list. Then, there are those other things. Those pesky or unpleasant tasks that just don’t seem to get done. These tasks get copied from list to list. They may include mundane things that just take time and effort to complete or maybe a new task that you are just a little bit afraid of tackling. Whatever they are, you do not want to do them and you avoid doing them at all costs!

I have a suggestion: start thinking of your approach to those tasks differently. Your response should be an indication that something needs to change. You see, avoidance may actually be an opportunity in disguise! I spend a great deal of time telling my clients that they need to trust their own instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. Your avoidance of a task may be the signal that you need to seize the opportunity to change the task.

I’m not suggesting that you can just stop doing unpleasant or difficult tasks, but you may want to change the way that you handle them. A prime example would be some of the organizational tasks that are associated with any job or home environment. Your job may require you to fill out the same boring sales projection form at the beginning of every month. You have come to intensely dislike filling out that form. Have you ever stopped to consider how you could make the form more useful? Maybe this is your opportunity to change that form and impress your boss at the same time! If you are self-employed, it may be more difficult to see how mundane tasks hold you back from being more productive. Following the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may keep you from seeing that something could be done more quickly and with a more beneficial outcome.

Home is the place where mundane tasks are most prevalent but most often questioned. Has your child ever asked you why he or she must do a certain chore? It might be time to write out a list of all the chores that everyone does on a weekly basis. Then, ask if anyone would like to trade one responsibility for another. You might find that one child would much rather take out the trash, while another would prefer to sort out the laundry. Don’t forget to try this type of chart at work! I often find that juggling tasks and responsibilities can result in a fresher and more creative environment.

Although repetitive tasks are often avoided out of boredom or distaste, sometimes tasks are avoided out of fear. If you have just received a promotion, a new task may be avoided because of your fear of failure. How many of us know someone who avoids using a computer because he or she is afraid of “messing everything up.” In reality, it takes quite a bit of effort to do real damage to a computer, but it is the fear that will stop someone from trying to use it.

Other tasks are avoided out of the fear of embarrassment. For example, you have just been promoted to run the new employee orientation program at your company. You attend the program and listen to the speech given by the person who has run the program for several years. His speech is terrific! Of course, he thinks the speech is boring because he has given it countless times. As you prepare to begin running the program, you develop a strong case of stage fright and avoid setting the date for your first speech. In this example, I would suggest that you recognize that you should not compete with the “ghost of successful presentations past.” Instead, you should develop a speech that is uniquely yours. For example, you could add in a prop, such as a chart, to make your presentation more visually stimulating. You could reorganize the speech so that it flows smoothly for you. Maybe it is time to think of new and interesting examples. Whatever you do, take this opportunity to put your personal stamp on the presentation!

Could it possibly be that you are avoiding a task because of the fear of success? Many potentially successful ideas, projects, and products are left sitting on someone’s list because of the changes that success would bring. The good thing about mundane tasks is that you know just what will happen when you do them. Changing that task may result in being responsible for a new and more difficult task. What will happen if you leave your job in order to start your own company? You may put off that decision for months and years because you sense how much effort will be required to succeed. Conversely, you may be one of the fortunate souls who begin a new venture and are overwhelmed by great success. Of course, that type of success brings its own set of problems! Remember that success is a blessing and the opportunity to be successful will only present itself a few times over the course of your life.

During the upcoming month, I would like you to make another list. It is a list of boring, repetitive, time consuming, or distasteful, tasks or situations. Then examine how each item on the list could be made more interesting, useful, productive, and beneficial. It is time to begin thinking of avoidance as an opportunity to make your life more interesting and successful!

© 1998-2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

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© 1998-2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.