Only so many hours in the day so what is one to do to make the best of those hours when not in the grip of work or sleep? Like most Discardian change, it doesn't have to happen all at once. There are two habits to build up when faced with a choice or opportunity:
1. Continually opt for that which will most avoid hassles and unpleasantness in the long-term.
2. Continually enhance that which must be done with the extras or surroundings that make things more comfortable and/or enjoyable.
A simple example would be when you walk into the kitchen and are faced with a sink full of dirty dishes from the last few days, recognize that putting off washing them yet further will make your house smell nasty and they'll certainly be more unpleasant to deal with. Take care of them now, but first, perhaps you should open a window to get a nice breeze in the room, maybe put on some music you like, or pour a nice beverage to sip as the dish water heats up. Now, glance at the clock and then do the dishes without looking at it again. As you do the dishes figure out what you do like about this task; maybe the splashing in the water, or the warmth, or the transformation of foul to fine & clean. The best sinks have a window so you can see what the outside world has to report as you go about your work. When you're done, look again at the clock.
It doesn't take that long to do most chores, many of them less than 20 minutes. You can blow 20 minutes without even thinking about it watching tv, playing video games, reading, surfing the web (*cough*)…
So, there's the first part of this tip: a lot of things which you've got to do don't really take that much out of your day and needn't be put off.
The next important part is to notice that there may be optional things which do take a lot of your time and yet provide minimal reward or enjoyment (it is at this point when I turn and look pointedly at the television and the computer). Don't channel surf or link hop just because you want something but you haven't figured out what it is. Your time is finite. It matters how you spend it. Certainly you can consciously decide that what you really want to do is flip around getting mental stimulation and enjoy it whole-heartedly. I'm betting, though, that everyone has chunks of time spent on autopilot – and not autopilot in the useful "my mind is happily wandering while I vacuum" sense, but in the sense of failing to select that which will reward us somehow.
Don't live the life of having to make the time pass. Find the things that please you and do them instead of things that provide you nothing. Fans of C.S. Lewis' work The Screwtape Letters are here encouraged to go re-read letter 13 which includes this bit of admonition from a senior devil to a junior tempter:
But you were trying to damn your patient by the World, that is by palming off vanity, bustle, irony, and expensive tedium as pleasures. How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet? Didn't you foresee that it would just kill by contrast all the trumpery which you have been so laboriously teaching him to value? And that the sort of pleasure which the book and the walk gave him was the most dangerous of all? That it would peel off from his sensibility the kind of crust you have been forming on it, and make him feel that he was coming home, recovering himself?
Do what you love whenever you can. Even if the busy-ness of life only gives you a few minutes – my sympathies to you new parents out there – make good use of it and read a chapter of a book, futz around with that guitar, plant a few bulbs in the garden (or just look through the bulb catalog & think about what you'd get!), whatever feeds your soul.
When you have to do something you wouldn't otherwise choose to do for pleasure or growth – the dishes for example – find the parts of the experience which can give you some kind of payoff and supplement it if you can with something you would choose, like music you really enjoy.
That's the second part of the tip: be where you are, doing what you're doing and enjoying it as much as you can.
One thought on “Playing more, playing better, and what to do about chores”
Excellent advice! I’m really starting to ‘get’ it regarding how I use my time. It makes such a difference not to turn the TV on in the evenings – time seems more elastic when one doesn’t programme it by the hour.
I really like the example of the dishwashing. Now I must think about what I enjoy about doing it 🙂