He Did It All for Love
Expletives. Lot’s of ’em. It was like cuss words were printed in the manual instead of assembly instructions.
My dad was in our yard putting together a teeter totter for his grandchildren. My wife, passing an open window, saw a glimpse of the assembly process. It was one of those brightly colored seesaws that resembled an airplane.
She also heard progress updates through the same window. My dad used brightly colored language that resembled a Marine.
All this to get to the end result: The joy of seeing his grandchildren smile and hearing their giggles.
When I got home and heard the story I realized that I was, indeed, a chip off that old block. I, too, complained — and sometimes cursed — my way through my projects.
Moving forward, I knew I had much to learn. I wanted to enjoy the steps along life’s path; each stride of the journey as I built a life for my family and me. I’m still learning.
“Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
—Anonymous Old Timer
Do you love what you do?
YES! is the answer most of us strive to achieve. And for many of us, especially if we’ve been at the self-enterpriser quest for a period of time, we are fortunate enough to own such a Yes.
But business is more than the delivery of products or services. There are things we must do to reach those results we love — and some of our to-do lists and tasks are anything but lovely. In fact, they are often repetitive or even tedious.
In short, some of our work is actually, well… work!
Let’s explore how others go about finding more joy in their taskwork.
Start at the Finish Line
A common theme among self-enterprisers to help them get through their duties is to keep their goal in front of them. Martha writes:
As a designer, by default my job gets to be fun. I get to explore new ideas everyday and think of new ways to promote and market, and help other companies flourish. So in that way I truly LOVE what I do.[/stextbox]
But even in this torrid love affair, Martha admits to finding some periods of monotony. By looking ahead at the end results, she finds strength to move forward:
It can be boring sometimes, as with all jobs, but I find my true happiness in the ever changing world of it all. I find myself most at peace when a client sees my work and is truly impressed and pleased with what I’ve provided.
A business coach named, Carmen, laughs when I asked her about learning to love the taskwork (not an “LOL,” but a “Haha”). She notes that most of us, as self-enterprisers, are creative souls. We tend to love the creativity but may hate shuffling papers. Carmen says:
That’s the reason we went rogue and became entrepreneurs instead of nine-to-fivers.
Carmen reminds herself of the goals she’s trying to achieve:
I envision the sweetness of achieving my goals and that makes me a tad bit more motivated to complete those tasks.
Zoning Out? Try Zooming Out
When the grass begins to look greener on the other side it can help to take a look at the big picture.
Knowing our Why and putting small tasks into context can help us stay on course. Besides, have you seen the other side of grass? Turn a clump over some time; it’s brown, it’s dirty and often filled with bugs.
An enterpriser named, Amber, finds she can better enjoy her task work by…
…continuously “zooming out” as I like to call it, and focusing on the big picture. Big picture = I am working for myself! For me, nothing is sweeter than being free from the 9-5 and being able to spend my days living authentically — even if it sometimes means I have to do tasks that I don’t absolutely love.
With a Little Help from My Friends
On the subject of taking on humdrum processes, PollyAnna told me, “You don’t have to do it alone.”
She was talking about outsourcing. Delegation. Getting some help. These are great things. If you have the means to hire others, it can do wonders for your business.
If you can’t outsource right away, keep a vision of that future day. Consider making such a move sooner rather than later. It can free you up to focus on the things you enjoy the most (within both your business and your life).
When you are ready to outsource make it a point to look for those who love doing certain tasks. Sunita writes:
I can’t hate the taskwork because it’s a part of something that I love and it contributes to the success. I handle such situations by delegating those tasks to someone who loves doing them. … One needs to delegate their weaknesses to fully play on their strengths.
More on Friends
While we’re on the topic of involving others in your business, find ways to get around others who are also self-enterprisers. Find a Meetup group that gets together in your local area. Or find an online group that checks in before, during, and after a set period of work time.
Being around other nontraditional business owners can be a boon to your soul. And if you enjoy the company of the group you’ll look forward to this time for tackling repetitive tasks.
As self-enterprisers, we express ourselves through our business activities. Toxic relationships and friends that seem to always drain your energy weigh down all aspects of your business. Taskwork may take on the bulk of that weight. Tara writes:
Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals is important to maintaining the proper mindset. For me, I needed to change whom I hung around. [There were those who] lacked ambition, self-respect, and goals.
It’s a tough ask to rearrange your relationships. But one worthy of the efforts.
Heads or Tales
Finding and being around others with a positive mindset is definitely important. But ultimately our experience comes down to the stuff that’s in our own heads.
To get to the root of enjoyment in our taskwork, we must explore our own mindset and the personal choices we make. Spike writes:
…there is the simple act of being happy and enjoying something as a human being.
The small, repetitive tasks that we all must face can become our laboratory for living. Think of your task time as your personal dojo for learning to become more patient, more understanding. Or, as a way to learn to enhance your human experience.
Our experiences in this life depend largely upon the stories we tell ourselves. We are either miserable or elated because of the tales we spin inside our heads. It’s imperative to remember that we are the author of our own stories. Spike writes:
We all tell ourselves stories and more often than not those stories depart quite brutally from reality, and for good reasons. I find this especially true with entrepreneurs, starting with myself. It’s a self-defense mechanism in a way. And it’s also about details. When we make up stories they are often about the big day, leaving out a lot of the specifics of the everyday.
And when the time comes that we make the comparison between what’s in front of us and the story in our head, because that times always comes, many times a day in fact, that comparison will decide our enjoyment.
If we all painted a more realistic picture then we’d be unlikely to be disappointed and be able to enjoy the moment. That’s true, however I find this between hard and impossible to do and to go against the function of that self-defense mechanism.
Spike went on to say that another approach, a better approach, is to stop making up stories to begin with:
Instead, focus on the moment. This is by no means easy, I’ve been trying for years and still struggling.
So should we get to setting better expectations through the stories we tell ourselves? Or seek to live in the moment? Spike recommends both:
The combination of the two would be my advice to get the most enjoyment out of doing what’s needed.
Listen to the Theme from Rocky, Then Punch Slabs of Meat
With the right perspective, the challenge of taskwork can be motivating in and of itself. It’s you and me, fighting the good fight. Just having a good challenge in front of us can be enough to make us run toward our to-do list screaming, “I’LL GET YOU! AAAHH!”
To prepare for such battles, Victor watches or listens to motivational content. He’ll tune into the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk to pump commitment and enthusiasm into his veins. Or he’ll read the words of Brian Tracy. Victor says:
Motivational talks or books make whatever it is that I need to accomplish a challenge and brings joy. It helps me zero in and focus on the challenge at hand. It is also a constant reminder that this lifestyle isn’t for everyone and in order to succeed at it I need to put in the work.
In times when we find ourselves at a standstill with our work there’s nothing like finding that spark — that fight that resides inside each of us — to get moving again.
Psychs & Sages
Taskwork. It’s a necessary part of our projects. And whether we see tasks as a process we enjoy or one we despise is up to us as individuals.
In the book, Bootstrap Business, by R. Christiansen and R. Porter, we are warned of avoiding the easy route:
Don’t pick the path of least resistance. … Doing the hard thing will set you apart from most of your competition.
Of course, as self-enterprisers we’re not competing against anyone but ourselves. But boldly charging toward the hard things will move us beyond where we’d otherwise end up. Simply rinse and repeat.
In life, asking ourselves better questions always gives us better answers. The same is true within our work space. In Steven Chandler’s book, Time Warrior, he points out:
The biggest fallacy there is about making good use of one’s time is that you have to feel like doing something before you can do it.
What do I feel like doing right now? That is the worst question I could ever ask myself during my workday. … The best questions are: “What do I want to produce?” and “What structure would guarantee that?”
Speaking of feelings, Chandler goes on to point out that the work before us can be an elixir. They can be a source of good feelings and great energy. Chandler says:
One of the last pieces of life’s puzzle for me was to see the value in completing things. … Notice how much energy it takes away to have unfinished business in life. How much that drains you. In fact, it takes more energy to carry around unfinished business than it does to complete everything on your list— a lot more!
When you finish something and complete it and tie a ribbon around it so that now it’s done, your sense of energy about life goes up — it doesn’t go down. You are exuberant after completion. It really feels great.
Going Out of Your Mind
Here’s something to try: What if we didn’t have to be ourselves in order to get things done? What if we could feel that great energy of completing things by simply imagining we were the type of person who got to work? What if we were another person altogether? Chandler writes:
Try waking up and pretending you’re a robot or pretending you’re Superman, or someone without feelings, just someone who can do things without considering whether they feel like doing them. Then do everything you can think of that’s unfinished; and notice at the end of that day how much energy you’ve got. You’ll be amazed. The more things you complete, the more energy you’ll have.
Going Into Your Mind
By becoming acutely aware of ourselves and our thoughts while performing our taskwork, we can learn more about ourselves, more about our business, and ultimately accomplish more. In the book, The Art of Living Consciously, Dr. Branden teaches:
Living consciously is intelligence taking joy in its own function. … Living consciously is a source of power and liberation. It does not weigh us down — it lifts us up.
Dr. Branden goes on to give a list of wonderful benefits of increasing our inner awareness as we perform our work. Here are a several of those benefits:
If I bring five percent more consciousness [or awareness] to my work–
- I’d procrastinate less
- I’d think more about my priorities
- I’d get more done
- I’d stay focused on important issues
- I’d be less confused about what to do
- I’d accomplish more with less effort
- I’d finish my work on time
- I’d learn more about the business
- I wouldn’t fee so isolated
- I’d grow more
- I’d have more energy
- Work would be more stimulating
One of the greatest benefits we can experience while immersed within our work is discovering meaning. Meaning in our work. Meaning in the value we offer. Meaning in our own lives.
In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Viktor Frankl teaches:
There are three main avenues on which one arrives at meaning in life. The first is by creating a work or by doing a deed. The second is by experiencing something or encountering someone; in other words, meaning can be found not only in work, but also in love. … The third avenue to meaning in life: [a person] may rise above himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.
These three avenues to meaning are everpresent within the owning and operating of one’s business. They are in the work we perform, in the value we offer others, and in the interactions with the people we meet. This perspective can help us to transcend any task into the noblest of adventures.
How Do I Love Thee?
We’ve explored many methods and philosophies that self-enterprisers use to keep themselves on task. We can see that there is no one-size-fits-all solution in falling in love with our taskwork.
Did anything stand out to you? Is there something new you’ll want to try?
Maybe you’ll find an approach that seems to work for awhile — only to find you’re back to grinding your teeth to get through the daily grind. Don’t be afraid to try a new tactic. Or, mix and match (and let me know what you discover!).
While work is sometimes work, it is always available to us as a means of self-discovery. And whether you’re looking forward or looking inward, you have the power to interpret and alter your thoughts and actions. You can create more enjoyment in your daily living. My hope is for you to develop an enriching relationship with your to-do lists.
Okay. Back to work.
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A big THANK YOU to the self-enterprisers who contributed to this article.
Some quotes have been adjusted for clarity or context.
Photo credits: flickr.com: Frederic C81, Eneas De Troya, Anders Lejczak, zenjazzygeek, chumlee, David Brossard, web4camguy, Alexander Baxevanis, Micael Coghlan, Logan Ingalls, Allen