Many people the world over spend a considerable chunk of time washing dishes. If you need to do dishes, the time spent is already a dropped cost. Past that you can either enjoy this time or find it grindingly tedious. It can deplete or recharge your mental batteries. I used to dread washing dishes until 1 year ago. Here are the changes I made.
Tools*. Focus on what tools you are using. A few simple tools will allow greater efficiency. For me, efficiency is correlated with enjoyment. Here is my system:
Mindfulness. Ask yourself what you can enjoy about this task. Then focus on those things. This sounds cheesy but actually works for me. You can also use this mental free-time to listen to podcasts, radio, music, or process and expand ideas you have.
Wash with a friend. This is deceivingly fun. If it is a girlfriend, she will definitely dig that your are helping her, and it’s a great activity for after you share food. That the dishes got done is just icing on the cake.
One second you are looking over your friend’s shoulder at their crossword or Sudoku, then, before you know it, you are maniacally racking your brain for “Twilight, to a poet” that has 6 letters. Puzzles are highly addictive; they are like meth for our inner problem-solver.
Many people enjoy a good puzzle every now and then. Some people make them a part of a daily routine. Personally, puzzles are highly addictive. Sitting down with a game of Sudoku or Bejeweled is absolute bliss. When I stop playing, however, I notice that the benefits are of a temporary nature; they disappear as soon as the game does. I also notice that other activities, activities that are not explicitly puzzles, queue the same feelings of bliss. Such activities for me are solving electrical faults, figuring out how to fabricate anything, and analyzing data.
There are 2 types of puzzles: enjoyment puzzles and practical puzzles.
Enjoyment puzzles are what we commonly think of as puzzles and games. These can be classic examples such as jigsaws, crosswords, and solitaire. However they extend to the huge realm of video games. With the apparent trend of app-mania, novel puzzles and video games are only a touch away. Defeating a video game, beating their system, is a delicious feeling. I know. I spent a majority of the summer between 6th and 7th grade playing an online multiplayer game, Runescape. This was the beginning of the MMORPG universe, before WoW. The games of today are vastly superior. Still, Runescape was incredibly addictive to me. I craved it. My friend and I spent many days biking 4.5 miles to the library to consume all available bandwidth. I often played despite being hungry or having to urinate. The addictiveness of future video games will only multiply.
Practical puzzles are actually what we call “problem solving.” That is, solving a problem you have in order to accomplish something. For me, these could be diagnosing electrical faults, figuring out how to fabricate a new tool, envisioning the order of cuts on a lathe, or analyzing data to reach conclusions. Practical puzzles can be equally as enjoyable as enjoyment puzzles, because they involve the same process..
I am a big fan of being deeply connected with your body. One of the things I enjoy (often at the disgust of loved ones) is monitoring the way my body smells.
I have noticed that my armpit odor is extremely consistent with my behavior. By default, I am good-smelling. I do choose to wear a deodorant and usually shower every other day, but these olfactory trends occur regardless of my hygiene.
Stress makes me stink. Right now my only sources of stress are my own procrastination and the anticipation of public speaking. When I grapple with either of those, I have a distinct stress-sweat smell. It is not a good smell.
Being sedentary makes me stink. When I spend hours prostrate, gazing into the backlit-glow of the internet, I invariably stink, in a similar flavor as the stress-sweat smell.
These are both things that I consider negatives. They should have no place in my life. Noteworthy are the things that don't make me stink:
Whenever I see someone, I see the brands they are wearing. Their clothes are too mainstream. Their choice of backpack is not minimalist. Do they think about all the junk on their keyring? All the crap in their purse? Why are they putting that poisonous food in their mouth? Why are they sucking a nicotine exhaust pipe?
Whenever I watch a video of someone's experience, my brain does something so automatic that scares me. Are they shooting with a gopro? Why are they wearing cotton, don't they know it is an inferior fabric? What kind of mountain bike are they using? What did they use to edit the video? Who's sponsor logos are emblazoned? I instantly focus on the gear they are using, and just as instantly I discard the content. I discard the person. I see only the stuff. How did that happen?
My obsession with perfecting my relationship with possessions has lead me to see everyone else through the lens of their possessions. Isn’t that paradoxical? The whole point of minimalism is that our possessions don’t define us as people. So why do I define others based on their possessions? It is completely backwards. What if, instead, I accepted others? What if I learned to love them as they are? What if I learned to love myself despite all of my imperfections? What if I remembered that I have surely done every stupid thing I judge others for?
Then I could truly appreciate them. Then I could see through any misalignment with the way I think they should be. Then I could see that the stuff, the things people use do not define them. People are beautiful. People that transcend their habits and possessions.
Ask anyone who has spent their life around loud machines, if you can get their attention. Hearing loss is gradual, cumulative, and irreversible.
I first learned to love ear plugs during the summer of 2011. I lived and worked on a 32' fishing boat in Alaska's Bristol Bay. The boat was powered by 2 Deere diesel engines, and when that was shut off a genset was turned on to supply electricity. Basically, something on the boat was always resonating, creating a mind-numbing chatter.
None of the old-time fishermen had very much hearing left. "Well," I thought, "when I am old and grey, I still want to hear my grand daughter play "Hot Cross Buns" on the piano or hear my wife scream "Taylor! Can you bring me some toilet paper?""
At first wearing ear plugs 24/7 on the boat was odd for me, but I got used to it in short order. Now, popping them in brings a wave of calm over me. All the noise sinks into the background, and I can hear my thoughts much more clearly as they bubble up.
I think most people have noisy activities in their life that they don't even realize are stealing their hearing. Other times you can benefit from the focus that being in an audio bubble lends. I have developed a habit of protecting my hearing; exposing my naked ear drums to damaging decibels now makes my blood boil, and I get an itch that can only be scratched by putting in my ear plugs. Good thing they are around my neck.
It just happened again. My day is gone and I don't know where it went. I just spent a day of my life on the internet.
When I look at the contrast between my today and my yesterday, the contrast gives me goose bumps. Yesterday I awoke early, took a walk in nature with an old friend and a dog friend, packed, and road-tripped 400 miles with 4 good friends. Along the trip we met new people, shared food, played Chinese checkers, and went offroading in my little 2WD car. After getting home I went to a friend's house for homemade pizza and to visit him and his family. I read a few pages of "The Call of the Wild" and fell asleep, exhausted.
Today I browsed the internet heeding my every whim. It began with 2 google searches, and I now have 73 tabs open. Worse, I somehow feel stressed by my need to read these tabs and the thought that they will spawn more tabs. It is hard to believe that the two days are contiguous in the same life.
Of all possible ways to spend a day, how did I give my day to the internet? This is not just any day either; this is an incredible day in terms of potential. I am 22 years old, I am strong, intelligent, and I have incredible resources. I have things to do- a woodcutting job to finish, a trip to prepare for, possessions to sell, a car to fix, ideas to build.
Ironically, I have things to do on the internet. I have a plane ticket to Peru to buy. That is a time-sensitive item. Yet I didn't even open Google Flights. Instead, I allowed myself to be distracted. Worse, I didn't consciously make that decision; rather, I slid down the slope of least resistance.
I have an internet addiction and a problem with using the internet efficiently. I get distracted easily and seek solutions to problems I don't really have. Those ingredients form a nasty concoction that leaves me wasting hours in front of a screen.
See my last post for a full discussion of this.
Today I am going to try a new experiment.