There is a song that’s been stuck in my head for a few days now, a childhood favourite: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun….”
Much like a “spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”, you have to find the “fun” aspect of a job to make it easier to deal with. The grey-suited governess — Mary Poppins — gets a pair of unenthusiastic children to finish their chores by showing them how “a song can move the job along”.
But — I hear you say — not all jobs can be moved along with a song. There are many that are absolutely no fun, where the only pleasure is that of completion. How does one find that “element of fun” where none exists? Or, to put in a different way, how can one inject fun into a dull chore?
Let’s take college assignments, for instance. Sometimes, the assignment takes on a life of its own and becomes an enjoyable exercise just because of the subject matter, or because you find the topic interesting. But what if it is for a course that you have found dead boring, or one that you have no real engagement with? What can you do that lights a spark and makes the process more bearable? Almost all topics can be looked at through a variety of lenses and interpreted in multiple ways. Look for a way to link the boring subject with something that you are interested in. For instance, if you are a football fan, you can use the sport to speak to a number of concepts in science, marketing, history, and so on. If you enjoy keeping up with fashion, you can do the same — the industry depends on a whole range of processes and partnerships — materials science, adaptability to climate, aesthetics, and yes, even math.
Of course, this approach may not always be feasible, as some assignments are specific and do not allow you room for such interpretation. Another way of bringing relief to tedious or difficult work is to pool resources with a friend — what in common parlance is called “joint study”. Agree to work together in a way that motivates you — take short “chat breaks” to compare notes, egg each other on, and share ideas as you work, and give feedback on progress. Group assignments are usually structured in a way that you need to work with others, and this can be fun and well as productive, as you are combining ideas and keeping each other on track. Work becomes a shared project, not a burden you alone have to bear.
For some people, playing music helps them focus and release the tensions related to meeting deadlines, or addressing quality and completeness. In fact, music has been used even by surgeons in operating rooms, because it helps steady the nerves and achieve a working rhythm. This may not be true for all of us, of course, and for some, music is actually distracting, so you have to figure out which group you belong to!
Ultimately, the real fun is in getting the work done, in knowing that you have accomplished the task. But when the road seems long and hard, it doesn’t hurt to look for ways to make the journey not just bearable, but also enjoyable.
The author teaches at the University of Hyderabad and edits Teacher Plus. firstname.lastname@example.org