David M. Brown's Blog

July 3, 2009

How to get done the things you don’t want to bother with

Filed under: Self-help — davidmbrowndotcom @ 9:22 am

We often feel guilty when we’re doing the things we enjoy doing instead of the things we “should” be doing, like showing up for work, cleaning house, exercising and the like. Maybe you’d rather be reading a book than vacuuming the rug. So you read a book. You defer the vacuuming. But the rug has to be vacuumed; and now, not later; it really does. (I mean, look at it, just look at it, would you?) What to do?

Well, there is no solution short of paying or persuading somebody else to do it and feeling guilty about how they have to do it now. But if there were some more direct or personally transformative solution available, it would involve deluding yourself into believing that the rhythmic swish-swish-whir-cachunk of the vacuum cleaner is a source of orgiastic joy, even of transcendent deliverance. If you lust to vacuum—if the vacuuming itself, the pure sucking sweep and repetitiveness of the machine under your relentless guidance, is the only activity that makes life worth living, breath worth breathing—if you get some kind of sado-masochistic kick out of rudely shoving the vacuum cleaner around—if it is so swell to be in vacuuming mode that you feel guilty about vacuuming (for example, because it is distracting you from that book you should be reading)—of course you are going to do the vacuuming that needs to be done. And you’ll do it right now.

The trick is to be able to turn this altered state of consciousness on and off like a spigot, so you’re not idiotically vacuuming everything for the next twelve weeks. Some kind of timer mechanism, perhaps hooked up to triggers for endorphin release and the dampening of cognitive ability, might be serviceable. In lucid moments, you would make the rational determination about what your next chore should be. Then you just pull a switch and—whammo!—you have never scooped your dog’s poop so joyously, with such brio and zest, such guilty pleasure.

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