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Minimize aberration by making annoying work tasks fun

Nir Eyal
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Nir Eyal

Nir Eyal is the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Articles and blogs about the attitude of articles at (show all) Nir Eyal is the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Articles and blogs about the attitude of articles at For more insights on using attitude to change chump behavior, join his free newsletter and accept a free workbook.


From comic books and radio programs to TV shows and Atari games, the world has always been full of things that abstract us. Today, most of us blame our phones or, more specifically, social media, Words with Friends, or Netflix as the reason we can’t get annihilation done.

Yet these aren’t the real culprits. Instead, our distraction is usually driven by our desire to escape discomfort, including boredom, fear, and anxiety. When you binge on The Office rather than doing your taxes, watching Michael, Pam, and Dwight is your (understandable) way of alienated an action you deem to be a annoying task. The secret to staying focused at times like these is not to abjure from The Office — you’ll just find addition aberration — but to change your angle on the task itself.

Ian Bogost studies fun for a living. A assistant of alternate accretion at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Bogost has accounting 10 books, including quirky titles like ‘How to Talk About Videogames, The Geek’s Chihuahua,’ and, most recently, Play Anything. In the latter book, Bogost makes several bold claims that claiming how we think about fun and play. “Fun,” he writes, “turns out to be fun even if it doesn’t absorb much (or any) enjoyment.”

Huh? Doesn’t fun have to feel good? Not necessarily, Bogost says. By accommodated our notions about what fun should feel like, we open ourselves up to seeing our daily activities in a new way. Play can be part of any difficult task, he believes, and though play doesn’t necessarily have to be pleasurable, it can free us from ache — which, let’s not forget, is the axial additive active distraction.

Given what we know about our adeptness for aberration when we’re uncomfortable, reimagining difficult work as fun could prove abundantly empowering. Imagine how able you’d feel if you were able to transform the hard, focused work you have to do into article that felt like play.

Is that even possible? Bogost thinks it is, but apparently not in the way you think.

Don’t belie it

We’ve all heard Mary Poppins’s advice to add “a dosage of sugar” and turn a job into a game. Well, Bogost believes Poppins was wrong. He claims her access “recommends accoutrement over drudgery.” As he writes, “We fail to have fun because we don’t take things actively enough, not because we take them so actively that we’d have to cut their bitter taste with sugar. Fun is not a action so much as an bankrupt produced when an abettor can treat article with dignity.”

“Fun is the after-effects of advisedly manipulating a accustomed bearings in a new way,” Bogost says. The answer, therefore, is to focus on the task itself. Instead of active away from our pain or using rewards like prizes and treats to help actuate us, the idea is to pay such close absorption that you find new challenges you didn’t see before. Those new challenges accommodate the change to engage our absorption and advance focus when tempted by distraction.

TV, social media, and other commercially produced distractions use slot machine-like capricious rewards to keep us affianced with a connected stream of newness. Bogost points out that we can use the same techniques to make any task more acceptable and compelling. He gives the archetype of mowing his lawn. “It may seem antic to call an action like this ‘fun,’” he writes, yet he abstruse to love it.

There is change in even the most annoying tasks

“Pay close, foolish, even absurd absorption to things,” he says. Bogost soaked up as much advice as he could about the way grass grows and how to treat it. Then, he created an “imaginary playground” in which the limitations absolutely helped to after-effects allusive experiences. He abstruse about the constraints he had to accomplish under, including local acclimate altitude and what altered kinds of accessories can and can’t do. Operating under constraints, Bogost says, is the key to adroitness and fun. Award the optimal path for the mower or assault a record time are other ways to create an abstract playground.

While acquirements how to have fun acid grass may seem like a stretch, people find fun in a wide range of activities that you might not find decidedly interesting. Consider my local coffee-obsessed barista who spends a antic amount of time adorning the absolute brew, the car buff who toils for endless hours fine-tuning her ride, or the crafter who agilely produces intricate sweaters and quilts for anybody he knows. Of course, these people don’t find these activities to be annoying tasks at all; to them, they’re the most alluring and arresting things in the entire world. But you can try bringing their mindset — their love of minutiae, their pride in mastery, their abiding admiring to do better — to some of your most alarming tasks.

For me, I abstruse to stay focused on the sometimes annoying work of autograph books by award the abstruseness in it. I write to answer absorbing questions and ascertain novel solutions to old problems. To use a accepted aphorism, “The cure for apathy is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” Today, I write for the fun of it. Of course, it’s also my profession, but by award the fun, I’m able to do my work after accepting as absent as I once did.

Remember: Award change is only accessible when we give ourselves the time to focus attentively on a task and look hard for the variability. The great thinkers and tinkerers of history made their discoveries because they were bedeviled with the exhilarant draw of discovery, the abstruseness that pulls us in because we want to know more. Whether it’s ambiguity about our adeptness to do a task better or faster than last time or coming back to catechism the alien day after day, the quest to solve these challenges is what can turn the ache we seek to escape into an action we embrace.

Published September 16, 2020 — 06:30 UTC

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