If you want to learn a foreign language, you need to spend hours memorizing vocabulary and grammar.
To get into great shape, you need to perform repetitive exercises on a regular basis.
I’ve written about the importance of doing boring things before, but that lesson was highlighted to me a few weeks ago at the symphony.
As I was reading about the lead violinist, I found something interesting. Apparently, she still starts every morning playing the same scales she did as a beginner.
An extremely talented and advanced violinist starts out every day doing the same basic scales she did as a youngster. She says that they’re essential to maintaining her ability.
The big lesson in all of this is that boring tasks pay off. It’s just doing them that’s hard – after all, they’re boring.
Learning a foreign language is exciting. You get to speak to others in a brand new way; it’s impressive. But hardly anyone gets excited about learning the vocabulary.
Writing a novel is a big goal for many people. That excitement dies down when confronted with the day-to-day writing tasks that go into it.
But what if you could become passionate about boring tasks? If you can get excited to do them, you could unlock a lot of potential and accomplish more. But how do you do it?
The Power of Ritual
The first step to becoming passionate about a boring task is to create a ritual around it. Embedding them into a set sequence of activities will make it easier to integrate the task into your life.
According to Twyla Tharp in her book, The Creative Habit, she uses a morning ritual to help her exercise daily. Each morning activity leads seamlessly into the other until finally she ends up in a taxi cab going to the gym to work out.
She credits her daily workouts to this ritual. Otherwise she would never find the motivation to go. In fact, she quite dislikes working out, but the ritual activities flow so well that it sweeps her along to her goal.
Stephen King also has a ritual to his writing. Each morning, when he wakes up, he brews a cup of tea and takes a vitamin. Promptly starting between 8AM and 8:30AM, King sits in the same chair behind the same desk with all his papers arranged exactly the way he wants.
Once again, he credits his prolific writing with this ritual. As he has said, when he sits down at that desk, his mind knows it’s time to write.
I’ve had similar results. I used to write at various times and places with decent output. However, when I created a workspace and set a time-frame dedicated specifically to writing, my word count steadily increased.
Daily rituals are consistently found among a lot of highly accomplished people. If you want to read more about them go to this list of 25 famous thinkers and their inspiring daily rituals.
Find the Intrinsic Value of the Task
Turning the boring task into a ritual is only the first step. Rituals will make you consistent, but if you want to become passionate about the boring task, you need to do more.
There has to be something about the task that gets you excited. You have to find something that keeps you going and wanting to do more.
Passion will come when you find intrinsic value in the boring task you’re doing.
For example, when I was studying French, I memorized a lot of vocabulary words using flash cards. It’s hard to become passionate about rote memorization of vocabulary words, but it happened to me. In the end, it was one of my greatest joys.
Each day I would go through an old set of words and try to recall the translation. Each time I successfully recalled a word felt great. The more I recalled, the more I felt like I was building something.
Later, when I tested my translation skills with a French movie or TV show, I would pay close attention to any vocabulary words I had memorized. If I heard one and understood it, I felt the hard hard work was paying off.
That’s really the secret to being passionate about boring tasks. You have to feel like it’s building up to something or paying off in the end. You have to find purpose in them.
As I studied French, I could tell I was understanding more and more. Memorization wasn’t for nothing; I was building up the French language more than I could have hoped and that was exciting.
It’s the same for writing a book. I do a little here and there every day. It’s exciting to see the words coming together as the book forms.
People only dread boring tasks when they don’t see any reason or purpose to them. If you can see your daily tasks building up to something, it’s a lot easier to get passionate about them.
photo credit: Emily’s Mind