• Advice

Why silliness is seriously important

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to bring joy to the types of work that I, uh…don’t particularly enjoy.

I’m lucky enough to often earn a living doing work that I DO enjoy. But even with a fulfilling, challenging career, there are moments I don’t relish. I’ve written extensively on this blog about the bane of invoicing, for example, and busywork always gets me down.

I’m a champion procrastinator at the best of times… and my tendency towards procrastination is directly proportional to how much I’m dreading the work. Chores that should take a few unpleasant minutes get delayed hours, or even days.

I’m sure that many of you are often in similar situations. Some of you, no doubt, are able to think “let’s get this over with!”, buckle down, and get your most onerous work done promptly.

I appreciate and envy your self-control.

I am so not of your ilk.

I’ve tried self-bribery. I’ve tried self-threats. I’ve tried whining to my significant other, who inevitably tells me just to do the darned thing, already. All of these tactics are only partially effective.

Ultimately, it seems that the only way I can easily do less-enjoyable work quickly… is to turn it into enjoyable work. This is an obvious solution, if not a terribly workable one – how do I turn invoicing, for example, into a pleasant task?

The answer has come to me recently, and it is: silliness.

The idea came to me when watching my nephew clean up his toys: one of the small chores he’s been given to increase his confidence and sense of responsibility. I watched him putter around his room, stacking Legos and pushing stuffed animals into vaguely defensible semblances of piles. As he cleaned, he sang himself a little nonsensical song.

“What are you singing?” I asked him.

“Oh, just a silly made-up song,” he said, “If I don’t sing, it feels like working.”

… from the mouths of babes!

As my nephew so wisely pointed out, part of the reason I dread unpleasant tasks so much is that they feel, so finally and absolutely, like no-fun. When I deliberately try to cultivate silliness in stupid onerous work… it magically becomes more enjoyable, and thus infinitely more do-able.

I’ve started consciously building games centered around annoying tasks. I’ve had my roommates time how long it takes to do my invoices – and tried to beat my own record. I’ve started creating “Stupid Work Playlists”, full of bad pop songs, to listen to when I’m doing dull tasks. I’ve begun trying to work small internal jokes and puns into copywriting work – nothing noticeable, just done for my own amusement. I am, in short, being silly.

Because I no longer view “suspending my sense of humor” as a requirement for getting dull chores done, I’ve found myself happier and bouncier while doing even the most boring work. Tasks go faster, and time drags less.

Silliness, it turns out, is dreadfully, seriously important.