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One-shot Chores

 

Techniques Happiness > One-shot Chores

Description | Discussion | See also

 

Description

If you have chores or any activities you must do that you do not particularly like, get them done in one go, powering through until you have completed them.

This can be helped by using time management, setting up a time in which you will do those things you do not like doing and then being disciplined in making yourself do them. Thinking about the gains in total happiness as described below can help with this.

Another way to help keep yourself on track is, when you are thinking of taking a break, think also of the pain of having to restart the disliked task. Maybe it would be better just to get it over and done with.

You can still take breaks, but only when the relief gained is necessary and greater than the increased stress and unhappiness that breaks in chores can cause.

Discussion

We are highly adaptable creatures and can get used to all kinds of problems and harsh living conditions. Just think of the people who live in deserts and icy wastes. Consider those who live in poverty or with debilitating illness.

Fortunately many of us have control over much of our lives and have some choice over when we do the things we do not particularly like doing. The problem is that we actually make things worse by procrastination and taking breaks. There are three things that cause greater unhappiness:

  • Anticipated pain: When we still have unpleasant work to do, we think forward about it and suffer from the thoughts of discomfort.
  • Loss of adaptation: When we are immersed in the task we get used to the discomfort. When we stop and restarts, we have to go through the greater discomfort of adapting to the situation again.
  • Comfort contrast: As we become used to the comfort of the break, the contrast of re-starting adds further perceived pain.

Hedonic Adaptation is a name given to the way that the fun in pleasurable activities fades over time. We can boost happiness in fun tasks by taking breaks. The reverse happens in unpleasant chores, where breaks lead to reduced total happiness. It is hence better to quickly get uncomfortable tasks over and done with.

Nelson and Meyvis (2008)  played annoying sounds to people in short, long and long+breaks patterns. They found that while people will choose to break up these unpleasant experiences, they are actually happier if they persevere, as shown by the higher happiness scores for the long noise as compared with the same duration with intervening breaks. 

See also

Fragmented Fun, Willpower, Adaptation

 

Nelson, L.D. and Meyvis, T. (2008). Interrupted Consumption: Adaptation and the Disruption of Hedonic Experience. Journal of Marketing Research, 45, 654-664. 

 

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