Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Anticipation: How to Make a Dull Job Fun

This week, my husband and I, along with our preschooler and toddler, are going camping. For almost a week. In a tent. On purpose.
I love camping. I really do. I love the smell of the campfire, I love lying in the tent at night listening for owls hooting and insects chirping and small animals rustling through the underbrush, I love chasing fireflies and stargazing and going for hikes.

What I don’t love, however, is packing. Even though I have lists, and lists of lists, I always have to spend hours gathering supplies, checking that everything is in working order, replacing used up items, double-checking that everything is in working order, and trying to get the same things I packed last year to fit into the same box I packed them in last year (they never do). But I’ve discovered a way to make even the dreaded packing chore fun: Anticipation.

Every time I pack an item, I anticipate how much fun I’ll have using it. While I’m digging through the attic to find the toasting forks, I imagine seeing my daughter’s face when she tastes her first s’more, or watching my husband help my son roast his own hotdog over the fire. While I’m scrubbing the dust off of the plastic wineglasses, I’ll be anticipating our traditional first-night steak dinner and thinking about which bottle of red wine my husband and I will use to toast the beginning of our vacation. When I cross off the words “formula,” “high chair,” “baby backpack,” and “Pack & Play” from last year’s packing list, I’ll anticipate how much more my kids will be able to do and help with this year compared to last year’s camping adventure. It doesn’t save me any time, but it certainly makes the time seem to go by faster!

And it does seem to work for pretty much any distasteful chore. Dusting the living room because company is coming? I anticipate the cheerful conversations that will be going on in the room when the company arrives. Washing the kitchen floor? I anticipate sitting on that very floor doing a craft project with my kids. Taking a disgusting diaper pail liner out to the trash? I anticipate that wonderful day when my son is potty trained and free of diapers. (Insert sound of angels singing here.)
Even tasks like sitting through a boring meeting are more fun if you find ways to enjoy anticipation. Imagine getting kudos from your boss when you finish the project he’s describing ahead of schedule and under budget. Imagine getting a letter from a happy client thanking you for your hard work (and cc’ing your boss). Anticipate getting a raise and a promotion because of your efficiency! Dream that you are asked to accept the CEO position of your company!!! Okay, maybe that’s going a little overboard, but anticipating that the meeting will end ahead of schedule and your boss will tell you to call it a day a few hours early is perfectly reasonable.
Anticipation doesn’t just make the distasteful stuff go by faster; it also extends the pleasurable stuff. By thinking about my vacation before it even starts, I get a few more days of enjoyment out of it. By imagining how much fun I’m going to have, I’m having fun before the real fun even begins. My honeymoon only lasted two weeks, but I enjoyed it for several months just by imagining how great it was going to be. This vacation is less than a week, but I’ve already been getting some fun out of it for several days merely by anticipating it.
And when I get home, as I’m unpacking and doing umpteen loads of laundry and trying to get all the camping gear to fit back in the attic where it came from, I’ll try another method of extending my vacation: reminiscing.

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