Larry Banman " Some jobs are made for thinking
February 9, 2009
I think everybody has a task that is mindless enough that it lends itself to rambling thought. Those tasks are routine enough that a person could almost complete them in their sleep.
For me, splitting firewood fills that role in the winter and mowing the lawn is my favorite “thinking task” in the summertime.
Both of them fulfill a couple of other roles as well. Each provides a modest workout. I guess you could say I work on my upper body in the winter and the legs in the summer. Both activities are, for me, therapeutic for my mind, my body and my soul.
I also like the fact that something gets accomplished while I lose myself in thought. In the winter, it is a stack of what our household affectionately calls “warm sticks” and in the summer I get to see those cool lines up and down the lawn that remind me of a major League Baseball field.
My wife initially taught me about the benefits of doing one thing (like watching television) while completing another task (like making a crocheted potholder).
Whenever we watch television or drive for an extended period, we always seem to secure another completed afghan, quilt or painting. I wasn’t able to learn crochet, so she taught me how to latch hook. (I’m told its not difficult, but I still took all eight lessons). That was OK, but it really isn’t something you can talk about with the guys.
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Plus, there are only so many latch hook rugs any household can be expected to have on display.
The best part of tasks that allow you to think, is the thinking part. I allow my mind to wander over any number of subjects. On rare occasions I will do complicated mathematical functions in my head. Something like determining whether my income will match my expenses. That has been too depressing of late, so I try to avoid working with numbers that are bracketed.
From time to time, I am asked to give a speech of some sort. I do some of my best speechwriting while pushing a lawnmower. (Those of you who have heard me talk may want to argue with my definition of “best work.”)
Mostly I don’t try to structure my thinking. If I do that, pretty soon I am making lists about the things I need to accomplish or trying to balance my checkbook in my head.
And, that just kills any catharsis I might have otherwise realized.
It is a good time to resolve problems or think about how to confront a difficult situation. I am always surprised at what the mind is capable of accomplishing without distraction and just a few minutes of clear thought. And, that is probably the best feature of those mindless tasks. They “force” a person to put down the television remote and allow the mind to do some of its own work.
It doesn’t matter what mindless task we are talking about. It probably shouldn’t involve too many sharp, moving parts. The temptation while doing these tasks is to talk on the cell phone or listen to tunes. Bad idea, if you want your own mind to work. Whether it is washing windows, folding wash or shoveling snow, put your body to work and let your thoughts wander.
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