Getting Shit Done

Actualizing Our Tasks

Liked Clean the Tiles, Not the Floor by David Cain (

How we make tasks much harder than they need to be, and how to stop.

As long as [I] zeroed in on the current tile, rather than think about the dozens of tiles I had yet to clean, there was minimal discomfort and no tedium. Whenever my mind started to drift that way, I remembered my elegant strategy: look at a tile, and clean that tile…The expected tedium and displeasure — which seem intrinsic to the task of cleaning this particular bathroom — never arrived.

We make things worse than they are.

There is a qualitative difference between cleaning the tiles and cleaning the floor. Cleaning the tiles is much easier, even though it looks the same from the outside, and the outcome is the same.

The general rule seems to be this: the more abstract we make an event – that is, the more we see it in terms of its meaning to the mind, rather than how it feels to the senses – the greater the psychological pain that is created.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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