Tedium Without Drama - Christine Kane

One of my Platinum-Level coaching clients – I’ll call her Sylvia – sent me her coaching form before our call.

My first thought was: “Uh-oh.”

There were exclamation points, capital letters, and no small amount of gloom. It seemed that the IRS had decided to pay a visit to Sylvia to look over her 2006 taxes.

As our call started, Sylvia revealed that she had known all along that her accountant wasn’t very good. (Turns out, it wasn’t really an accountant at all. Sylvia knew this and had hired her anyway.) The “accountant” was belligerent with the IRS guy during the first meeting. A shouting match ensued. Sylvia might owe thousands of dollars due to a liberal deduction the accountant took.

When someone is in a low mood, or is having a moment of drama, I never try to solve anything from that level. The first place to start is to neutralize the emotions, reactions, and translations of the situation so that we can move into clear thinking.

Here’s what Sylvia started to realize:

1. that she has been upleveling her business and her life all year and that she was releasing anything that wasn’t high-quality. This included her accountant. The situation with the IRS was a huge sign to make that happen now.

2. that she needed to find another accountant.

3. that the documents she had to find were available, and it would take her about three hours to gather the information.

4. that there was no way to know right now if she owed money. But if she did, she would find a way to make payments.

5. that in spite of all of this, Sylvia had continued working out (in the past, this would’ve thrown her directly into many bags of Oreos) and had also kept up a (mostly) positive outlook.

Each of these five items – when we got clear and reviewed each one – is pretty neutral. In fact, the last one is downright exciting!

So, I told Sylvia something I’ve learned to tell myself when I want to moan about a particular business task that’s not fun:

“It’s just a little tedious. That’s all.”

We made a schedule, with goal dates for each item to happen – including a proactive call to the IRS guy after she had gathered the necessary documents.

The only thing that made this dramatic or painful was Sylvia’s thoughts about it. But she agreed to stick to her schedule, and get things done.

“Tedium without drama,” I reminded her.

When she understood this, she was fine. “Oh. Okay. I can do that.” Suddenly, she was back to her usual self.

Sylvia is not alone. We all have these moments when our thoughts make something much worse than it is. I experience this in business pretty regularly!

From now on, free yourself by reminding your voices, “It’s just tedious. That’s all. I can do tedium without drama. No big deal.”

Examples might be:

• Sending your songs into the copyright office.
• Adding photos of your artwork to an on-line store.
• One more edit of a document you’re writing.
• Research for a project you’re heading up at work.
• Filling out the necessary forms so you can get a merchant account.
• Taking an on-line drivers license test.

I often wonder if people give up on themselves, or their art, or their businesses because they believe only good stuff should happen, and everything should feel wildly exciting. They pout or give up when “problems” happen, or when they face some of the tedious stuff.  Facing and walking through the tedious stuff is actually the place of some of my biggest victories. I am literally a changed person because of “tedium without drama.” No kidding!

Sylvia experienced this same exhilaration. On our next call, she told me she had gotten everything done, that all was moving smoothly, and had even had an exceptional month in her business!

Now that’s worth a few exclamation points!!!

  • Marilyn Holt

    Christine, this was just so perfect. I do all too often think that anything I do towards growing my business should feel totally inspiring and have a Chariots of Fire soundtrack! Today when I was organizing my plans for the week I remembered that you had mentioned this blog on a call, so I Googled it, and now I’m actually breathing again. Yep, I can do tedium, and it can yield to something pretty magical! But first it will be tedious.

  • Kathleen Krucoff

    Very helpful. Love the phrase, “It’s just a little tedious”…I will remind myself of that as I go through my tasks. Thanks.

  • lori archibald

    A couple of months ago my water heater busted and I had water gushing out all over my garage. At first I started to panic and then something came over me that said “Get a hold of yourself.” As soon as I heard that voice I knew I had a choice – I could focus on the potential “badness” of what was happening in front of me or find ways of neutralizing the situation. I knew instinctively that whatever I chose to focus on would determine what I was about to experience. That realization snapped me out of it and I started focusing on what I could appreciate about the situation – my carpet didn’t get damaged because it all happened in my garage, the plumber was on the way, I had money in the bank to cover the cost of the plumber, etc. And everything worked out just fine.

  • Hayden Tompkins

    I also love how it’s such a subtle gratitude reminder. Like, “It could be worse so let’s be thankful for what it is!”

  • Mary Jo (Sam)

    I do something similar when I have the tedious tasks. If Ihave more than one, I start them all, and spend my day switching from one to the other, which makes it seem less boring. Then I plan something nice, like a hot tub and a martini for when I get them all done.

  • Andrea

    I am trying really hard to avoid the “why me?’ when a tedious job is thrown my way. I just “do it” as Tonya says and it is gone and I am on to something I wanted to do, or a more inspiring use of my time. When a whole day is filled with little tedious things….I say to myself “Today I am the goddess of little things” and it lifts my spirit. Goddesses have power, even over little things.

  • Mary Jo (Sam)

    What great ideas! The last time I had an event in my life like this was when I got a huge bill from my propane co. that came out of nowhere. I got more and more angry when their customer service could not even explain it, but yes, I still owed them the money. Why would I need an explanation, anyway?
    I finally decided to calm down and look at the big picture, and did a number of things. First I fired them. Then I found a new provider in my town with a better price AND a friendly, knowledgable staff. I did have to pay the money, but I took my time and felt liberated when all was said and done! Thank you Christine, for another great insight into making our lives easier and more successful!

  • milinda

    I like to do a little (and yes obvious!)trick to pacify my whiny inner five year old who hates all that tedium & drudge stuff… I keep aside some very enjoyable task or what you might call a treat & schedule it for immediately afterwards.
    Very obvious psychology at work, I grant you , but it creates an instant light at the end of the tunnel feeling & also draws the spotlight away from the unfun endeavour, reducing drama & increasing the ‘oh let’s just get it done & dusted feeling” : )

  • Martina

    Thank you Christine. I understand what you mean. I will print your answer and keep it as a reminder in my notebook. Thanks a lot.

  • Donna

    Excellent!! And perfect timing for me as well. Being a left-brained, near OCD type, I have to schedule things like Tonya. But what I have learned recently is to schedule LITTLE TEENY CHUNKS of tedium. That works best for me so I am not overwhelmed by the size of the tedium (or the need to make it PERFECT!)

  • Christine Kane

    Hi all! And good morning! thanks for the awesome responses as per usual!

    Martina – I feel your pain, and the only thing I know to do is to continue to be aware of your own responses and thoughts. When i’ve had issues with working relationships or with my husband — the place i always start is INSIDE MYSELF. Also – having a conversation about this when things AREN’T highly charged is a good tactic. That way you can both talk in a detached manner.

    Tonya – love it! you’re so funny! “tedious time” and “going Nike” are both great expressions!

  • Laura

    Wonderful post! I think it helps to accept ahead of time that no matter what….there will *always* be some tedium involved. And the less emotion we invest in those items, the faster we break through them. I think Tonya’s “tedium time” is a great tool, and I know you (Christine) recommend setting aside time (i.e. scheduling) for dealing with tasks as well. Take care!

  • Tiko

    I love this! I can be such the drama queen…until today! I see that it’s all about making the choice. Either I can go crazy…or I can take a deep breath and make a plan. It’s just that simple! Thanks Christine! 🙂

  • Tonya

    Hi Christine-

    I use to “go all drama” on those tedious tasks. Just the thought would cause this sick gut feeling, and from there, I would have an adult temper tantrum and spend lots of energy caught up in a man-made whirlwind. Then I realized that if I would just cut out the drama and go “Nike” instead and Just do it,” I would save myself a lot of heartache.

    Now, I plan “tedious time.” It’s built into my day so that I can write checks, call banks, repair a chipped pedicure, chop onions, duct tape stuff, and tidy my tediums. Funny though, I also plan about 10 minutes a day for drama. That’s when I can pout, scream, cry, or just dance around my house. But when my 10 minutes are done, the curtain is closed.

    LOVE your blogs. Keep them coming!

  • Martina

    My husband and I own a business together. After 3 tough years it starts to get a bit more smoothly, but still things happen we wished they don´t. I slowly got accustomed to the many upcoming problems and try to handle them with less drama but my husband always act like a “Drama King”. I recently noticed I´m no more in fear of the unexpectedly what hit us over and over again, I´m in fear of his reactions. He always acts as we are doomed now and it is hard for me to stay calm. We have talked about this but I can´t find a way to help him to overcome his behaviour. Any suggestions? (sorry for my kind of writing, I´m not from the US)

  • Tracy

    Hi Christine,
    This is a great post (as usual). I have had a coping protocol for this sort of thing for a while: I allow something to sit in my email box or my bill pile until Sunday in order to get over my initial reaction to it. I schedule a time Sunday afternoon to clear all of that stuff from my space. It always feels like starting the new week freshly.

    I have found that I ALWAYS intitially react negatively to any unexpected “chore” that comes my way. I hate switching gears from my expectations of the week and don’t do it very gracefully :-. When I leave it to sit for a bit, I seem to lose, or significantly reduce my resistance to it.

    When I actually get down to work after getting my emotional reaction out of the way, my list is almost always quickly resolved or resolved by very concrete steps. It really works for me to know what I have to deal with in the Sunday sessions and to have a finite time set aside to deal with them. This way I just bypass all of my inherent drama!

  • Anon

    So true, so true! I’m the type that pouts at very small obstacles. You want me to fill in forms? I’m just not going to work with you! It used to make me feel that “i won”. I hate forms, I hate going over stuff I’ve written, I hate paying bills, I hate so many things, that I just choose not to deal with them. And yes, now I know that’s a problem. So I try. I’ll remind myself that, “it’s just tedious” 🙂

  • Lynne

    Just so you know… perfect timing again. This is exactly what I need to be doing right now. Thank you… (now, can you keep posting encouraging updates with this same general theme every few days or so to keep me going?) 🙂