Why are some tasks easy and others hard?
Why is one task easier for one person than another?
I don’t mean something physical, like why is a hundred pounds heavy for this person and light for that person? I mean routine activities. Brushing teeth. Folding clothes. Cleaning. Lawn care. Why are these tasks so draining? Why are they draining for this person and not that person? Why are they draining today, but not tomorrow?
If social media ever had a time to shine, it’s been during the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Never before have so many people been leaning on so many others, often strangers. The confessions, admissions, and realities shared are as eye-opening as they are insightful.
One has been people admitting how hard some tasks are. Often routine things, they are simple and mundane matters like brushing teeth or folding clothes. I cite these two because they are things I struggle with. Some days, it takes a surprising amount of will power to force myself to brush my teeth. I don’t know why. It’s not painful or hard. I don’t have a bad history with my dental hygiene that might make me reticent. And yet, some days, I have to force myself to get out of bed and go back into the bathroom to brush my teeth because I just so did not WANT to do it. It was a physical feat to accomplish. Why?
A good number of people have posted about how they struggle to fold their clothes. Wash them and dry them? Not a problem (…usually). But once they’re out of the dryer, actually separating them and folding them and putting them up becomes a whole different task.
I’m not different. I’d say I’ve got about a one-to-one ratio of weeks I managed to fold my clothes and weeks I just dug through the hamper of clean clothes until I found what I was looking for. It’s so bad that I’ve discovered that if I don’t fold my clothes within an hour of them coming out of the dryer, it just ain’t happening. If it’s the next morning and the hamper still has my clean clothes, I just accept that this is where my wardrobe is to be found for the rest of the week. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve bucked this trend.
Why the hell is this the case?
I’m not a lazy person. I wake up before the sun every single day. Five days a week, I do a kettlebell / gymnastics routine that has impressed strongmen. Even at home, I do twice-a-day martial arts training (striking/forms midday, grappling in the afternoon). I write 2500 words without fail (in fact, I have to limit myself lest I neglect other work to write more). I draw, do language work, clean the house, walk the dog, and – oh yeah – actually work a forty-hour-a-week day job. Folding clothes should not be a thing.
And yet it is.
As we speak, my hamper is in the living room, next to my recliner. It’s been there since Sunday (laundry day). I sat next to it two nights in a row. I could easily have folded my laundry while watching DuckTales or Expedition Unknown reruns. But it sat there. Because folding my clothes was too much strain. It took too much out of me.
As someone with Depression, I find the brain is often to blame. So I find myself wondering what role brain chemistry might play. I have had it explained to me that the brain basically only has so much decision-making power in a given day. This is why strict routines, grouping similar tasks, and other ‘hacks’ for productivity can be so surprisingly successful.
I understand that the brain is awash in neurotransmitters. Might one (or more) neurotransmitter be needed for actions like folding laundry? If a person habitually runs low, might that be the reason why? Is that even how brains work?
This seems to be a thing that affects a lot of people, so it must not b an isolated issue. Certainly this isn’t some idiosyncratic facet about just me or just a handful of people. This experience seems shared quite a bit across Twitter. There must be a commonality beyond merely ‘one of those things’.
No two tasks are equally demanding for any two people, I realize, but something as simple as a routine health task like teeth-brushing or laundry-folding can’t be that difficult. And yet, I’m only one of many who seem to struggle to do such a simple chore. Understanding why could be the key to understanding truly fundamental about human nature. And solving it could genuinely transform our world.
At the very least, it would make finding matching socks a whole heck of a lot easier.
Why are some tasks easy and others hard?