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JOEL Joel's Blog

Idle Hands Do The Devil's Work


Idle Hands Do The Devil's Work 4After a mention in Chris Schwarz's blog we had a big rush on 18tpi coping saw blades. So we ran out. We buy them in bulk and repackage them in dozens. It's a lot of mundane work. With just about everyone working flat out on other equally important stuff I realized that if I didn't repackage the blades myself they would not get done for days. So whenever I feel I don't have the patience or will to start a new task I pack a bunch of blades. It's easy work but the blades are entangled in the bulk packages and your hands get scratched up. After a few hundred dozen you get pretty good at counting to twelve.

The best part of doing this is that it gives me a chance to think and I realized this is what our ancestors meant about idle hands. Not every job we do is hard, skilled, or even interesting. But lots of little jobs need patience and reliability. The time to do them is when you need a break. Once I am in the flow it's pretty relaxing to do it. Apparently there is even some scientific research that suggests that repetitive mundane tasks like this lower you levels of stress. There is also a great sense of accomplishment because it's a task that nobody really has the time for or really loves to do. But it must be done if we are going to fill orders. And it's certainly more useful than pretending I am working by surfing the Internet.

How does this pertain to woodworking? Take a look at the annoying tasks you do. Like putting things away in the shop. Cleaning. Try to look at them not as a chore at the end of the day, but a useful, relaxing diversion while you collect your thoughts for the next good job. And what's really key is that as long as you don't seethe at the annoyance of doing the task while you do it, it really will be a "useful, relaxing diversion while you collect your thoughts for the next good job".

Join the conversation
01/26/2010 David Gendron
I really with you on the -"useful, relaxing diversion..." especially if you end up your day with a problem that need to be solved, it often happen that I solve it during the clean up/putting away the tools/sharpening etc..
Whenever my thoughts are coming in too randomly or frantically to focus on a harder task in the shop or elsewhere I find it oddly relaxing to go do the dishes. Or put away laundry or sort stacked up paper mail etc... just some little mundane chore that needs doing but is simple. A half hour or so spent on such a simple, boring, but useful chore does a fine job of calming the fever pitch of a too excited or frustrated mind.


02/04/2010 Glenn Wishon
The fact that all my brilliant flashes come in the shower is probably a reflection of the fact I chronically defer those "annoying chores". I am delighted at this precious nugget of philosophy found lying in a woodworking site, and will endeavor to apply this to all that deferred drudgery. Thanks.
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