There were always parts of every job that I have ever had, which were not the best part of the job. Those parts ranged from the mundane or boring, to the downright frustrating or physically draining. Sometimes it may even have made me lose sight of what an otherwise good job I had. For example, working as a tape-op, in Virgin Studios in the 80’s. When at the end of each project, I needed to make copies of all the various tapes we had used.
The list was long, really long.
First the analogue tapes, 2″ multitrack, ½ inch masters. The then, brand new digital tapes used as back-ups. D.A.T. tape or Sony u-matic copies. Then to add insult to injury, I was usually tasked with making cassette copies of ‘the album’. For the producer, the engineer AND the six band members. And with just 2 cassette decks. (If you were born after the noughties then ask your grandparents about audio cassettes). Finally, having to hand write all the labels for ALL the multitude of tapes! It always took hours and usually began late in the evening and finished late the next morning.
My saving grace.
As a young kid (I was around 9 years old, or so), with my three siblings we were collectively given the heads up that our mother was a little unwell. We were told that we all needed to pitch-in, where we could. This started with us having to do the washing up after dinner. I wish I’d had a smart phone back then to film the four of us washing up. It was with long faces and slow motions. Arguments about who did what and how we could divide the tasks. It took us ages and bless both my mum and dad, because they left us to it. Although it took us over ninety minutes, we got through the ‘ordeal’.
It was not much fun!
The next evening, as was normal for us, we all sat and ate our dinner accompanied with the usual amount of fun and laughter. It struck me that I wanted to make the part that followed, as much fun as this part was. Surely, we could have fun while we did the washing up, couldn’t we?
After we finished eating, I jumped up and ran to my room and bought out my cassette player, plugged it in and pressed play. Not too loud, some of my favourite music of the time started to fill the kitchen (Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder or some of the Motown hits). Without any arguments, we all quickly agreed that big sister would do the washing up, the two brothers (including me), did the drying up and our little sister would do the ‘putting away.’
Something amazing happened.
Firstly, we took half as long as the night before. No complaining, no hassles just getting the job done. Secondly, time was different, as it seemed to really fly by. Even more interesting was the washing up became so much less of a chore, and we could rattle it off in less than fifteen minutes or even take thirty minutes and still enjoy the process. The time it took became totally irrelevant. Today, some fifty years later, washing up is still not my favourite pastime. But with some music on, cleaning up the kitchen after cooking dinner for friends, still feels less of a chore and a little more fun.
If you can, make it a game.
In conclusion, if I remind you of the tape-op writing out the tons of labels and making countless, copies of tapes. The trick was to make a kind of game out of the mundane bit. How could I do the task quicker? What would be the best order that I could do these things in? To help maximise the time efficiency and be the least problematic. By putting my energy into finding a better solution and not using it to bemoan my situation, somehow seemed to lighten the load and help speed up the process.
Like with the washing up when I was a kid. It wasn’t the time that it took but the attitude I gave it, that helped the mundane become a little more fun.
P.S. While I am a fan of solution focus, I am more of a fan of not forgetting to have some fun along the way!