The great (mental) escape

I’ve written previously about how I find riding a horse to be transcendental – it’s rare for me to think in a completely focused way about what I’m doing and to not have other things flowing through my mind.  I’m usually terrible at keeping my mind on one thing for very long, but when I’m in the saddle, nothing can interrupt my focus.  One of the reasons that my mind wanders is because I’m not getting enough saddle-time at the moment: it’s my literal happy place, so if I need perking up, it’s where my brain goes to think good thoughts.

Last week, I began working as an office temp for the first time.  I’ve worked in several office environments, all of which have been very energetic.  The current one is very much the opposite of everywhere else that I’ve worked – quiet and studious, and I’m finding it bizarre.  I knew that, as a temp, I’d be given very basic admin duties, and I don’t mind this – any junior event manager will know what it’s like to stuff envelopes and delegate bags for days on end, or print badges multiple times and then have to set them all out on site – but the monotony of “easy” and repetitive tasks does mean my mind switches off and disappears to other places.

Here are some examples of what I’ve been thinking about as I complete my new duties:

  • Assembling Christmas gift boxes for clients whilst on my placement year – my line manager thought it would take my colleague (who was another placement student – we lived together too) and me two or three days to finish doing this.  We had them all done before lunchtime on the first day!  We had spent the weekend apart and apparently we had a lot to catch up on – so much that it helped us zoom through the task far quicker than anticipated
  • How much I should be willing to pay for my travel insurance this year, what I’d like the excess to be and which bits of the policy I should double check now that I have the benefit of experience (yeah, this was a less exciting train of thought)
  • The time when I began working at Starbucks, went home saying I was bored of making lattes all day and my Dad suggested I make it into a game

I’ve thought through many other things, of course, but these are some of the more unusual ones, I think.

Over to you: how do you get through repetitive tasks when there’s no opportunity for conversation or background music?  What do you think about in transcendental moments?

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7 thoughts on “The great (mental) escape

  1. Working on a checkout at the supermarket, I used to play “Guess what they’re having for dinner” (working on Friday nights), or “Guess how much this is going to cost” (working on Sundays). The latter was actually quite as a useful game as it was explained to us during training that in the event of power failure, we would have to estimate what the total would be of any shoppers at the checkouts so that they could pay in cash.

    • Haha! I had a feeling you’d have something to say about this, and I love your games. It’s reminded me that I’ve often looked sadly at my own basket as I wait in the queue, and I know that the cashier will judge me (because it’s often been: wine, beanz, ice cream, trashy magazine… and there I am waiting to be served, scrolling through two smartphones and replying to messages in business dress whilst paying for the contents of what could easily be a student’s shopping basket).

      And sometimes the judgment is verbalised! Just before Christmas, I went to Boots on my lunch break from the shop: I bought tissues, Nurofen and Olbas Oil and the cashier said “no prizes for guessing why you’re here”. I nodded self-piteously but she sympathised and recommended a product which I subsequently purchased and is now a winter essential. I was dubious of cold and flu defense spray but this stuff is amazing. So sometimes judgment isn’t a bad thing!

  2. I write in my head 🙂 All sorts of things, sometimes blog posts, sometimes short stories, sometimes odd chapters of books I will never finish, sometimes parts of my own book which I will finish. Due to this, I have missed my train stations numerous times, have tried to put my house keys into a tube gates for Oyster cards, spoke part of sentences to strangers talking to me all of a sudden and cycled into a massive truck standing still on the side of the road. Yes, my mind can certainly wonder when my focus switches off 😉

    • Brilliant! I do that too. I have a pretty good memory, but even so I habitually carry a notepad and a pen (event managers are always prepared!) – when I have ideas, I prefer to write them down by hand (I used to go home from my office job with a post it note crammed with tiny writing every day, ideas I’d thought of at my desk), but if I’m desperate, I’ll use the notes app on my phone. I’m easily inspired, as you can probably tell from the content of my blog, and a seemingly innocuous event can often spark a 1,000+ word post in me.

      • 🙂 I am totally a thoughts/ideas note maker too 🙂 will tweet you something in a moment 😉 and although I do use my notes/apps as well nothing beats a good old pen and paper for me.

    • Haha! I was thinking the same thing. Thanks for the sensitivity – I do use my full name, I just don’t explicitly mention (at the moment – I’ll let you know if it changes!) the company I’m currently/have recently been employed by 🙂

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