5 ways to be more productive the next time you do the dishes

by | Apr 30, 2013 | Time


It’s a simple equation: the dishes need to get done, because if they don’t get done, they pile up and then you get sad.

But here’s the thing – activities that eat up a lot of time but only a little attention are incredible opportunities to be more productive, because when your hands are doing one thing, your mind can do something else. Here are five things your mind can do while your hands are busy!

1. Learn another language. There are a ton (and I mean, a ton) of paid audiobooks and free podcasts available that will walk you through learning a new language. Doing something with your hands actually makes it easier for your mind to process new information, and you might as well use the opportunity to soak up a new language! Most learn-a-language podcasts are free, and language audiobooks are relatively inexpensive.

2. Wash the dishes mindfully. Productivity isn’t just about getting more done, it’s also about wringing the most out of your time and appreciating the time you have. Practicing mindfulness while you wash the dishes will slow your mind down before you run off to do something else.

TIP: Here’s a good “washing the dishes” mindfulness meditation. For about one minute, be mindful of the sound the water makes as you move it around and clean your dishes. The next minute, be mindful of the temperature of the water, and how it changes as you scrub and clean your dishes. The third minute, be grateful for the food that you ate on the dishes you’re washing. Finally, feel the sensations of the water as it flows over your hands. And then repeat until your dishes are clean!

3. Do them with someone. Man, what a great opportunity to spend time with your kids, girlfriend, or anyone else you can con into doing the dishes with you! Instead of gathering around a noisy TV, you can have a good, genuine conversation for 10-15 minutes. Plus the dishes will get done twice as fast.

4. Absorb a book. Not only can you learn new languages on your iPod, there are also a (metric) crapton of other audiobooks available on iTunes. They usually cost around $20, and the content is exactly the same; the only difference between an audiobook and a real book is how you absorb that content. But I guess that goes without saying.

5. Call someone. Call your mom, or your best friend, or your sister. I’ll admit it – I’m not a fan of talking on the phone, mostly because I prefer to Skype my friends or family, or grab a tea with them in person. But washing the dishes is a great time to catch up with a long lost friend while getting something else done in the process. In fact, one of the only times I ever call someone on the phone is when I wash the dishes. (The noise canceling function on most phones is good enough to block out most of the sounds of you washing the dishes.)

Image Source: Hella Delicious!

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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