Recently, I bought a small countertop dishwasher. The usual market for countertop dishwashers is people whose small homes lack a full-sized dishwasher. But our house does indeed have a proper dishwasher already.
Instead, the problem is that the younger two of my kids - ages 1 and 2 - make it all but impossible for me to load or unload the built-in dishwasher. They climb on the door, grab at knives, and rattle the drawers. I have tried over and over to be zero-tolerance about the dishwasher, but nothing sticks. Due to the configuration of the kitchen, it's impossible to gate off.
I hate that I have this dishwasher accessibility problem. It's emblematic of how cumbersome-to-infuriatingly-prohibitive life with small children can be. On days when I'm feeling sorry for myself and regretful, I find myself thinking "HOW DID I END UP IN A POSITION WHERE I CAN'T EVEN PUT A FUCKING DISH IN THE DISHWASHER?!"
In other words, this problem of mine is an exceedingly stupid problem. It will go away in a year or so, but I'm stuck with it now. Instead of repeatedly rehearsing my regret or feeling defeated, I came up with a stupid solution: the countertop dishwasher.
I can load and unload this countertop dishwasher easily above the reach of my kids. The extra space also means that I can ignore the family's dishes all day if things are busy, and then wash all of them simultaneously right after kid bedtime.
Thus the working principle was born: stupid problems may require stupid solutions. Think of this as the "agree and amplify" of lifehacking.
"Stupid" problems are ones that inspire dismay and cringe. Stupid solutions seem similarly ridiculous, drawing further attention to original problem's nature when you'd prefer it just went away. If elegant, elevated ways of solving your stupid problems haven't worked or seem legitimately impossible, it's time to think stupider.
Examples of Stupid Problems
- Sally likes to read - but she literally forgets what she's reading and ends up browsing Facebook instead. The stupid solution? Sally starts leaving her current book smack in the middle of the kitchen table for a visual cue to read. She lightly regrets having to do this, but it does increase her reading.
- Bob can't believe his stupid problem of being stuck with the attention span of a goldfish. He sets a phone alarm that rings on the hour from 9am to 4pm, reminding him to evaluate what he's doing and switch back to a higher-value task if necessary. It feels absurd and Bob is still pretty scatterbrained, but this simple alarm intervention helps him to do more of the things he truly wants and needs to do each day.
- Amy misplaces her sunglasses constantly. Every time this happens, she feels lame and disorganized. She decides to buy a few pairs of cheap sunglasses and leaves one in her car, in her purse, and on the patio. It would be better not to have to do this, but doing it is better than losing so much time (and emotional energy) to searching.
Painfully Tiny Goals are a Type of Stupid Solution
In fact, I'm realizing that stupid problems may actually be a more general category containing the advice that I shared recently in Painfully Tiny Goals.
Truly painfully tiny goals are designed for tackling some of the stupidest, most embarrassing productivity roadblocks. But stupid problems aren't all of the productivity roadblock kind.
Learn to Embrace the Stupidity
Here's the bottom line: cringing over a problem that's stupid, silly, or dismay-inducing doesn't actually help you to solve it. You just end up piling on a sense of unluckiness or shame to whatever's there.
Embrace the stupidity of it all - stupid problems may call for stupid solutions. If you haven't considered all your options, including the stupid ones, then you may be overlooking something promising.
Got a stupid problem that you don't know how to solve? Are you unsure of when to try to improve yourself and when just to work around the issue? Drop me a line or go ahead and sign up for an introductory "False Belief Fix Up" session.
Pamela J. Hobart - Philosophical Life Coaching Newsletter
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