What I Learned From Slaughtering Fiddly Tasks With Strangers

rp_honey-400x600.pngI’m an introvert. I bet you’re an introvert, too. I can happily go a month without seeing another person. It doesn’t phase me a bit.

But I’m trying to do this social media thing, and so I hang out on G+ a lot. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I had a big, important, but ultimately fiddly task that I’d been putting off for months.

So in passing to Abby I said “I need to have somewhere to go where I can say “I updated 25 posts today” and people will know what a big deal that is. Do you have any fiddly tasks you’ve been putting off?”

“So. Many,” she responded. And so the Fiddly Task Slaughtering Party was born.


Now, normally I wouldn’t mention it, because it isn’t nice to make people jealous of an event they weren’t invited to, but I promise you, it’s relevant.

I enjoyed myself.

Here’s the thing. I never expected to enjoy myself as much as I did. I hate group participation. I generally hate groups of people, period. But I figured, the more people involved, the more motivating it would be, so I tagged the few people I’d spoken to more than in passing online, and then I made the post public and said that anyone who was interested could join.

And they did. In the end we had 13 people join in, and I only really knew a handful of them.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. It was fun. I was quite surprised at the difference between crossing a task off my to-do list, and getting to tell a bunch of people I’d crossed something off my to-do list.
  2. I felt like part of a group. Micro-business owners generally work alone, and given that the alternative involves office politics, that’s generally how we like it. But I’d forgotten the fun parts of working with a group– and how much easier it was to work hard when other people are working hard, too.
  3. I stayed abnormally productive for about 4 days post-party (we ran the Slaughter for 5 days.) Honestly, I got on such a roll, I didn’t want to stop, even though regular duties began to impinge. What’s 9 days of boosted productivity worth to you?
  4. I expanded my circle of friendly acquaintances. It was honestly pretty cool that complete strangers participated, and I had some great conversations I would never otherwise have had.

So why is this relevant?

We forget that we are social creatures. We forget that, while other people can slow us down, they can also drive us to push past our lazy impulses, throw ourselves enthusiastically into our challenges, and ensure that we enjoy ourselves doing so.

Finding people that bring out the best in you isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. Everyone is busy. But everyone wants these things too– to be more productive, to have more fun, to see what they can accomplish. So when you see an opportunity to harness this kind of situation, seize upon it.

And there’s no need to stick to the people you’re comfortable with. If you define the goals of the challenge, you’re really only going to get the people who want that thing, too. And if they want what you want, how much of a stranger can they really be? Maybe they’re just friends you haven’t met yet.

Some things to remember for next time:

  1. It feels risky, but it’s not. Inviting people you don’t know to join you is kind of intimidating. I get that. But everyone is flattered to be asked, even if they have other plans. Asking makes people feel wanted, you know. Don’t you enjoy knowing that people want you around?
  2. Facilitate interaction. Like a good host, you want to make sure everyone has a drink and a conversation partner. Don’t let people post without acknowledgement– ideally, everyone is going to make conversation on their own, but if not, make sure everyone’s contribution is acknowledged.
  3. Don’t try too hard to make it happen. Sometimes things don’t line up right. People are busy. Schedules are full. I got lucky with the Fiddly Task Slaughtering Party because a) it’s a pretty universal challenge, and b) summer is a slow season for a lot of people. Other times I haven’t been so lucky, and it’s been MORTIFYING, but luckily, this is the internet and no one is paying attention to me.

Have there been any opportunities to create a shared challenge that you’ve seized? What was the result?


8 thoughts on “What I Learned From Slaughtering Fiddly Tasks With Strangers”

  1. Oh, goody, Shanna – there’s a real comment box on this one ~ thank you! (I miss that terribly, even if I don’t write anything.) 

    Glad to hear the “slaughter-it party” was successful from your perspective, too! I enjoy working with folks toward a shared goal – even if it’s as loosely defined as “your fiddly tasks” and yeah, company has been woefully scarce in  my life for a while, too.

  2. Karen J Oh, I see what you mean! I had a recent influx of spam comments, so I closed all threads older than a weeks… but then the comments only go back 2 posts, and that is quite paltry. I didn’t realize the comment threads themselves disappeared. Thank you for the heads up.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the Fiddly Task Slaughtering party. It was neat to realize that even if we’re not lonely. exactly, company is still nice to have.

  3. grrrr! Damn “proprietary corporate mindset”! 

    yeah – “Lonely” is like “Thirsty” – by the time you notice it, you’re in dire need. 😉

  4. Hey Shanna Mann and @Livefyre –
    another *appearance* point –  the left sidebar isn’t over-running the main copy column today, but the avatars overprint the comment copy…? Maybe something in the theme vs. the layout… 

    Good Morning, by the way!

  5. I loved the Fiddly Task Slaughtering Party! And I crack up every time I see that badge. Seriously…I need to look at it whenever I’m staring down a list of stupid little things I don’t want to give my precious time to 😛
    This post is particularly timely for me, as I consider how I want to invite people to write a book alongside me. It’s a different sort of undertaking, of course, but I think some aspects are the same. And I’m definitely encouraged by your success!

  6. Looks like Shanna Mann has a few more fiddly tasks to slaughter, eh Karen J
    I’d expect the quote about every stranger being a potential new friend on Live Your Legend or Value of Simple. But here? My, oh my, have times (and mindsets) changed.
    Sorry I could join the fiddly tasks party this time (there will be a next time, right?). But I think the important thing was for you to organize it and for the people who participated to have you lead it. Even the least social of humans is still 100% dependent on social interaction to maintain sanity and fulfillment. Case in point: see what happens to people when placed in solitary confinement for an extended period of time. They literally go crazy.
    Next post, I’d like to see you make the case for being less social or how being overly social might hurt your solo biz.

  7. joeyjoejoe It isn’t that I don’t think being social can help– I’ve seen numerous examples of how connections made serendipitous effects on people’s opportunities. It’s just a matter of where to put “socializing” and “networking” on the priority list, and it slides up and down in accordance with how much you dread it (along with all the other constraints.) 

    That’s why I put a lot of effort in the past few months to figure out what socializing I actually enjoy and to do ONLY that. But it took a lot of work. I didn’t like doing it, especially for a payoff that’s so ephemeral and long-term. But I do believe it’s worth the work, or I wouldn’t have done it. 

    But it is nice to have that dread off my shoulders.

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