Do you hate ironing? You probably do not hate it as much as I do. Well, only until recently. I loathed ironing so much that when buying clothes, I often opted for fabric that did not need smoothing out. This strategy worked well, until December last year when I relocated to Dubai to join my husband, Robert. Without a day job, it was natural that I did all the domestic duties. My title, domestic manager as we often joke. I do all the planning, shopping and preparing our meals as well as ironing our clothes. Robert does occasionally help.
Growing up, I thought ironing men’s clothes was a man’s job. I watched dad iron his clothes meticulously every weekend. l recall the impeccable straight lines on his trousers and shirts like it was yesterday. Sometimes, dad let my brothers iron for him. When they did, he inspected the clothes, occasionally repeating the process if the clothes were not pressed to his standard. Naturally, I thought dad was teaching my brothers how to iron their own clothes and as a girl, I had no business getting involved. This made perfect sense to my feeble mind. My sister and I did however help mama. Mum was a nurse at a local hospital. She wore 100% white cotton dresses to work and she had very many of them. If you hate ironing, I reckon you will agree that ironing cotton clothes is not fun. I therefore trace my hate for ironing to mama’s white cotton uniforms, yet ironically the same white dresses had a profound impact on my aspirations as a young girl-a story for another day.
If anybody had told me that one day I would have to learn how to iron especially men’s clothes, I wouldn’t have believed it. So here I am; I iron my clothes because the washing machine chooses to crease them to the extent that I can not get away with unironed clothes anymore. I iron my husband’s clothes as part of my domestic manager duties.
I have watched numerous how-to YouTube videos. Robert has been helpful as well. I have researched and implemented strategies to help me enjoy the activity. From wriggling my bottom to various genres of music to listening to audio books. None has helped. Out of frustration, I have suggested that Robert does the ironing, while I stick to tasks I am good at and enjoy. Some how, this has not taken off, partly because I do not have a full-time day job yet. So it sort of makes sense for me to do all the house duties.
A few months ago, we had friends visiting from Edinburgh-Scotland. So one evening, we went to dinner. Robert chose to wear one of the cotton t-shirts, which looked okay, not perfect but okay when we left home. On arrival at the restaurant, it was embarrassingly wrinkled; it looked horrible. It looked like it had just been retrieved from the mouth of a cow. I was modified!
I quietly made a resolve to put in more effort-just a little more. I watched more and more YouTube videos, read more about ironing and steaming, adjusted the settings of the washing machine, explored the possibility of changing apartments to one that had a better washing machine and even considered outsourcing the task. Financially, some of the solutions did not make sense; I could not justify them without hurting our financial goals. Frustrated, I almost gave up except for one idea.
What if I combined ironing with something that I love to do? I made a list of all my hobbies. Paired them for plausible combinations and tested the pairs for feasibility. I am an ardent listener of TED talks, mostly because I believe so passionately in the power of personal stories to inspire change but also, because am keen on continuous improvement both professionally and personally. So listening to TED talks made the short list. I then developed a model, probably the world’s simplest model to help implement my simple idea;
I begin the process by asking my self the key question; what would I like to learn this week? Random topics like grit, empathy, photography, mentoring, strange mammals make my list. Other times, the list is inspired by what is trending in the news. For instance last week the focus was on refugees, so that made my list for the week.
- 3 S: Search, Shortlist, Save
With a topic or list of topics on hand, I then log onto TED and search for talks related to the chosen topic. I go through this process over and over, short-listing talks that seem to address my list and saving the links to the talks for easier access later on. I use sticky notes or sometimes Microsoft Word for this exercise. Or I simply add them to my list of TED talks (possible with a TED account). I often extend the search to other resources including YouTube and Google to gain a broader understanding.
When it is time to iron, which is mostly an hour to two on Saturdays. I listen to the talks while ironing away. If for some reason I did not make a list for the week, TED has ready-made play lists to choose from. Or the easy option is to allow TED to surprise me-a feature available on TED. Sometimes, I just listen to the latest talks in the order they have been added. Before I know it, all my washing is ironed, folded and neatly put away in the closet. I must admit that sometimes, it can be difficult to listen and focus on ironing simultaneously because some talks require watching; occasionally, I vacillate between ironing and watching while listening.
I make a mental note of actions arising from the talks, some of which I often forget. Lately, I have resorted to writing the actions on paper or posted notes. The actions vary; they can include watching the talk again, giving to a charitable cause associated to the talk, looking up a new word or author, further reading or sharing the talk with someone I thought of etc. I consistently repeat this process each week
Recently, I decided to expand the model to purposefully include professional development into my weekly plan. I use LinkedIn learning portal to access a broad range of training material (only available to premium membership which costs 19$ a month). I have since discovered that there is so much resource available to help me develop personally, professionally and to help me evolve to whatever I chose to do with my life. For instance, I am currently learning how to write for LinkedIn, I have honed some of my existing skills and acquired new ones.
Today something unusual happened; I caught myself looking forward to ironing. It is not because I do not have anything fun to do, in Dubai there are lots to do. In that moment, I realised three things; firstly, I do not hate ironing anymore, in fact I have progressively become better at it, I do look forward to pressing our clothes-even the cotton clothes at the start of each week and I don’t complain about it anymore, my husband must be pleased.
Secondly, I realised that I have unknowingly put together and gone a head to successfully implement a personal and professional development plan. The data I have shows that the last four months have been well invested; I have been very productive in personal and professional development-something often difficult to do when the focus is to find a job and of course I have improved at my home management tasks as well.
Finally, and perhaps the most important, is the realisation that having a personal and professional development plan and sticking to it is critical. This, I believe is important if my skills are to remain relevant more so as the threat of automation taking away jobs continues to materialise. I have to commit to a plan to continously learn and improve in order to evolve and change to meet the changing needs at the workplace-this we must all do to survive in the 21st century. I now do not struggle with this like I did in the past.
In conclusion, the simple iron-personal development model can be applied to many other activities. It goes to show that it is possible to improve even at things we do not like to do. It shows that small tweaks can indeed result into big changes as Amy Cuddy points out in one of my favourite TED talks; Yourbody language may shape who you are and that sometimes the things or activities we hate, may actually hold opportunities waiting to be explored.