9 manual labor tips I had to learn the hard way
1) Wear gloves.
It was a sunny October day where I live in Phoenix Arizona. My friend and I were moving some lumber and I asked “Do you want some gloves?”. He looked at me slightly confused and with an unintentional look as if to say ‘gloves are for sissys’. This seems to be a common theme with a lot of guys where it’s almost a sign of weakness to admit that your hands may not be able to take sharp pieces of wood without tearing and bleeding. A few days later that same friend came over, and as we were talking he showed me a knarly gash he had received on his thumb. It nearly went to the bone. I couldn’t help but think, ‘This is exactly why I just wear gloves all the time’. Sure some people have callouses so thick that a nail could barely pierce them, but being that I am not a full time construction worker, I am not one of those people. That being said I never tend to know when I’m going to make a miscalculation and cut my hands. At some point I learned to just put on gloves before I start working. I noticed some unexpected benefits despite all the taunts of seasoned veterans. Can lift more, my grip is stronger because I can clamp down harder and not worry about skin tearing, and mentally I just feel more empowered to work with my hands with less hesitation, mainly because, I don’t shy away from touching, grabbing, and brushing against rough surfaces. This increases the speed and effectiveness of which I approach a task
2) Don’t do finish work if you’re not in the right calm, focused state of mind.
If I’m being completely honest, I can admit that I have mood swings throughout a given day. Sometimes It’s just that my blood sugar is low and I need food. Other times, like early or late in the day, my brain has just checked out or not yet checked in. No matter what the reason, don’t deny that this might be the case. Acknowledge it and make a fair assessment of whether or not you are capable of focusing on very detailed work right now, at this moment. If not, there’s no shame in moving on to an easier task while your brain warms up for the day. Speaking of which….
3) Complete easy tasks to get your momentum going.
Have you ever had a job to do that you were dreading? Maybe it was re-organizing your closet, shed, or garage and you just couldn’t summon the focus to tackle it. Instead of just writing it off all together, make a deal with yourself that you’ll circle back to it later, and get your momentum going with some easier items that sound more appealing. The only caveat is, don’t sit down. Once you’re heart rate drops, you’ll be sitting in front of the TV and telling yourself that you’ll do it tomorrow…..which we both know you will not. P.S. This same strategy works great for talking yourself into working out. Start with something easy an lean into the hard stuff when as your heart rate increases.
Awe the weekend. The time you’ve waited for all week has finally come and you are going to do great things, but as you look down at your list and take an honest account of how much you’re likely to get done, you realize that there is too much for one weekend. Don’t give into the feeling of being overwhelmed. Simply ask yourself which of these tasks are wants, and which are needs. I like to simply put an asterisk by the ones that I know must get done and knock them out. This way, there is no guilt, and no regret as Monday rolls around. Chances are you can even knock out a few of the lesser tasks too. Awe…the power of lists.
5) Wear a shade hat in the summer, warm hat in the winter. Do what you need to be comfortable.
Do what you love and you’ll never have worked a day in your life. That’s how the saying goes at least, but it kind of hard to love what you’re doing if you’re ears are freezing or you’re sweating out all of your bodily fluids. A quick shortcut to this is to simply wear a shade hat in the summer and a winter hat in the winter. Sure, your friends might talk trash (My friends can’t stand my large desert camouflage hat) when they see you, but it won’t be so funny when the sunburn fairy comes by to dish out doses of ‘ouch, I burnt the shit out of myself…bluhahahha’.
6) Wear long sleeves.
You know what’s great after cutting boards, sweeping out the shop, painting, mowing the lawn, or just doing dirty work in general? Not being covered in said dirt. Not only do long sleeve shirts help with keeping you clean, they give you a small level of protection against scratches, nicks, and cuts. As an added bonus, in the summers, if you’re in a dry climate, they act as a mini swamp cooler as you begin to perspire.
7) Get a bucket or tool belt for bigger projects.
Don’t spend so much effort walking back and forth, taking tools to and from your work area, get a bucket or a tool belt, put what you need into it, and you’ll have everything in one place. You won’t believe the amount of time this saves, walking around looking for the tools you need.
8) Have a dedicated set of construction jeans. I prefer Carharts because they last almost forever.
If you’re working on a project you’re going to get your clothes dirty. Don’t lie to yourself and say you’ll be careful. Just get some old shirts, and dedicated jeans that you can get paint on, caulking on, or otherwise stain. I know, I know some of you may be thinking ‘duh’, but if you’re honest, we’ve all started tinkering with a project, got sucked in, and later got grease or some other nonsense on our non-work cloths, ironically making them your new “work clothes”. Don’t keep making this mistake.
9) Wear a dust Mask.
If you’re a human who likes to breathe air, this will have your sinuses thanking you for having the foresight to not clog them with mown grass, exhaust fumes, sawdust, and spray paint residue. Just buy a few of the 3M brand masks and you can breathe easy after a day of getting some work done.