Powering Through Boring Work Tasks
Jonathan Osler San Francisco is an educator who helps connect philanthropic entities with education institutes and also is a fierce supporter of social justice.
But quite naturally, an educator like Osler has plenty of ideas on business education as well, and one of his pet peeves is the disconnect between what people want in business and their ability to power through boring work tasks.
The end of a project may bring fantastic results, but quite often there are many less exciting tasks in between the concept and the results.
Here are some ideas Jonathan Osler San Francisco has for getting through those tedious tasks:
- #1. Try to combine boring tasks with those that engage your attention
Dr. Alice Lieberman and her colleagues at UCLA did a study involving over 2,000 participants. They were told that the longer they brushed their teeth, the better their dental hygiene would be.
One group was shown videos of music and nature while brushing their teeth while the other group was shown a more mentally stimulating video of bears and wolves interacting.
The result. Those who watched the bears and wolves video clips brushed their teeth 30 percent longer.
This is the reason that many people play music, ie, with headphones at their workplace while doing tasks. If the music is engaging, their brain is occupied enough so that routine tasks like preparing the company’s TPS reports seem less tedious.
- #2. Take small bites at your boring tasks
The old joke about “how do you eat an elephant” has the punchline, take one bite at a time.
The same applies to many tasks. The adage, “Once begun is half done” really works.”
Start a task, even if it is just the smallest portion of the task, and once achieved, chances are the mental energy to start the next portion of the task will operate on its own.
- #3. Switch between boring and inspiring tasks
If you have to complete all the tasks in a day, the old advice about tackling the most important tasks first doesn’t really make sense. This is just an excuse to avoid those boring tasks.
Instead, switch back and forth between tasks to have the greatest, overall mental energy.
- #4. Challenge yourself
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who wrote the groundbreaking book Flow, says that many of those who experience the mental state of Flow are actually factory workers, who have quite repetitive jobs.
But many of those workers are extremely satisfied with their work because they set internal goals such as seeing just how fast they can accomplish the routine tasks they are presented with.
Office workers might want to open a stopwatch on their computer to see just how fast they can actually whip out that boring report, and find to their amazement at how little mental energy they spend complaining about how boring the task actually is.
- #5. Promise yourself small rewards
Follow step #4 and this may not be necessary, but promising yourself small rewards after completing a boring task may be enough to get you over the hump and complete a boring task.