Doing boring things has never been easy. And I’d argue it’s even more difficult today in our culture of instant gratification.
Endless digital distractions and the 24-7 news cycle compete for our attention daily. Procrastination (and that sweet dopamine boost) is just a swipe away thanks to our devices and relentless notifications.
This makes motivation all the more challenging when boring tasks are required at work.
Yet, no matter your industry (even if you mostly love your job), everyone has those certain responsibilities that feel like a chore.
The truth is that boring tasks aren’t the problem; dealing with boring tasks is the real problem—especially when they’re irrelevant to your professional development.
Personally, I dread Mondays when I have to go through my emails. But getting this boring thing out of the way first helps me focus on the rest of the day and, subsequently, the week.
Although I don’t enjoy managing my inbox, I can think of several ways to make the process easier. In this article, I’ll share how to power through those necessary to-do items (like email), as well as strategies you can apply to other dreaded duties.
Let’s get started.
How to make boring things fun (or at least less agonizing)
1. Implement a reward system
Research shows that rewarding yourself early keeps you motivated and makes dealing with boring tasks much more enjoyable.
Building (even tiny) rewards into your day can help you check those boring activities off your list faster. Some examples are:
- Take more mini-breaks throughout the day; go for a short walk or stretch your legs
- Have a snack or a cup of coffee
- Try meditation or a deep breathing exercise
- Work on an enjoyable task or project in between boring activities
- Engage in a hobby during a break
- Read a book or surf the web for a limited time
- Socialize with a colleague or friend
- Track your accomplishments and small wins
Another way to reward yourself is something called “temptation bundling.” To practice this, you combine something you hate (i.e., your boring activity) with something you love (i.e., listening to music). This allows you to reward yourself in the process of doing the tedious by making it more enjoyable:
@karinnordinphdEver heard of it?♬ original sound – Karin Nordin, PhD
2. Compete with yourself and others
Another way to make boring tasks more bearable is to use gamification.
Similar to rewards, gamification aims to motivate through competition and recognition. You don’t have to make it complicated. Think of fun ways to compete with yourself:
@itsmarisajo Mundane tasks 🤝 15 minutes #flowstate #worklifewellbeing #productivitytips #productivitytok #wfhtips ♬ original sound – Tik Toker
When you’re dealing with a larger project, try breaking down the most boring tasks into bite-sized chunks. Then create a point system to track your progress.
Don’t forget to incorporate rewards as you check off your tiny goals along the way! This will motivate you to finish the job.
Gamification is also a great way to incentivize your team at work. For example, using badges and leaderboards to help power through tedious tasks and increase engagement.
When thoughtfully designed and executed, gamification has promising results:
3. Use technology to simplify boring tasks
Technological advancements allow us to automate tasks—making our workflows more efficient and eliminating repetitive work.
I use Hubspot to automate my entire inbox. The tool provides detailed analytics that track email campaigns. Moreover, the platform has a great-looking user interface that beats Gmail’s boring and stale look. For me, the aesthetic makes it that much easier to go through my emails.
I also take advantage of the Service Hub tool—it’s excellent for scheduling meetings through email, ticket creation, and even live chat.
In addition, there are a number of project management tools that can help you track your progress and set realistic goals.
Here are examples of other helpful tools that can simplify your to-do list and reduce your boring tasks at work:
1. Macros: Macros can automate repetitive tasks in office software such as Microsoft Office and Google Workspace. They record a series of actions and play them back with the press of a button.
2. Automation tools: Zapier, IFTTT, and Integromat can help you connect your various work apps and automate common tasks, like moving data between them or triggering actions based on specific events.
3. Software robots: RPA (Robotic Process Automation) tools like UiPath, Blue Prism, and Automation Anywhere allow you to automate repetitive, rule-based tasks across multiple systems and applications.
4. AI-powered tools: ChatGPT is all the rage and people have only scratched the surface when it comes to how this will impact work (and entire professions). AI tools such as Google’s AutoML or H2O.ai can automate tasks such as data analysis, image recognition, and natural language processing.
4. Fight back against this thief of time
One problem with boring tasks is that many take a lot of time to complete. And feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of what’s in front of us can lead to one of the biggest obstacles: procrastination.
We’ve all been there. A task that takes two hours to finish can easily double if you procrastinate on the job.
So what’s the solution?
First, apply the strategies discussed above.
If you’re still struggling, try this tactic: Do one thing. Often, the biggest hurdle is starting.
Here’s a non-work example. Let’s say you’re trying to establish a new workout routine, but you have a hard time sticking to your scheduled run.
To overcome putting it off, you tell yourself: “I’ll run for 10 minutes. If I don’t want to continue, I can stop at that time.”
Of course, after running for 10 minutes, jogging for 20 more doesn’t seem so bad. Applying this strategy helps you almost always finish your run as planned.
Similarly, if you’re putting off a work project, take the first step. Or, like the TikTok above mentioned, set a timer for a set amount of time so you can hit that flow state.
Take time to reflect and understand your feelings about why you feel compelled to procrastinate in the first place. Getting to the root of the problem and practicing self-compassion can help break the procrastination cycle and move forward.
5. Be strategic when dealing with boring tasks
What works for me might not work for you.
For example, I like to deal with the most boring tasks first thing in the morning. No matter how much I dread it, doing this helps me beat procrastination and keeps me focused for the rest of the day. Also, I’m most sluggish in the morning, so I’d rather get my tedious tasks out of the way first (and save the important ones for when I’m operating at my best).
On the other hand, you might feel more comfortable leaving the boring tasks at the end of your to-do list. Or perhaps you like to alternate between boring activities and the work you feel most excited about.
There isn’t one right way; it’s about being strategic in your approach to find the best solution for you to help you both optimize your time and effectiveness.
Master the mundane (you won’t be sorry)
Eventually, I became an expert in skimming my inbox every Monday morning. That’s because the more you do boring tasks, the more you find ways to do them faster and more efficiently.
Achieving mastery helps us to feel competent in our jobs (which is a key component of meaningful work). And that competence does more than make us feel good; practically, when we’re talking about tedious tasks, it makes a big difference. It frees up our schedule for deep work and important projects
Despite my initial dread, I learned that pushing through my least favorite things can actually be fulfilling. The sooner you get them over with, the sooner you can focus on the things you love doing the most.