Why Boring Tasks Are Important… And How to Get Through Them

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Boring Tasks

Without a doubt, there are a lot of tasks and things in this world that we do that are boring and mundane… but that are also good for us.

Whether it’s balancing the books, eating the same meals again and again, or compiling repetitive Excel spreadsheets, these things all have incredible value that can lead to long-term success and payoffs, but while we’re doing them they just seem dull, repetitive and… boring.

Now a lot of things can be rewired to become inherently interesting to us – especially if the stakes and consequences change. But the fact remains, sometimes you just have to “do the work” when it comes to repetitive things.

So the question becomes – how do we keep doing the boring things, without getting bored of them?

There’s the common saying of “work hard, play hard”, and our interpretation of the message behind that is to be consistent in your work and what’s important, and to use other activities to balance out the repetitiveness of the boring things.

Another way of putting it:

Balance out the repetitive with the exceptional.

Switch up things when you need to, using downtime and play.

A Long-Term Solution to Boredom

Long Term Solution

The actual, long-term solution to handling boring tasks is to make them interesting, or to turn them into unconscious habits.

Making them interesting is actually the harder of the two. If you have work tasks that are boring, it may be impossible – unless you really learn to love your job and/or business. Doing so won’t make everything super-exciting, but the boring parts become less boring. A good example of this is you may hate balancing the books or processing payroll – until you realize doing so can reveal accounting inefficiencies that add to the bottom line, or that making sure your team is paid on time adds tremendous value to the entire business.

Turning boring tasks into unconscious habits is more straightforward. While there is a more granular method available for forming habits, the simplest way is this: do it for 30 days. For those 30 days, it’ll be boring (yawn). But after that, it becomes routine and you stop thinking about it – and you just do it. One really common example is going to the gym. For the first 30 days, you need to JUST GO. After that, it becomes a habit… and an addiction.

Short-Term Solutions to Boredom

Short Term Solution

So that’s nice and good… but what about in the short-term?

What can we do right now to alleviate the boredom and add the exceptional to the repetitive?

Well, that’s the answer right there – spike your time with interesting activities…. but structure them in and place limiters on them.

This can be anything from structured downtime, to a once-off activity, to just doing something different. We all do this naturally in some form anyway – let me elaborate.

Back in Australia, I have a lot of friends who work 9-5. Nothing wrong with that.

All week, what they’re looking forward to is Friday night drinks at the pub – this is their only exciting “spike” for the week.

But the truth is, you can create your own spikes.

Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Getting together with a friend for lunch during the week.
  • Having one night where you indulge in your favorite TV show.
  • Planning a weekend getaway every quarter.
  • Randomly and impulsively attending a gallery opening or a new attraction in town.
  • Doing a crazy work challenge on a boring activity – and seeing how much of it you can take.

What these self-induced spikes do is they alleviate the boredom. They let us balance out the repetitive with the exceptional.

They also let us limit the degree of our spikes, and how many of them there are – this is important, as the mundane still does need to get done.

In Closing

In the short-term, find things to distract you – but structure them so that they are limited.

In the long-term, learn to form habits. Just do it for 30 days, and let it sink into your patterns of behavior.

And finally, learn to make the boring… interesting. Learn to love what you do – or go do something else!

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About

I'm originally from Australia, but have lived all over the world for the past 5 years. I love taking things apart and putting them back together, and one of those things is the idea of human performance and how far we can push the limits of what is possible. Most seemingly "impossible" problems are solved by a solution at a higher logical level, or by borrowing a framework from a different discipline. What I write about comes from hearing about something and then trying it out in my own life, often with surprising results. I hope you get a lot out of it and feel free to get in touch with me anytime!

2 Comments

Posted by Steve Spring  | May 16, 2014 at 9:22AM | Reply

Great post. I like the idea of turning boring tasks into habits. This works great for repetitive tasks. Another suggestion for getting boring tasks done is to do them first thing in the morning before your day gets interrupted by other things. Once the boring task is compete, reward yourself with something more interesting. Thanks for sharing Aaron.

Posted by Zachary Sexton  | May 16, 2014 at 9:41AM | Reply

Hey Steve.

I think Aaron would agree whole heartedly that morning offers the best uninterrupted time. However, since the time is uninterrupted and you are freshest in the morning, the ‘boring’ task should only be done if it is a truly important task that will move you closer to your goals. Thanh writes about the idea of doing your most important tasks here:

http://www.asianefficiency.com/habits/eat-that-frog-most-important-tasks-morning/

Best of luck excelling at the things that you are good at and dealing with the things that you are not.

Zack – newest member of the Asian Efficiency Team

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