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Fight Repetitive Tasks Boredom By Hacking Your Passion

Fight Repetitive Tasks Boredom By Hacking Your Passion
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We all work on repetitive tasks. When we add them to our to-do lists, we do so without enthusiasm, and it usually shows in the results we produce.

Lack of passion works like a contagious disease; it starts small with unfinished “small” tasks, and moves itself up until it kills your motivation to do just about anything due to backlog.

But of course, you already knew that.

Mundane repetitive tasks are not exactly glamorous. We’ve done them so many times that, as a result, we find them less enjoyable when compared to something we’ve never done before.

There’s a mechanism in our brain that plays with our ability to repeat tasks. Our brain is always seeking the next reward–it tries to identify new patterns that will reward us with a nice dose of happy juice (i.e., dopamine), which, of course, is impossible when our brain is searching for them based on old patterns (i.e., the repetitive tasks).

To bypass this mechanism, we must embrace a more “hands-on” approach and introduce new angles every now and then to keep our repetitive tasks fresh and interesting.

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Here are three tips I use to keep repetitive tasks fresh, my mind sane, and my spirits high.

Review finished tasks to keep morale high

Everyone tries to tell you how to achieve goals and “eat frogs.” It’s a glorified subject that keeps popping up from passionate self-help gurus and researchers from all over the world. Researchers try to synthesize the behavioral essence of task completion so they’ll be able to reproduce the desired effect in lab conditions. Gurus make it sound easy with their enthusiasm and simple tips that sound a lot like, “everyone can do it if you follow my mantra,” or something along those lines.

The truth is this: the easiest way to achieve a goal is by enjoying your to-do list.

But, what do you do when the road to your target is not that fun and you need to repeat the same task again and again? When you work on tasks that bum you out, you have to remember that it might not be fun to do that task, but it’s definitely fun to mark it complete!

Every major achievement in your life consists of a long list of minor victories. Once you come to terms with that simple fact, you begin to understand the anatomy of success (i.e. small and probably repetitive accomplishments).

Combine your to-do list with a “To-Done” list, a list of all the things you’ve accomplished thus far. It can be all the things you finished today, this week, this month, or even since you’ve started any given project.

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This list should be visited every time you complete a task to take its effect on you, and it’s the best way to refuel your passion. Checking off a task is nice; seeing many tasks checked-off is heavenly.

Create a “Slack Zone”

Stress is a motivation killer. The author of “Getting Things Done”, David Allen, suggests that you write down everything you have to do, so tasks won’t hover aimlessly in your head and you’ll reach the calm state of “Mind like Water.” This state reduces the aimless buzzing noise in your head, leaving you calmer, more focused, and more organized.

But what happens when repetitive tasks wear you down and you’re nearing a deadline with nothing to show? The aforementioned water spills from your ears!

When there’s no time to achieve what you planned, you start to obsess over that plan and lament the lack of time. Your plan, although written down meticulously and reviewed several times, invades your thoughts and sucks up any pleasure from doing just about anything which results in missed deadlines.

That’s why Laura Vanderkam suggests that you schedule slack into your program.

Who knows, maybe the added time will help you do even more than just that task?

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As long as you keep your focus and use the added slack to reach your goals on time, you’ll feel the levels of stress decreasing as you moods rises!

FYI: if you decide to do something else with that added time after you finish the job, that’s OK too and I’ll explain why below.

Mix business and pleasure

Recently, there’s a growing movement that supports the notion of having fun while you work. Although it might sound a bit counter-productive, it’s an excellent way to stay fresh and vent minor frustrations.

You should then schedule a break every 90-110 minutes and here’s why: we can’t focus too long on the same task, and this is especially true if that task is repetitive. Our body needs a break because it has its own rhythm.

We have an inner cycle that works like an actual clock called the Ultradian Rhythms. It’s a natural bodily rhythm that is responsible for alertness, focus, and even sleep. The spectrum works in intervals that spike for 90-110 minutes at a time in which it provides us a wide bandwidth to complete any given task.

After those 90-110 minutes, our focus spirals down and we find ourselves all over the place for about 20-25 minutes, this is a temporary slope in which we tend to wander around aimlessly watching cute cats on the web (usually).

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Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing amiss in seeing cute cats. Some researchers even suggest that it increases our productivity. But it’s not our ultimate goal–we’re after task-completion heaven, and that’s why it’s probably best if you schedule breaks during the Ultradian rhythm’s slump.

Working with our Ultradian rhythm helps us understand when our body needs to take a break. So make sure that you don’t schedule yourself to work on repetitive tasks while you’re in the Ultradian rhythm slump.

As you can see, overcoming task fatigue, especially repetitive tasks, requires us to be a bit more creative.

So what methods do you use to keep your passion and drive going?

More by this author

Haim Pekel

Haim Pekel is an entrepreneur and shares tips on productivity and entrepreneurship at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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