How to Do Uninteresting Work When You Know Why You’re Doing It?

Sometimes, you do end up doing uninteresting and boring things you don’t really, really want to in the moment.

Say you’ve got a job that is usually very interesting but this week you’re working on making copies of reports or checking code or redoing something you have already done umpteen times before. Or say you’re a student whose enrolled for this fascinating course but ends up studying some not-fascinating-at-all chapters and subjects for his exams. Or suppose you are me, absolutely over the moon, trying to experiment with my life, and sharing it all – but ending up mechanically submitting my site to directories and publicizing it without really enjoying it. 🙂

If why you’re doing something doesn’t make sense at all, or if what you’re doing is something you don’t love at all – well, then the answer is simple: read Steps to choose a career you love and choose something you love doing first.

If however you are already doing what you like very much, but there’s a boring part to it which is also part of the package, how do you handle that?

Addictions to the Rescue!

One way of getting uninteresting things done is to alternate between addictive, exciting, stimulating activities and your uninteresting activity.

Here’s an example. I am currently submitting my website to various directories, reviewing the keywords I have used on the site, and searching for niche based directories. (Seems like jargon? It is. I don’t understand it either and you don’t need to. ) This task is something important for my site in the long term but right now it appears draining, and uninteresting.

As soon as I start working on this task, I start an alarm clock. When I have finished 1 hour of focused site work according to this alarm, I stop. And take a half an hour break. I take out my addictive Harry Potter book and read it. I enjoy it immensely and want to continue reading it. But after half an hour, my alarm rings again and I painfully put the book down to get back to directory listings. While I am mechanically submitting to directories etc, thoughts about reading the Harry Potter book again excite me and make me put more effort into completing my 1 hour of focused work. If I feel I get too distracted, I put the alarm clock back by a few minutes. That makes me work with more focus. And then when the hour is up, there’s no stopping me from throwing the laptop out of the window and snuggling in with my Harry Potter read!

The next 30 minutes are mine.

Why this Works

Imagine that there are 2 parts of you. One part is very conscious and aware and Knows what you Should do right now – what is most meaningful in this moment – that uninteresting piece of work.

The other part wants stimulation and pleasure right now and doesn’t care too hoots about how relevant the work you’re doing is in rewriting the history of the earth. It wants something interesting right now.

When you use the addiction system – alternating stimulating addictive activities with the boring work – you’re actually hearing out both parts of you. While you do the boring work, your conscious part is satisfied and knows that you are on the right track doing meaningful work. The other I-want-stimulation part knows that it will get its due in a certain amount of time. And sure enough it does get enough of what it wants soon. And when you are engrossed in that stimulating activity, your conscious aware part is happy too, because it knows that you will get back to meaningful work soon.

On the other hand, if you simply tried to force yourself to complete the uninteresting work somehow by working on it continuously, you’ll soon feel overtaken by a strong desire to take a break and leave it all. Or maybe you will complete the work in a stretch – but not work while you work – that is, you may drift into random thoughts and end up taking a very, very long time – in completing the work. Or feel like listening to music you like while working and end up only listening to the music.

So this addictive thingy works. 🙂

Your Own Stimulant-Uninteresting Work Cycle

Now let’s say you really listened to me are now convinced to give this method a try. But wait, you have your questions first. 🙂

How many hours of uninteresting work should you get done before you take your addictive break?

I have only tried working intensely for 1 hour and then taking an addictive break for half an hour. That works so very fine for me that I believe I could continue doing boring work throughout the day for a couple of days (not more than that though 😉 ) using this method. Working intensely for 1 hour means that I set the alarm clock back by a few minutes whenever I find myself getting distracted and not focusing on the task at hand.

You could however work for any number of hours before taking a break. That depends on your own focusing capacity and state of mind. Maybe you could go on and work for three hours and take a half – an – hour addictive break and that could work fantastic for you! Or you need not go by the hours at all – you can go by blocks of work. This means if you are studying, you could take a break after you finish studying one chapter and the break itself could be one chapter from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Could you use this method for any boring work? Like housework, cleaning up work, pre-exam studies, anything?

I used this system when I did boring site work and also when I once studied for my post-grade 12, IITJEE examination. It worked great.

But I think this can be used whenever there is something you don’t want to do on the surface because of your mood or current state of mind or because of the uninteresting nature of the work right now, but which you really want to do deep down. For example you might want to practice running for the coming marathon but not feel like running just now. Or you might have decided to finish off all the small pending house tasks and repairs and cleaning today but don’t feel like doing it right now. Or you might not feel like studying for the examination you have tomorrow. Why not try the addiction method? I mean what’s wrong in trying?

And what kind of addictive breaks could you take?

Ah, ever so many. Harry Potter always works for me. It is addictive I tell you. Or maybe I am a kid. 🙂

Other stimulating activities I can think of are: reading a mystery based /thriller book, watching a laugh-riot movie like Euro trip, watching episodes of a gripping TV Show like Friends, playing a can’t-put-down computer game like the Age of Empires or Need for Speed…..Stretch your imagination! What excites you so freaking much?

I have however observed that the stimulating activity you choose must indeed be truly stimulating. I once tried oscillating between preparing for an examination and reading an old not-gripping classic and it did NOT work out because while I did my boring work – I did not feel excited about reading the classic in my break at all! And then not having really enjoyed my break, I did not want to return to the boring work at all. So do make sure, you pick something absolutely mind blowing. 🙂

Try it Out!

The next time you have any work that is uninteresting and long, try this strategy out. No need to bother about the specifics. Just decide how much of uninteresting activity you want to couple with how much of what stimulating activity and start off. Do whatever works for you, you’ve got the idea any way. If it works, awesome! If it doesn’t, well at least you tried it. 🙂

Do note however that though this strategy works well for small periods of uninteresting work, it is not at all a substitute for doing work that you really love. If you feel the work at your job sucks, then this method could make it look stimulating for you for a few days, but in the long term it won’t provide any satisfaction at all – it will only distract you and confuse you more. If you feel you do not like what you are doing, why not read Why Choose a Career You Love and choose a career you love?

Whatever. But even uninteresting stuff can be fun. At times. 🙂