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How to put the fun back into boring tasks

In every job that must be done There is an element of fun You find the fun and snap! The job's a game! Mary Poppins - “Just a Spoonful of Sugar”

If you’ve ever watched Mary Poppins, the original movie you will probably remember the scene when Mary Poppins teaches the kids how to make tidying their rooms fun. Now let’s be honest, tidying is really not the most exciting thing on the planet, but if we could do it with a bit of magic, it would really be a lot more fun. Apart from being a lovely little story, this is actually really good advice.

So often we dread doing a task because it is just so utterly boring or unpleasant. Yet we know it needs to be done. We are unfortunately not always in a position to outsource these boring tasks, so we just have to get on with them. If we don’t it usually results in a bad situation – a messy house, inability to find anything, bad credit from unpaid bills, trouble at work from not submitting reports, etc. Just because those tasks are boring, doesn’t mean they’re not important.

These are usually the type of tasks you procrastinate on, the tasks that get moved to the end of the list, the bottom of the pile. But there are ways to make things more interesting. Below is a little selection of tactics you can employ to spice up boring tasks so that you’re more likely to do them. Hey, you never know, you might even start to enjoy them!

Challenge Yourself

This is the simplest way to make things more interesting. You can do this in two different ways. If you know how long a task will roughly take, set a timer for half the time, and see if you can speed things up and do it twice as fast.

Another way is for you to set a timer for 10 minutes and see how much you can get done. How many items can you deal with? Then set the timer for another 10 minutes and see if you can beat your own time. Can you beat your time again? You’ve now worked on your “boring task” for 30 minutes – it might even be done! This technique works really well for repetitive tasks such as tidying things away, filing, dealing with emails, etc.

Reward Yourself

Boring tasks become much more enticing when there’s a reward attached to them. What little thing can you promise yourself once you have finished the task you really don’t want to do? Here are a few ideas:

  • Your favourite snack

  • Have a nice cup of tea or coffee

  • Read a chapter of your favourite book

  • Buying yourself a little treat

  • Spend a few minutes on an online game (remember to set a timer so it doesn’t turn into hours of time wasting)

  • Spend a bit of time on your favourite hobby

None of these have to be big or expensive. It’s the small things that make us happy and looking forward to the reward is the best bit!

Entertain Yourself

You don’t have to work in total silence especially if the work doesn’t require much brain power. If you do need to concentrate on it, choose some instrumental music – nothing with words that will take your focus away. Choose your favourite genre, just make sure there are no lyrics involved. Classical music and film music work really well. My personal favourite is Viking battle music (don’t judge me 😉). There are lots of playlists on YouTube and Spotify that were specially created with productivity in mind.

If your task does not need much concentration and is mainly repetitive or physical, your choice widens a lot. You can pick from any kind of music you like or listen to a podcast or even have the TV on in the background. Using the television is how I power through my ironing, works a treat.

Team Up

Do you have to get a pile of work done and you know other who do as well? Why not team up? You can either meet up in person (once social distancing is no longer a thing) or connect over a Zoom call and do sprints of work together. At times intervals check in with each other to see how it’s going and to motivate each other to keep going.

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