On Boredom

I truly hate being bored. I don’t mean “I have nothing to do” bored, I mean “I’m doing something that requires less than 1% of my thoughts but doesn’t leave me free to think/do something else” bored.

I don’t think I’m alone in this sentiment. I’ve noticed that most geeks also hate that latter form of boredom. I can’t say I’m surprised–most geeks are intelligent, creative, and like using their brains; the antithesis of boring work.

The problem with this is that with my job and with the jobs that many geeks have, we have rote, boring work that HAS to get done. This work is very easy to delay until it becomes a problem for me, for the geek, or for someone else at work. To avoid this, I employ the following strategies:

  • Identify the boring work. If I want to avoid the work badly enough, I can conveniently “forget” that it exists. I try to identify what I have to do but might prefer to ignore at least once a week.
  • Don’t delay gratification. I’m a morning person. If I try to kick off my day by getting the boring work done “first”, I may as well just go home. Instead of investing my high-energy morning creativity in interesting, creative tasks, I have just frittered it away by doing energy-sapping, boring work. By waiting to do boring work until my mid-afternoon slump, I maximize my time and energy investment. (Note: If I weren’t a morning person, I would probably reverse the process and do boring stuff first thing when I was mostly brainless.)
  • Assign a time to boring work. Approving invoices is perhaps my most tedious task. When do I do it? Friday afternoons, of course. Why? My brain has already left the premises, so I may as well spend my time wisely and do my rote tasks then. Also, by assigning a time (which is on my calendar with a reminder), I don’t allow myself to conveniently “forget” to do the work.

But enough about me. How do you handle the boring parts of your job? What works for you? I’d love to learn new strategies!

11 thoughts on “On Boredom

  1. The trick is figuring out how to turn your conscious mind off.All your internet marketing business tasks should be “automated”. Then you can approach your business like a machine.First, do this.Then, do that.Then that.Then that.Notice what's going on? Continual action. No pausing. No stopping to think. No pondering. No worrying. No procrastination.All action!Now listen to this: No matter how you approach your boring work now, if you could eliminate all that procrastination and hesitation…You'd immediately make a massive leap in productivity.The only way you turn your work time into “all action” mode is with systems. Now here's the neat thing about systems: it's just as easy to design an efficient system and an inefficient one.In other words, you can create something that will not only eliminate boredum, hesitation, pondering and procrastination, but it will also produce top quality results!

  2. With boring work, my solution is to get it out of the way first thing in the morning (or as soon as it crosses my field of vision). If I put it off, it doesn't get done – something more fun always shows up and pushes the boring thing further down the pile.@JayFleischman

  3. I find it depends on what else is on my plate. At times there is only boring work so I have to do it. Sometimes there is a good mix of work on my desk so I just work on what has the highest priorty. I do find getting up and taking a walk around the office does help.

  4. Alisa,You and I (and most geeks) are clearly not anywhere near the same personality type. I can no more turn my conscious mind off than fly, and I would be seriously concerned about the quality of even rote tasks were I to do so.I'm glad your system works for you, though!

  5. Jay,Are you a morning person, though? And what about interrupts? Most boring tasks hit me when I'm in the middle of something (like many folks in my position, the "interesting" work NEVER ends, so I have to make time for anything and everything).

  6. Jenn,I find it too easy to waste the little 5 and 15 min chunks of the day between meetings. I've found those are great times to do a "boring" finite task like review an invoice. If I can chunk the boring stuff up in little bits, I don't spend an hour doing "boring" stuff, and I feel much more productive in those little bits of extra time. A side effect is that it's really easy to put down that boring little task and not be late to my meeting, whereas if I start something creative, I want to finish my train of thought, which routinely makes me 5-15 mins late.Thanks for the post! Good reminder on the time of day, too!-Susan

  7. Jenn, great post as usual. It is always good to think about those must do tasks that aren't challenging but are definitly required.Like you, I try to pick Friday afternoons for the boring stuff, but it often goes sideways.I have a hot file on my desk. It is the must do work. I try to pile it so that all the boring tasks are interspersed with interesting brain work.I am also asided by being a timekeeper. In a law firm environment, we have the ability to live in 6 minute intervals, and to post our time into an accounting system that requires us to allocate it. Since some of my work is allocated to client files and I am posting time anyway, years ago I decided to keep track of ALL my time in the same fashion. It is great for keeping me honest with the use of my work time. It is also great for the essential reporting of what I do that is not client work. Cheers,Shaunna

  8. I too am a morning person and like to do my personnel interaction first thing. I too find approving invoices to be the most boring part of the job. But I schedule time for it, twice a week. First day I go through the stack, sort them by due date and check them for accuracy. Any that aren't right I put aside for immediate handling. The rest go in the ready to approve stack. Then I go through and fill out the check requests and approve everything. There's really no reason to sort them, but it does make me read each one and think about how to handle it. Makes it a little less boring. Oh, and I don't do this in my office. When I do it in my office I usually stare out the window wishing I were outside. So I do this in the server room work area (not the server room itself), which is quiet and isolated, and I turn up some rock and roll music to engage my mind in the background. 🙂

  9. Susan,That's a great use of those 5-15 minute gaps! I use mine to catch up on the neverending email stream or to actually prep for the meetings themselves.

  10. Shaunna,I'm always amazed at people who can handle the 6-minute incrementing of their lives. I'm even more amazed that you do it voluntarily! I like the hot file idea. Better than my papers strewn randomly all over my desk, eh?

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