Do You Hate Repetitive Tasks? Try These 8 Strategies!

Published on:
August 18, 2023
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Let's face it — No one likes tedious repetitive tasks.

Employees loaded with repetitive tasks often display a lack of meaning, happiness and in turn, quit at high rates. This can present issues for the employer, leading to high recruitment expenses, disruption in service and poor employee morale.

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Hiring individuals who “do not mind repetitive work” is an idealistic dream, and desperate workers will simply lie to get the job and quit a few months down the road when they find another opportunity.

The truth is, repetitive work is never going to be amazing. However, there are techniques for managing repetitive tasks that provide emotional and efficiency advantages.

In this post, we share the best ways to handle repetitive tasks without tearing your hair out. Craziest part? They work.

8 Ways to Not Hate Repetitive Tasks

1. Make it a Game

Our brains are programmed to respond to risk and reward. One of the challenges of repetitive tasks is that your brain does not see a reward for the work output. A great way to trick your brain into enjoying the work, is to make it a game.

Think about it — how many phone games are simple and repetitive, yet people volunteer and even pay for the opportunity to play? A lot. If you are competing in a game against a brother or sister, does it matter what the stakes are? Probably not, you just want to win.

It can be surprising how slight tweaks in perspective and perceived reward. We like to win, so find a way to make your repetitive task winnable and your dopamine receptors will give you an edge to push through.

To make work a game, you can either compete against yourself by keeping time or score, or compete against a fellow employee head to head. For example, if you are rolling up silverware into napkins, you could see how many you can complete in a minute and keep track of the record. Over time, you can get other team members to join in and compete to see who is the fastest silverware roller in the restaurant.

Here's the key. Make it a big deal, be proud of the title, and welcome challengers (if they dare). In time, a once boring and pain staking repetitive task becomes a source of pride, energy and pleasure.

2. Set Standards and Reward Yourself

Nothing done well is insignificant — small bricks build large buildings. Regardless of role and responsibility, YOU MATTER and deserve to be recognized and rewarded for success, regardless task difficulty.

Not all managers honor this the way they should, but that should never stop you from rewarding yourself. After all, self love is love too.

While creating a personal plan on 'how do you handle repetitive tasks,' you can set up incentives to keep yourself happy and motivated along the way. These incentives could be anything. It could be a little break, a bar of candy, a walk in the park outside, or anything you enjoy that is enticing enough to drive effort.

Hold yourself to a standard and reward when standards are met. When it becomes too easy, push up the standard. If the reward isn't driving effort, change the reward.

The idea behind these incentives is to have something to look forward to. Incentives are also a great way of keeping the brain refreshed and your critical thinking ability at an optimal level. Since we already know that recurring tasks tend to bore people, we need something to hold on to at the end of each activity. 

3. Get Rid of Distractions

As much as technology has made it easier for us to get things done, it has provided a new world of distractions and low attention span that is the enemy of recurring tasks. To help counteract this, it is important to identify your trigger distractions and remove them from your environment before starting work. You can then set periodic breaks and use the content distraction as a reward system for continuous concentration.

You can also notch it up a little by reducing ambient noise with noise-cancellation earplugs or headphones. Play white noise or Lo-fi music to block the outside world from your experience. Doing this can increase your ability to reach a flow state, which means you are less likely to notice the passage of time and are more likely to be engaged and concentrated.

4. Break up the task with the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro method for completing tasks is one of the most effective techniques. Pomodoro is a time management system invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Initially, the method involved a tomato-shaped kitchen timer set at 25-minute intervals for task management.

The idea behind this system is to concentrate on one task at a time over a maximum length of 25 minutes. Once the timer expires, an alarm goes off, alerting you to take a short break. Do this repeatedly to manage all your recurring or one-time tasks, whether the work is a high or low priority.

This technique is similar to making it a game, but there is a focus on the structure of sprints and breaks. This can help to jumpstart your adrenaline and provide extra energy and focus to get the job done. 

5. Know Your Limits

No matter how fast we can work, we are limited in the amount of time and energy that we can devote before our brain begins to turn away. It is important to notice these limits, and push them slightly each time so that we can grow, but not push them too much so that we burn out or get injured.

Often, overloading is a result of mismanagement or volunteering for additional work on an impulse. But knowing your limits allows you to respond early and clearly to the demands, and ensure that you are communicating expectations properly.

Knowing your limits, lets you plan. By planning your entire week's activities in advance, you can actually see if you have enough wiggle room to take on additional work. If the situation calls for it, alert your line manager about some tasks getting delayed so that you don't burn out in the long run. 

6. Don't Be Afraid to Ask For Support

A big disadvantage to being great at repetitive work is that you are more likely to get it assigned to you. This is because your manager trusts you to get it done on time and up to quality standards. This can become a spiral trap of repetitive tasks that is difficult to escape.

You need help, but when and how to act on this can cause anxiety and stress. You are not alone, as many people feel shy asking for help while working in an office. They may interpret asking for help as a sign of weakness or incompetence, but it is certainly not.

Asking for support shows maturity and understanding. It shows that you not only understand the task at hand, you have a suggestion to get it done faster and better.  Sure, a boss may turn you down if you ask them for help with recurring tasks, but it is worth the shot.

If you get denied, you can always carry on with the most critical tasks and leave low-priority ones on the side for later. 

7. Find Meaning in Relationships

One of the biggest challenges to repetitive tasks is the fact that humans typically look to work for purpose and meaning. If the work is tedious, repetitive and uninteresting, this can be very difficult. 

Sure, you can read Marcus Aurelius and dive into the philosophical rewards of discipline through repetition. But, you may find yourself in a rut or depression that feels impossible to escape.

It is relationships that will help distract you from the work itself, and allow you to feel fulfilled in your purpose.  Research proves that relationships affect short and long term health significantly. Consider the fact that the worst punishment in western prison systems is solitary confinement. Or think back to high school where days of meaningless work did not matter as long as you had your friends with you. Relationships matter.

8. Investigate How to Automate Repetitive Tasks

This may sound counterintuitive. If you automate your work, you risk giving your job to a robot. However, this theory does not take into account that your manager will be so pleased with your work that they will likely give you another problem to solve. 

Showing initiative and providing suggestions to make work less boring and more productive is essential in a healthy, future proofed work environment. Employees should feel encouraged and supported to test solutions that drive efficiency and effectiveness across all tasks and departments. 

For example, if the scheduling and assignment of repetitive tasks is what is slowing down your team, you could find a software solution like Xenia that makes scheduling repetitive tasks easy.  Or if it is a repetitive task on the computer, you could use an automation tool like Zapier to automate the transfer of data. 

Final Repetitive Task Advice: Test, Reflect and Iterate

Nothing worthwhile is accomplished without effort and dedication. If it is important to you to improve your mental state and physical output when conducting repetitive tasks, then you can certainly achieve your goals. To help do so, adopt an experimental growth mindset and test, reflect and iterate on everything you do. You will be surprised how much you improve by doing this, no matter the task. 

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