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I am an intern at an auditing firm. Completing this internship is mandatory to become a qualified chartered accountant. I like this profession, but sometimes I have to do boring jobs for which I have no motivation.

For example, I was told to document the steps involved in converting a sole proprietorship into a private limited company. I don't find this interesting, partially because the client is qualified enough to do this research and proceed with incorporating the company.

My boss and my senior delegated this job to me so that I could get a chance to learn. In my opinion, they showed interest in this detailed study because they are interested in the law itself and because the client pays for this consultation.

The client sat behind us watching us work which aggravated my irritation. I didn't try too hard to hide my boredom or annoyance. I am really lucky my boss and the senior have been putting up with my bad behaviour, and offering me advice and guidance.

I realize that I can damage the firm's reputation with clients due to my lack of maturity and patience. However, I find it hard to enjoy this type of work, and there are times when clients piss me off and I fail to conceal my emotions.

I understand that I am the one who needs to improve, maintain control over my temper and change my attitude. I am not blaming anyone else.

How to motivate myself to get involved with work that I perceive as boring?

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    @Edgar Please do not post answers in the comment section. Post answers below for the community to review and vote on. – Richard U Feb 28 '18 at 14:14
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    To the close-voters, the goal is to address motivation, and yes we can address it. – Richard U Feb 28 '18 at 14:18
  • "The client sat behind us watching us work..." I'm not in your industry, but I find this to be a very strange statement. Why would a client watch an intern do a "boring" task? My instinct is that knowing the answer to that might help provide clarity. Does the client fear you will make a mistake if they don't catch it? Is your boss giving you an opportunity to interface with a customer (in which case the documentation might be less important than conversation)? Or maybe this is just standard practice in your industry. – Cort Ammon Mar 1 '18 at 1:08
  • @CortAmmon, he was present to clarify any doubts we might have about his firm. His boss wanted this done as soon as possible. So he sent his employee to make sure we got all the details we required. And yes, it's not uncommon for clients to be present at our office to clarify our doubts. But in this particular case, his presence was not needed. We had their financial statements from we could gather all the data we might have needed. – user78223 Mar 1 '18 at 1:36

12 Answers 12

108

If work was supposed to be fun, it wouldn't be called work.

I'm sorry to tell you this, but welcome to the rest of your life.

You might find a work that you enjoy MOST of the time, but you very likely won't find one that you enjoy ALL the time.

What I suggest you do is think about the outcome of misbehaving during work (and in front of clients). You might very well lose your job and, as you already know, damage your company's reputation.

Also focus on the fact that after this boring job, another one that is more fun might come your way. And the more focused you are, the faster the annoying one will end.

And, if this doesn't work, try to find another job. But keep in mind that this situation will most likely happen again.

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    If work was supposed to be fun, it wouldn't be called work. on here would be "Work is so annoying that they pay you to do it" – William-H-M Feb 28 '18 at 17:33
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    Work is called work because you’re remunerated for it, not because it can’t be fun. I feel this answer starts from a wrong premise and consequently arrives at a wrong conclusion. Work isn’t necessarily fun, but it can be fun. Will it always be fun? No, but every single one of my hobbies also contains menial parts. – Konrad Rudolph Feb 28 '18 at 18:31
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    @KonradRudolph if you read my whole answer, you will see that I wrote "You might find a work that you enjoy MOST of the time, but you very likely won't find one that you enjoy ALL the time.", which is exactly what you wrote in your comment. – undefined Feb 28 '18 at 18:38
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    @SandraK That “wise” man should have taken a closer look, maybe. There’s not generally a correlation between job enjoyment and salary. If anything, it’s inverse. – Konrad Rudolph Feb 28 '18 at 20:44
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    “the client is qualified enough to do this research and proceed with incorporating the company” — so what? A doctor is often qualified enough to diagnose themselves, but that’s usually not a good idea, because it’s difficult to be objective. Even if your client is another accountant, providing professional advice to other people is the entire point of being an accountant. If every client does the research themselves, you have no job. – Paul D. Waite Mar 1 '18 at 8:58
50

There is the (in)famous motivational "fish video" (youtube and other sources) that shows fish market employees enjoying themselves on the job. The point being, if people can enjoy that physically demanding, bad smelling, and at times, disgusting job, so can you.

The way to succeed is to make the job enjoyable and have a game with the work. You need to approach this as not boring work, but as something you can find a way to make enjoyable.

If the client is sitting behind you, engage them with some small talk as you work, get up and stretch frequently, put rubber ducks on your desk, (if the boss allows) but channel that frustration into something productive.

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    If I would be the paying client I want that the guy works and does not charge me for the time he makes small talk with me. The boss might do small talk with the client but certainly not the OP. – Edgar Feb 28 '18 at 14:11
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    Yes, I read the entire post and in my opinion there is nothing wrong with the rest of your answer. But I think the small talk is not even a viable option. This is why I pointed it out. – Edgar Feb 28 '18 at 14:51
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    Stretching and using rubber ducks are great suggestions. Not the small talk one, especially when I find the client annoying. – user78223 Feb 28 '18 at 15:05
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    @Mahesh use what works for you. check out the "fish" video especially. It changed my perspective. – Richard U Feb 28 '18 at 15:09
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    My issue with this answer, working in a fish market, you can "zone out" or find distractions if you want to. The problem is, with boring tasks that the OP asks about, you still must be mentally present to do a satisfactory job. – TheCatWhisperer Mar 1 '18 at 22:34
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Chartered accountancy has a well-deserved reputation as a dull profession. Accountancy is vital and valuable work, which must be performed by qualified and dedicated professionals, but it has none of the features that our ancestral environment shaped to provide an adrenaline rush. Your accounting firm may be attached to exciting projects or exciting companies, but the accounting work itself will never be exciting. Senior-level accountants may manage other accountants and may delegate the most tedious tasks to subordinates, but their day-to-day work lives do not get much more interesting.

Being an accountant is not for everyone. Organized people with the capacity to slog through difficult but dull work without making (too many) mistakes have a comparative advantage in this profession. They are rewarded for being able to do this work well, particularly later in their careers. "Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life" said no accountant ever.

This profession, if you choose to pursue it, must be seen as a means to an end. To what end? That is up to you -- to subsidize interesting hobbies? To attract a spouse by your capacity to earn a living rather than by regaling them with mesmerizing tales of workplace heroics? If you have some compelling goals for your life, and see your work as a critical part of achieving those goals, you will get through the work day.

Everything I said here also applies to most areas of the legal profession, courtroom television dramas not withstanding.

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    That sketch was the first thing that came to mind as I was reading the question :D – Dan Mašek Feb 28 '18 at 19:34
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    Accountancy, as all boring jobs, is going to go away. Time to look for something creative or empathic, with people. – Peter A. Schneider Mar 1 '18 at 13:12
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    I know a forensic accountant - he actual loves the job, seeing it as a big logic puzzle/whodunit to find the skimming/laundering/whatever that is suspected of going on. So, for some people and assignments, accounting is fun. – Jon Custer Mar 1 '18 at 23:19
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    My sister is also an accountant, in a big invertment banking firm. She worked the internal audit for a few years, trying to dig the dirt on anyone who suddenly turned up in a Porsche. She loved every minute of it, and would tell us with delight about the scams and crimes she had detected. Each to his own. – RedSonja Mar 2 '18 at 9:56
18

You get through boring work at a job the same way I got through my fifth year (tenth grade?) English Literature set text. If you've ever had the misfortune of reading Thomas Hardy, I share your misery. We had a dense, 50 chapter tome to read. I powered through and got it done in a couple of weeks - so, I was allowed to read any other books I wanted while the rest of the class spent the year stuck on chapter 10.

The point of the analogy - work will sometimes be boring, dull, frustrating. But sitting and stewing over it won't get the job done, and certainly won't help you get to the juicier bits that follow.

End of the day - the client has paid a lot of money for your company to do something. If you want that client to come back with more money, you keep doing what they want.

  • @Edgar Please use comments for their intended purpose – Richard U Feb 28 '18 at 14:52
  • I like the idea of "powering through", as that'll help me clear my exams as well. I'd love it if it were simpler and there were some way to make it a habit. Thanks for the advice. I'll research on that. – user78223 Feb 28 '18 at 15:03
  • To summarize : "discipline beats motivation". – MSalters Mar 2 '18 at 11:03
  • Hmm, I enjoyed reading Thomas Hardy. Perhaps because it wasn't a set text and I wasn't studying English Literature. Don't know if there's a lesson there! – Michael Kay Mar 2 '18 at 11:09
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I appreciate this doesn't cover your specific example - but I think that's as much down to being watched whilst you do the work, rather than to allow you to work in your own way.

But more generally for dealing with "boring" jobs my general trick is:

Automate it

Most jobs that are boring are jobs that don't require much mental processing. Therefore they're prime candidates to optimise the workflow and automate them.

The degree of automation varies massively depending on the nature of the beast - sometimes it's as simple as using formulae in Excel (there's a load of powerful 'reference' type things like VLOOKUP), maybe stepping up to macros.

Other times it's worth looking at scripting languages like perl, python or powershell.

And the first few times, it will be hard - because you're working with an unfamiliar technology, and it will slow you down in your task.

But in the process, you've gained several benefits:

  • You've thought about the process. This is good for documentation and just understanding where choke points/decision points are. You can write up that documentation.
  • You've improved your skill set - that means next time you'll be better at it and you increase your value in the job market.
  • You've increased the speed of the process, because computers do simple tasks faster than you.
  • You've made the process more repeatable, and that means it can become more reliable, with better error checking.
  • Even if you haven't fully automated it, you can automate the more trivial subtasks.

From: Geeks vs Non Geeks Graph of productivity

I mean the above very seriously - it's something I've done for 20 years now. Oddly despite making 'work' disappear, there's no shortage of more work. It's just my productivity gets steadily better (I mentally claim credit for all the man hours that are never needed again, even if my employers don't see it that way). And all the tasks I do end up having to actually work on (there's no shortage) are the ones that are "Not boring".

And in reference to the example you give - it's a bit harder to automate a 'research-and-document' task. But widen the scope of your tasking - how would you solve this problem forever such that you never had to do it again? Think about that, consider solutions. It sometimes genuinely is the case that 'do it by hand' is the right solution.

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    This is something I've done for the past two years or so of my internship. I use both Excel (along with VBA) and Python to automate as much work as possible. But this was one of the times where I had to browse the web, the acts, rules to come up with a solution. It's not like I hate law. I like reading bare acts and standards and interpreting them. This time, I had no idea where I was headed, which made demotivated me a bit. – user78223 Mar 1 '18 at 12:40
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    I also find my tolerance for 'boring' is much higher, because it doesn't show up as often. Sometimes a bit of 'boring' is a pleasant addition to the workflow... (occasionally) – Sobrique Mar 1 '18 at 13:13
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    However xkcd.com/1319 – MSalters Mar 2 '18 at 11:04
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    About "a bit harder to automate a 'research-and-document' task": That's what documentation is for (or one reason anyway). When you or another poor chap come again this task two years form now, you don't have to do any research. You just follow the steps of the properly taken documentation. Even more boring task perhaps but probably get done faster. So not necessarily automate it but make it as fast and error-prone as possible. – ypercubeᵀᴹ Mar 3 '18 at 13:10
5

Start by focusing on how you're going to control your behavior in front of clients. This could get you fired and hinder your career. Being prepared and coming up with a preferable response will go a long way. When you know you're going to engage a client, tell yourself to smile or get some help on a more involved strategy.

Next, you're going to have to realize the career choice you've made along with the types of companies and tasks you're going to be doing. Boredom will be inevitable, but you will mature and your career will progress to positions where you may have to do fewer of those types of tasks.

In my case, I don't handle repetition well. I'd rather sit and do nothing. Fortunately, as my career is more involved with programming, I let the computer do the repetitive tasks and I solve some other problem. I worked at a company that not only gave me a personality test, but changed my job description so there was less paperwork or other clerical tasks. I can't totally avoid doing things I don't like, but I've found a way so I don't feel like I'm trapped into doing them for the rest of my life. It helps get by along with an older brain that knows how to relax. Try meditation.

3

Mahesh (OP)'s comment:

... I use both Excel (along with VBA) and Python to automate as much work as possible. But this was one of the times where I had to browse the web, the acts, rules to come up with a solution. It's not like I hate law. I like reading bare acts and standards and interpreting them. This time, I had no idea where I was headed, which made me demotivate a bit.

So perhaps the issue was not exactly the boring task you were given but the goals behind it and how they could be accomplished...

When getting lost in a research/task, I find it acceptable to discuss it with the person/company that asked for it. This is not small talk, since it:

  • actually prevents you from getting bored;
  • allows you to reassess the requirements of the task;
  • shows that you are interested in completing the assignment;
  • increases your productivity by clearing up and defining better goals.

If you had your boss and the client right there with you, instead of taking it as a test of your performance or skills, take it as an opportunity to show what you found so far and that the research you were doing based on the client's requests was leading nowhere relevant. This would also show both of them your willingness to cooperate and they would be pleased by your efforts.

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    That comment is key. It's not "boring", it's the part I don't like. The part I don't like is 9-5, so I make a game of it and see how much I can get accomplished before it's Miller time. This allows you to violate physics and make the clock spin faster. – Mazura Mar 2 '18 at 2:53
2

This is a bit out there, but there are certain mental conditions (I'm thinking of Attention Deficit Disorder specifically, but there are others), that can make it very difficult for a person to tackle "boring" work. Interesting work is fine, but trying to tackle a boring task will cause the brain to check out from lack of stimulation.

The good news is there are treatment options that can help.

Do some research online, and if you think you might be effected, talk to a professional (psychiatrist, etc) to get evaluated.

2

I have an accountancy background and currently works in InfoSec as an IT auditor. Auditing and accountancy are not considered "exciting" or "creative" jobs, but rather a profession that provides a service to the public. Although the job can be monotonous, job stability, good earnings potential, and satisfaction when the public benefits from your work can be considered rewards in and of its own.

Some typical duties of CPAs and chartered accountants such as attestation and assurance, protects the public who relies on such services, from potential harm such as fraud. Often the most prized assets of an accountant are their sense of duty to the public, ethics, and integrity. For those who don't do their job well (think Arthur Andersen and Enron), its not only them accountants themselves who are hurt but the public as well.

In short, if you are looking for a "popular" or "creative" job then you are working in the wrong field. Being apathetic about your job hurts not often only yourself, but others who rely on your work as well. If you are not intrinsically motivated, then not much can be done.

2

I could be mistaken, but through your wording it seems you have a bigger problem than your motivation. You think yourself to be above this work ("partially because the client is qualified enough to do this research and proceed with incorporating the company"). But you are not, your boss handed you this assignment so you just have to do it. That's what you get paid for. Being motivated or not is not the issue, taking responsibility is. Being told to do A should be enough motivation to do A unless it's outside your area of expertise. Your only options are to suck it up and do your job, or to find a new job. You could talk to your boss and ask to not be assigned these kinds of tasks anymore, but that would be pretty unprofessional as an intern. Your problem seems nothing more than a lack of discipline.

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    "Being motivated or not is not the issue" - wrong, wrong, wrong. Motivated employees are more productive employees, more productive employees make their companies more money, therefore it is in the best interests of an employer to keep their employees motivated. And strangely enough, the prospect of being a wage slave for the rest of your life is not particularly motivating. – Ian Kemp Mar 1 '18 at 12:11
  • @IanKemp I don't see how that makes my answer wrong. They are different things. Employee motivation is up to the employer. There's not much you can do about this as an employee except just ask to be assigned different tasks, like I said in my answer. Of course motivation is important but that's not OP's issue here, that's something to take up with their boss. The one thing OP can do here is suck it up and do their job, and in the meantime try to find a job the do like. – kevin Mar 2 '18 at 10:45
1

Well, you answer your own question:

I understand that I am the one who needs to improve, maintain control over my temper and change my attitude. I am not blaming anyone else.

That’s exactly what you need to do. There’s no shortcut or any other answer. You need to start acting more maturely in a professional workplace, and be in control of your emotions.

You can’t start huffing because a superior has given you a task you deem “boring”. Work isn’t a 9–5 party; it’s a place where things need to be done for other people, so you’re always going to have customers that you think should be doing things differently, but the customers are the ones paying the bills so, like the saying goes: “The customer is always right”. You’ve just got to knuckle down and get on with the task you’ve been instructed to do (if you want continuous employment, that is).

-3

Like everything in life there has to be a balance. A yin/yang. A equilibrium. The plainer food I eat the better a burger tastes. If I eat porridge all week and have honey cornflakes one a week. Them cornflakes become as much a treat as a bacon bun. Take water for breakfast and have porridge once a week, that porridge will create as much joy (dopamine release) as the bacon bun.

So my point is do something mundane at the weekend. Something less enjoyable than you job. By no time you'll be so excited about work that Monday morning.

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    So your answer is to make this guy's home life feel worse than an uninspiring day job? I can't see how this would improve things. – Snow Mar 1 '18 at 10:03
  • I guess @shug1001 lives for the (working) week. – Martin Bean Mar 2 '18 at 9:41
  • @shug1001 I totally agree that the level of enjoyment - as well as the level of displeasure - that we get from a situation largely depends not on how pleasant or unpleasant such situation is "in itself" but on how pleasant or unpleasant our previous state was. But in my opinion the advice in your last paragraph won't work, because the previous state would be artificially made not enjoyable which means it could (actually would) have been better if only we didn't make it bad on purpose; our brain doesn't fall for those things. – SantiBailors Mar 2 '18 at 10:34
  • This was merely based on the concept of pleasure. Regardless of the situation. Mine or others. To be fair though you could treat yourself to a trip abroad every month. All them savings on the porridge lol – Shug1001 Mar 2 '18 at 10:47

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