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So In my job there is fun work* that I enjoy doing and boring-but-necessary work** that I loathe. It's about a 60/40 split, but because the fun work is fun and interesting I usually ratchet it up to a 70/30 or even 80/20 split, which harms my productivity.

While I'm in fairly good standing for my throughput on the fun side of my job, I am having troubles ensuring I also get the boring side of my job finished.

How can I ensure that I get the boring-but-necessary work done? I do not want to cause problems because I do not get the boring work done/

*Programming projects, from writing new to refactoring old code

**Time tracking, regression testing software, TPS Reports

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    I made an edit here to scope it a bit more on topic. I don't think I changed the core question too much, if so feel free to edit again to clarify. – enderland Jan 3 '17 at 17:36
  • The book "Eat That Frog" by Brian Tracy is mostly focused on working through this challenge (and offers a solution). You can find it on Amazon or Audible, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. – user1853181 Jan 6 '17 at 12:52
  • @Sidney Delegate? – Dan Henderson Jan 12 '17 at 13:58
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First, work on one thing at a time. Do not cheat on this. If you start Boringest Task Ever and then decide, "eh I'll browse Stack Exchange" or "I'll just code a bit which is way more fun" then you will never successfully stop doing the "ignore crappy tasks" problem.

If you have to, scope out your Boringest Task Ever into smaller pieces. Or close down multiple monitors.

Second, figure out if the not fun stuff actually is important. A lot of tasks are... not really that important. Or there is no meaningful consequence if it doesn't get done. A lot of reports and updates can fall into this category. Given you are asking this question, some of your less than fun tasks must fall into this category.

Everything has different levels of importance. If you always work on things that are generally known to be actually a priority and actually important, you don't have to deal with a lot of the Boringest things. Because a conversation with your boss can go, "I currently have High Priorities [and fun] X, Y, Z, and also Boringest Tasks Ever, which do you want me to focus on?" and your boss can try to support you doing important things.

Basically, try to work on things which are both important and fun.

Third, figure out what time of day you are best at doing the different tasks. For myself, immediately after lunch is when I'm the slowest. My body naturally is lower energy then. I do email and presentations and stuff like that then - it's low energy tasks (which I don't like doing when I'm "high energy"). But from ~3-6pm? I'll take on the world. My brain engages and I just plow through stuff.

Figure out what times are good for you or bad for different types of activities. Allocate tasks accordingly.

Fourth, delegate. You might be lucky and someone likes doing the Boringest Task Ever. You never know...

Last, timebox things. Give yourself X minutes to work on Boringest Task Ever. This is particularly effective if you actually succeed at focusing on one thing. They wouldn't call it "work" if you wanted to do everything you had to do...


Or just get an intern. ;)

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    Ironic: I just happened to see this post in my notifications while avoiding some Boringest Task Ever work. :/ – enderland Jan 4 '17 at 15:55
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In the Army we used to have what we called "pay day activities". It was the necessary admin work that had to be done, twice a month. Scheduling doing it on a payday made it a bit more palatable.

In your case it sounds like you will have to do it more often then that. However the principle could be the same. You could schedule the boring work prior to leaving for the day or the weekend. Similarly you could schedule it prior to going to lunch with your buddies.

Another option is to turn the boring work into something interesting. Could you write scripts that generated the TPS report(s)? Could you use a bit of AI to fill in the fields that aren't really used by anyone? Could you work on automating the regression testing?

For time tracking, do it daily or even more often. It will greatly improve your accuracy and reduce the pain. I always feel like the pain is remembering what I did on Tuesday afternoon if I save the work for Friday. If I actually enter my time on Tuesday, there is no pain.

  • I built a little Excel tool for myself for time tracking. With a little bit of field validation and a simple PowerPivot table, I have 5 worksheets - Monday through Friday - where I just keep a running log of tasks that I work on and where each task will be logged into my timecard, and a sixth worksheet containing the PivotTable that matches the layout of my timecard system, with all of the totals I'll need to enter. Now I spend zero time adding up hours, only a few seconds per task recording time, and less than two minutes entering my time into the timecard. – Dan Henderson Jan 12 '17 at 14:04
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How can I ensure that I get the boring-but-necessary work done?

If you don't have enough willpower to just naturally get the boring-but-necessary work done in the regular course of a day, then try scheduling.

Schedule your less-desirable work at the beginning of the day, followed by your more-desirable work afterwards.

That way, the eagerness to get to the good stuff will power you through the boring stuff. You'll look forward to it.

  • Scheduling is definitely the best way to do it. I would suggest, however, scheduling the boring stuff for whenever you find you are most productive in getting it done. The most productive time for most people is first thing in the morning. I have found that scheduling my least productive work during that time can literally kill an entire day's worth of productivity. Different folks are better at getting different things done at different times, so I'd suggest a personal assessment. – DVK Jan 6 '17 at 14:45
  • I always get the boring stuff out of the way early, so I can save the "good stuff" for last! – WorkerDrone Jan 9 '17 at 17:05
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This reminds me a lot of the Importance/Urgency matrix (replace "urgent" with "fun" for your question). We have this weird notion that we have to complete absolutely everything that comes our way, but the fact is, it is not always feasible or even desirable to do that. enter image description here

Most of us don't have trouble doing those things that are urgent fun and important, or even urgent fun and not important, so I'll neglect those items.

If something is important but not urgent fun (time sheet is due by end of day Friday), schedule time right before it is due (when the task is MOST urgent, making it easier to work on), or block off a small section of time each day to work on it. I find that scheduling these types of tasks for a short period during the last fifteen minutes or half hour of the day give me something to fill that "I finished my last fun task and don't have time to start a new one" void. I leave a little padding so I don't have to bail in the middle of something fun and can at least reach a stopping point before I switch gears to boring, or, if absolutely necessary, neglect the task now in then in favor of something more urgent.

If something is neither important nor urgent fun (that obscure standards document that nobody seems to care about and has no deadline), then ask if you can either have a deadline and a definition-of-done, or if you can back-burner it until there is a meaningful deadline. A task that has no importance and no deadline is simply a time waster for when you have absolutely nothing better to do, and has little other intrinsic value. Simply put, it never really NEEDS to be done, so there is no reason to do it if you have other options (but make sure your manager is on the same page, please).

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Besides dividing tasks into Boring and Fun, consider the level of difficulty as well. Balance the times you're most productive with difficult work that is both boring and fun. You may have to be more rigid in your planning to make sure the boring but tougher work gets done first.

Personally, I don't know if you'll find much work that is fun but not very difficult. People tend to like a challenge. Regardless, work on easy, repetitive boring things during times when you're less productive and just slog through it.

The only caveat I would make to organizing your work this way is if there is easy and boring stuff that is really critical to your boss. I would make sure this gets done on time with few mistakes because of the level of importance. I'm guessing TPS fax cover sheets fall into this category.

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