6 Ways to Tackle Boring or Irritating Tasks


September 10, 2011   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man


I’m an athlete (triathlete and running marathons) and I have a pretty regular schedule of workouts I do on a weekly basis. However, certain exercises are more irritating than others.

On Tuesdays, I have my hardest exercise of the week – 1km (0.6 mile) sprint runs. In that exercise, I run one kilometer (or 0.6 miles) as fast as I can and then I have a brief recovery session, until I do the same thing again (5 sprints altogether).

I never liked this particular exercise because it is physically very demanding. Still, no matter how irritating this weekly exercise is, I want to do it to improve my running results. At some point, I started to figure out if there was a way to overcome the feelings related to this exercise somehow. I stressed myself about it and even started a dialog inside my head – trying to find ways for not doing the drill (luckily this hasn’t happened).

After pondering about this topic, I found six different ways to tackle this situation. These tips can be used to other irritating or boring tasks as well, not just sprint runs. However, in order to illustrate the use of them, I wanted to share my experiences and how I have applied these principles into a real situation.

  1. Don’t think about it that much
    One way to deal with the task is to put your mind elsewhere and not think about it that much. I have noticed, that especially if I’m busy with my other tasks, my mind is not focusing on the annoying task that much.

In my situation, my exercise happens on Tuesday afternoons. Before the drill I’m at work, so I’m focused on my tasks or communicating with my colleagues, before going home and putting my sports gear on.

I try not to think actively about the exercise before it actually happens for two reasons. First, I want to be present at work and second, I’m wasting my energy on to something, that I don’t need to focus on right then.

  • Find alternative ways to do it
    Another great way of tackling the task is to find alternative ways to do it. For example, if you hate cleaning your home, you may want to think different ways of handling the task – like cleaning it room-by-room, cleaning it by starting from a living room first (if you have started from a kitchen normally) and so on. 

This way you may think about that irritating task bit differently and starting the task may not be that difficult.

This is what I have done when it comes to my hardest exercise of the week – the way I do it varies (the location might be different) and this keeps motivation alive – instead of just doing the exercise the same way, over and over again.

  • Do it as soon as you can
    I have realized that as soon as you get the irritating task done, the better. Once it’s off your mind, you can put your focus and your energy to other things instead. 

I have my exercise on Tuesdays – at the beginning of each week. Once I get past the exercise, I feel good about myself and the exercise is not on my mind anymore.

  • Break the task into small pieces
    In order to make the level of entry lower and prevent procrastination on that task, break it into smaller pieces. I used this example in tip # 2 above (cleaning your home – room-by-room), but obviously you can apply it to other situations as well.

For example, if you have to write a report, you could make a decision to write 3 pages of that report every day. Alternatively you can decide that you will work on the task at least 1 hour per day. By this way, you are not overwhelming yourself with the task, since it’s broken down into manageable pieces.

When I’m having my hardest exercise of the week, I do it at once (in fact that is the only way to do it). However, the exercise itself is broken into 5 pieces (or sprint runs), so that helps me to prepare for the task much better.

  • Praise yourself for starting the task
    Remember, as soon as you get started with your tedious task, you have already done something that most people are not willing to do. 

Starting is the hardest part – especially when a boring or irritating task is concerned. However, as soon as you get started, it may be difficult to stop working, since you got the momentum going.

For example, you could decide to work 5-10 minutes on a task. After you have worked that amount of time, see if you are still willing to stop doing the task or would you like to keep going.

Every time I start my hardest exercise of the week, I feel like a winner. I know that the situation cannot get any “worse” and since I’m doing the workout already, it gets done soon.

  • Remember your past experiences
    Everyone has tackled tedious tasks before, but do you remember, how you have felt afterwards? I don’t know about you, but almost every time, I have felt very good about myself for completing the task. 

When a boring or irritating task arises, focus on the good feeling you have had before – when you did complete the task. That good feeling helps you to get started with the task and pull it through easily.

Every time I start my exercise, I remember the good feeling I get after finishing it. Especially after getting back home, taking a shower and eating a bit, I feel just awesome!

In fact, when writing this post, I did the hardest exercise of the week just couple of hours before and I feel superb!

The tedious exercise is now done and I can focus on other tasks instead.

Written on 9/10/2011 by Timo Kiander. Timo is a productivity and time management enthusiast who blogs at http://www.timokiander.com. Visit his blog and grab the free e-book: “101 Tips For Becoming a Productivity Superstar Photo Credit: mattastic!

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