Working on a Tedious Project? Smile through the Slog

How to maintain a chipper attitude while doing boring work.
How to maintain a chipper attitude while doing boring work.

No matter how wonderful a client, or a supervisor, or a subject area, or whomever we are working for, or whatever we are working on, inevitably a project crosses our desks that devolves into a long slog. Not every case is a bet-the-company one, not every negotiation features drama, not every Lexis search yields a gaping exception in the law that will change the odds for a client. Be real: Some assignments are long and boring. How can we get through them?

  • Take breaks. I do this whether a project is dull or just something I don’t like doing. Making cold calls to prospective clients? Give yourself a break after doing a certain number. Surf the web for 15 minutes to relax. I do the same with the drudge-filled tasks: work a while, then reward myself. My prizes don’t always have to be personal rewards: You can switch to a more exciting project, or to a task you find more creative (for me, that’s making PowerPoint presentations. I love slides!).
  • Use a timer. Sometimes, the sheer dread of working on something is worse than the actual activity, so I’ll procrastinate. Make yourself a deal: Drag yourself to your desk but limit the amount of time you’ll spend on a given project. Think you can only tolerate it for 30 minutes? Set your time for 20. You might even be willing to reset that timer once you get going.
  • Add your own dazzle. It doesn’t take much to keep me more entertained than I would otherwise be. I use bright highlighters, pink legal pads, sticky notes with cutesy messages, and a myriad of other office supplies not colored gray, blue, white, or black. If the substance isn’t interesting, the fluff might as well be.
  • Pay yourself to have a chipper attitude about the assignment. I used to do this with my son when he was in grade school. Ten bucks could buy his attendance at an event along with a pleasant demeanor. Most of the time, he’d end up having fun all on his own. So smile through the boredom, gush about the work, think and make it happen!

And if it doesn’t? Well, that’s why the universe invented bubble baths at the end of long, tedious day.

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—Lori Tripoli

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