Routine tasks as motivation, not monotony

motivation-motonoy

The Daily Grind

Every job has its repetitive tasks – bookkeeping, time tracking, approval forms, paperwork, etc. Most of these activities are necessary in supporting your “real” work, like programming, designing, or supporting your customers. But some days seem to be filled with nothing but grunt work, making you feel like you accomplished nothing of value when you pack up to go home.

So how can you stay motivated while pushing through your dreaded daily routine?

Find the Silver Lining

Every Monday morning, I spend a few minutes cleaning up my timesheet from the previous week. While it can seem like a chore (particularly if I’ve not been very dutiful in my tracking), it does give me a good chance to review all the tasks I recently accomplished before diving into a brand new work week. So I’ve tried to redefine this chore as a morale booster – I’m not simply trying to get my hours submitted, I’m now reminding myself of all the great work I did last week. Try to find similar boosts in any tasks you might dread.

Don’t Live and Die by Your To-Do List

If you’re like me, you probably have multiple to-do lists on your desk, computer, or phone. And if you’re really like me, those lists never seem to empty – new tasks come in faster than you can cross them off. Cut off one head, and two more grow back.

To-do lists can make you feel buried, like the end is never quite in sight. That can in turn make you feel depressed, slowing your productivity, making you feel even more behind. It’s a vicious cycle.

So it’s important to keep these lists in perspective. Don’t just focus on the incomplete items – take a look everything you’ve already crossed off! Sure, you might still have 50 tasks ahead of you, but you may have already tackled 500 in the past month.

Take the Time to Regularly Look Back

In addition to keeping tabs on the to-do list items you’ve accomplished, you can also check in on your accomplishments using your day-to-day business tools.

This might be as simple as reviewing all the emails you sent in the past week, or viewing the items you recently resolved in your issue tracker (by the way, have you tried DoneDone’s Activity Dashboard yet?). If you’re a developer, try taking the time to periodically review your commit history in your source control system.

GitHub's graphs are a great way to see how much work you've done.

GitHub’s graphs are a great way to see how much work you’ve done over weeks, months, or years.

The tools you use at your job may be different, but they probably have some great options for reviewing your day-to-day accomplishments.

All these brief exercises really help me to remember that I’m constantly making progress, even if it feels like I’m standing still. Just keep in mind – it’s always OK to look back!

Jeremy Kratz is a developer at DoneDone. Follow him on Twitter via @jwkratz.