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Not all tasks are easy to do. From some tasks mind tries to run somewhere else. How to avoid distractions during the task that I don't like?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

I answered, then saw all of the related questions on the side and am not sure this is unique. Did you try reading any of these?

From your rep, I'm assuming this is your first question. It's highly encouraged to read other related posts before creating a new question. Hopefully you did so with the above (which probably auto-populated when you wrote your question).

Others have said much of this, but I thought it would be helpful if you gave more of a description. What, exactly, makes it boring? If it's mindless manual labor, then is there a reason to keep your mind from wandering? I often welcome repetitive tasks as I get to think about other things in my life that need attention.

If it's manual labor, but requires you don't make any mistakes (say stuffing envelopes and not missing any items or forgetting a stamp), perhaps that's not the case. Some ideas (several of which have been mentioned above):

  • If it's mindless and you actually want to be able to mindlessly wander and think about other things or, say, listen to an audio book or music, try to systematize the task in such a way that it's fairly fool proof. If it were envelop stuffing, arrange all the piles in a systematic way so you start at one end and finish at the other. As long as you just to left to right, you don't have to worry you've missed something. Now, daydream or music/audiobook away.

  • If it's not mindless, but just boring... this is trickier. I'd suggest reading up on the concept of flow. This is a good way to make time pass more quickly. The problem is that the task needs to be challenging enough to not be ridiculously easy without being so hard you feel constantly frustrated and beat up on yourself.

    • Can you make little games in the task to challenge yourself? Perhaps try and beat you record if it's time based or something?

    • Can you do the task in different ways, incorporating new ways to systematize or organize it throughout the duration, aiming to increase your productivity/efficiency? Your "game" is to continually find new sources of inefficiency and creatively fix them.

  • If all else fails (and like others said above), try and make it something more pleasant. A talk by Dan Ariely came to mind, in which he discusses how he caught Hep C from a blood infusion. He had to give himself a medication with nasty side effects for quite some time as part of a study. He was the only one who succeeded, and did so by rewarding himself at the time of each injection. Perhaps you'll find the talk interesting and figure out a way to mix pleasant incentivizing with the "pain" of boredom?

As a personal example, I once was asked to go through some number of text files output from a device which contained gobbledygook codes. I was an intern and my supervisor showed me an example file. He opened it in word, told me to Ctrl+F (find) a specific code, look to see if the output showed it acquiring GPS status, and then copy the GPS code (if it was there) into the appropriate row in an Excel file.

I did this for a few files (horrible) and then realized that I had just finished learning how to open and read files with Java in college. I spent about a day and a half writing code instead of working on the files (was in super flow -- challenging, exciting, neat to use something I'd learned) and then ran my code on all the files to generate a .csv which Excel could import. It took about 30 sec to read all of those files vs. literally 2 weeks it would have taken of mindless horror with the Ctrl+F method.

Just thought I'd share that... if there's a more challenging way that still gets the job done, it might be worth considering?

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Yes, not all, but I was reading. ) Thanks. – Nikolay Fominyh Jun 26 '12 at 8:04

I've also found the Pomodoro technique useful. You work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and every 4th break you make longer. For those 25 minutes, shut off all distractions (email, Twitter, phone, etc.).

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You're pretty much describing a routine day for me. :) I have found that removing distractions, breaking up the project and taking small breaks to be the most effective way to eliminate procrastination on boring tasks.

I either go to a coffee shop where there's none of my OTHER projects stacked up on the table or wear headphones if I can't escape my surroundings. The change of scene sometimes helps a LOT for getting into a different mindset. I set up benchmarks at smaller pieces of the project. For instance, once I get this webform designed and all the fill-in fields properly aligned, I'm going to go get a cup of coffee. I reward myself with frequent small breaks to break up the monotony. I reward the list-making side of me by crossing "build webform" off my list. By subdividing the task into smaller chunks, I can cross off a lot more of my list, giving myself a psycholocial boost.

When I need to work at home or in the office, I often take all my OTHER project folders and put them in a drawer. This removes them from my peripheral vision, and I can't be distracted ~by~ them.

Boring, monotonous tasks are a fact of life, and ultimately it comes down to how well you can focus. Recognizing the problem is a first step. I've provided some simple techniques that work for me; you'll discover what works for you as you try different ideas from a lot of sources. The best method is the one that works for YOU. Explore, learn about yourself, and give yourself permission to fail along the way.

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Eliminating distractions as @dwwilson66 says is a good first step. The next is to chunk up your task into 20-30 minute pieces so it doesn't feel so dreadful to do. You can even do 20 minutes of the boring task followed by 20 minutes of something more interesting and so on.

In other words, you have to trick your mind into making the task feel more approachable.

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