How to Mainstream the Monotony

July 14, 2016 Kelly O'Hara

how to mainstream the monotony

The boring plight of the marketer has been downplayed by Hollywood. Don Draper made it look like our days are full of creative meetings and cool suits, but we know better. Sometimes our jobs are straight-up boring. Editing. Historical optimization. Metrics. Le sigh.

Now, don’t get me wrong. In small doses, those tasks aren’t so bad. I actually am quite fond of editing, but a full 8 hours of editing can be a bit draining.

Here are some ways that I’ve found have helped me mainstream monotonous tasks and help me keep my days interesting.

Create a checklist for your daily tasks

This may sound just as boring as the tasks themselves, but don’t knock a good checklist. I generally keep two running checklists: one in Trello and another in my notebook. Speaking of Trello, they wrote a great piece that dives into the psychology behind why checklists can actually help motivate you to accomplish more.

They explained that “when we experience even small amounts of success, our brains release dopamine, which is connected to feelings of pleasure, learning and motivation.” So even if it seems silly to make a checklist full of little tasks, the act of crossing off something that you completed will give your brain that boost to keep you on the productivity train. Thanks, psychology!

Tools to help:

  • Trello: Trello does more than just checklists. You can create boards for projects, cards for initiatives, and checklists within the cards for specific tasks. If you like being really granular, this tool is for you.

  • Todoist: Todoist is a clean and simple checklist tool. It has a web tool, but my favorite feature is the Chrome extension. It makes it easy to add tasks on the go and check things off. You also get sent daily reports on what you accomplished and what still needs to be done.

  • Good, old-fashioned notebook: Sometimes physically being able to cross something out is cathartic. My personal preference is notebooks with a built-in bookmark, but literally, any scrap of paper will do.   

Add breaks to your day

If you can work for 8 hours straight with no reprieve from your work, you’re my hero. You’re also probably going to burn out pretty quickly. Continually sitting and staring at your computer screen is detrimental to your health (both physical and mental) and is actually less productive than if you were to take some breaks.

In a study done by Baylor University, workers who took breaks returned to their tasks more energized, focused, and were less likely to get aches and pains during the day. If you’re working on a particularly arduous task, these breaks can help refresh you and rather than looking at your task as a 3-hour long project, you can just think of it in chunks (for however long you choose to work for before you take your break).

There are so many different methods for taking breaks and reasonings behind why you should subscribe to each theory, so I’m just going to list a few that I’ve tried to implement in my day-to-day:

  • Pomodoro method: In this method, you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. You do 25/5 for 3 chunks and then do 25/15. Here’s a drawing to describe it better:

Pomodoro Cycle

Source: A Life of Productivity

  • 20-20-20 rule: This rule can be done in tandem with any other method you choose or just on its own. The point of the 20-20-20 rule is to reduce eyestrain caused by staring at your computer all day. After you work for 20 minutes, take a 20-second break by staring at an object 20 feet away from you. Try not to choose a co-worker to stare at for 20 seconds. That’d be weird.

  • 52/17 method: A study done by tracking users using the tool DeskTime found that workers who worked intently for 52 minutes followed by a 17-minute break were the most productive.

I’ve found that the Pomodoro method works best for me because I like the smaller chunks of time – my brain starts to wander within the 52-minute timeframe (but to each their own). There are even more methods out there so you can easily search to find one that works best for you.

Tools to help:

  • Tomato Timer: This timer follows the Pomodoro method (get it? Tomato because a Pomodoro is a type of tomato. It’s clever.). You can set it up to have desktop alerts so that you always know when to take your breaks.

  • Coffee Roulette: At Uberflip, we’re given the option to sign up for Coffee Roulette which randomly pairs us up with a co-worker to take a coffee break with. It’s a great way to get us away from our desks and to talk to people in other departments we might not work with otherwise!

  • Pokemon Go: I mean, everyone’s playing it, so why not. If you want an incentive to go take a walk during the middle of the day, what better than the promise of finding a cute little pocket monster near your office.

Organize your time

Sometimes just having a task written down on a checklist isn’t enough. If it’s really monotonous and boring, it can take all of your strength to start on it. Believe me, I’m so good at doing ANYTHING else before doing an annoying task. Oh, my taxes are due in a week? Better clean the whole apartment and make all meals for the next week and organize my closet before I start.

At work, I typically block off time in my calendar to make sure things get done. We recently started a historical optimization project where we’ve been going back to every single page of our Hub and checking for keywords, tags, relevance, etc. A few of my co-workers and I would block off a few hours every few days to hammer through it. We would even go into a meeting room to ensure that we were focused on the task at hand. It was rough, but without the time blocked off, we probably wouldn’t commit otherwise.

Tools to help:

  • A calendar: Yeah, sorry, no exciting tool here. My recommendation is to actually block off the time as a meeting in your corporate calendar so no one else can book you during that time and so you’ll get a notification to start your task soon.

Is there anything else that you do to help mainstream the monotony in your job? Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author

Kelly O'Hara

Kelly is a Content Marketing Consultant at Uberflip, helping the team with content strategy and implementation. As a Massachusetts native living in Toronto, she spends her free time exploring the city, hanging out with her cat & dog, and watching Tom Hanks movies.

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