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Managing the low points at work

Make the most of assignments you like least

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management,Workplace Communication

You love your job—at least 80 percent of the time. But you dread certain aspects of it and wind up dwelling on what you hate.

It’s tempting to procrastinate or grumble when facing “donkey work.” But peak performers complete every assignment with efficiency and determination.

Here’s how to tackle your least favorite duty:

Save your commentary for important affairs. As much as you dislike this part of your job, you need not remind yourself—or others—just how much you loathe it. Every time you complain, you sap energy that could go to doing a better job.

Limit the time you think about this drudgery. For example, give yourself permission to complain or mope for no more than one minute once a day. Use a stopwatch. When you’ve spent your allotted time, get to work.

Adopt a smart strategy. When you face unappealing work, it’s easy to put it off using the ignore-confront-postpone approach. At first you deny that this bane exists, then you muster the will to confront it—only to delay starting it.

A better strategy is to dive in using the think-plan-attack method. Think clearly about what must get done, develop new efficiencies and then execute them without fanfare. Leave no room for whining or dallying.

Experiment. Don’t assume that the worst part of your job is unshakably, eternally bad. By trying different ways to get it done, you may make it more palatable.

A compliance officer at a bank tells us he hated cross-checking the day’s activity reports for errors. “It was boring, menial work that made my eyes glaze over,” he said. So he learned how to automate the process by entering the reports on a spreadsheet and searching the data for discrepancies. “Soon I had a high-tech way to accomplish the same thing, and it was actually fun.”

Offer the good with the bad. You can ask a staffer to do the lowliest tasks. But if you dish out only scummy jobs, you’ll probably turn your team against you.

Delegate your dreaded assignments to individuals who’ll actually enjoy them or at least learn from them. If that’s impossible, attach a “good” job to every “bad” job you delegate.

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