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The Science Behind Doing Work You Don’t Want to Do

May 23, 2019

Doing work we don’t like seems like a part of life—as certain as death and taxes. For most of us, the most common coping mechanism to deal with those tasks is procrastination a cherished technique for the ages whose root means “Belonging to tomorrow.”

Scientists, however, have discovered that people who persevere and grind through unpleasant tasks most effectively have a common set of strategies. In 2018, researchers at the University of Zurich finally got around to studying the habits of people who complete undesirable tasks in a paper entitled, “Doing Despite Disliking: Self-regulatory Strategies in Everyday Aversive Activities.”

Here are some of the techniques employed by those who were best at doing what they wanted to do least:

Break Tasks Down into Pieces

By breaking complex projects, or perhaps those with many unsavory sub-steps, researchers found that the most effective workers achieved a sense of context and were able to define work in terms of clear, simple, achievable goals.

Keep the Goal in Mind

“Thinking about the near finish” was another trait shared by the most effective participants in the Zurich researchers survey. This goes hand in hand with the strategy of breaking work into smaller, simpler tasks, so there are more finish lines to cross and milestones to surpass.

Combine Work and Play

Beyond rewarding themselves for completing a task or a milestone, the most effective study participants actually weaved together a fun activity with an undesirable one, something called “temptation bundling.”

There is a CATCH, however. For temptation bundling to be effective, it requires bundling fun and un-fun activities consistently and exclusively. In other words, if you perform the fun task by itself, temptation bundling loses its effectiveness.

This speaks to the ongoing interest and appeal of “gamification,” where reward systems and incentives can be build into a task.

Keep Your Cool

When it comes to undesirable work, attitude is everything, researchers found. Often, this simply means that performing unpleasant tasks is momentary and ephemeral—and only a very small part of our life experience.

BONUS Strategy: Automate!

One tactic that we at Artsyl find works FAR better than any of these strategies, however, is one that researchers didn’t touch upon—don’t DO the unpleasant task at all. Instead, look for ways to automate those dull, unpleasant tasks.

Take data entry and document filing. Using solutions like docAlpha from Artsyl, companies can effectively eliminate tedious manual data entry and document handling for routine process like vendor invoice process sales order processing, check remittances and more.

THAT’S a tip you can take to the bank.

To learn more about how business transformation platforms like Artsyl’s docAlpha can help you focus more on the work love and less on the work you don’t, contact your Artsyl account executive.

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