The Silicon Valley Voice

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Mundane Me

Our sermon today concerns a workplace problem you don’t have.

In fact, this situation will be difficult for you to even imagine, but it’s true. There are workers who are forced to perform tasks they consider boring, stupid and plainly beneath their abilities or their stature.

Crazy, ain’t it? And especially difficult for someone like you to believe, since the only thing that you find beneath you is the incredible belief of management that when you are at work, you should actually do work.

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While we know you earn your massive salary simply by showing up every morning and being a beacon of inspiration to your co-workers, other poor devils are forced to regularly perform tasks totally unacceptable in a civilized society, like responding to emails, attending dull meetings, turning in expense reports, and staying awake from 9 to 5.

Who will respond to these horrors? Alyse Kalish, that’s who. “A blogger, freelance writer, and creative writing major at Colgate University,” Alyse recently published a piece on The Daily Muse, entitled “9 Ways to Psych Yourself Up for the Most Mundane Office Job Tasks.”

Of course, it is unlikely that your high-speed, high-level career trajectory could be interrupted by a spate of mundane tasks, but just in case, it might make sense for you to take a break from your demanding nap schedule to peruse a few of Alyse’s ideas.

Like “gamification.” That’s the idea of taking a mundane task, like filling out expense reports, and turning it into a game. Points could be awarded for the most creative, most unlikely business expense, handing in the least receipts, or the best error in simple math that results in a fat overpayment in your favor.

By turning a mundane task into a competition, perhaps with the winner getting an all-inclusive vacation to the talcum-powder beaches of Bongo-Bongo, you create a group of co-workers who no longer hate filling out expense reports; they hate each other.

Another nifty idea to turn mundane tasks into fun activities concerns the most hated, most boring part of office life — meetings. This is an idea so brilliant I am in awe of Kalish for recommending it. “To spruce up all those dull meetings you have to attend,” she writes, “consider passing out crayons and doodling while you talk.”

What I especially like about this idea is that it not only provides a way to get through all the endless, useless meetings that fill up your days, it also allows you to subtly comment on the importance of the meeting.

For a standard morning status meeting, a box of crayons may suffice, but if you want to get through a quarterly management report to the staff, you’ll go through your crayons before the boss even clears her throat. What you and your colleagues need to immunize yourself from this level of tedium are jigsaw puzzles, the arty kind with an unrecognizable image and 5,000 pieces. If management is still speaking when you put the finishing piece into Jackson Pollock’s “Guardians of the Secret,” feel free to grab a jelly donut and leave.

Another way to bring the fun to a mundane task is to “force yourself to work under certain constraints for more difficulty.” I like this idea. Say you have a boring task, like making a list of all your accomplishments for your annual review. (Granted the problem with this task is not so much that it is boring, but that it’s so difficult coming up with anything to put on the list. The concept is still the same.)

Instead of complaining about this, or any other mundane task, why not add a constraint? Like a pair of handcuffs and a ball gag? Or you could turn off the lights and work in the dark. Or challenge yourself to write an important report in a language no one knows, like Akkadian or Old Norse. No one will understand a word, but let’s face it — no one understands your work anyway.

A final tip is to “combine things you need to get done with things you consider fun, whether it’s listening to music, working with a good friend or moving to a nice cafe.”

Unfortunately, you have no friends, and listening to your favorite singer, Meghan Trainor, may actually make a mundane task even worse, but I can recommend a nice cafe.

It’s the Cafe des Deux Moulins at 15 Rue Lepic in Paris.

If you leave right now, you could be there by lunchtime.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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