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We all have certain repetitive tasks to accomplish as part of our work — checking emails, updating spreadsheets, inputting data, etc. While some mundane tasks are unavoidable, spending too much time on them can zap your energy and creativity.
So, how can you handle these repetitive tasks efficiently and free up more time for the fun, creative aspects of your job? Here are some steps you can take:
1. Set time limits
Set concrete time limits for routine tasks so you don’t spend too much time on them. For example, if filing paperwork takes 30 minutes every week, commit to spending no more than 30 minutes on it each week. Set a timer and force yourself to stop when the time is up, even if the task is incomplete. Gradually try to reduce the time spent on routine activities.
Related: If You Want to Be Truly Productive Instead of Just Busy, You Have to Stop Doing This
2. Outsource when possible
Some repetitive tasks can be outsourced to free up more time. Take an inventory of the routine tasks you spend a lot of time on and consider whether any of them could realistically be outsourced. Tasks like data entry, administrative work, simple graphic design and content writing are commonly outsourced. While outsourcing does require a budget, it can dramatically free up your time for more creative thinking and strategy.
3. Automate as much as possible
Routine tasks that require just a series of steps and instructions are perfect candidates for automation. Look for ways to use technology to automate repetitive work. Evaluate tools that can automate these processes using macros, scripts, workflow automation, or AI bots. For example:
- Use spreadsheet formulas or macro-enabled templates for tasks like calculating taxes and commissions.
- Script simple repetitive tasks using tools like AutoHotkey, AutoIT, etc. For example, scripts to fill online forms and rename files in bulk.
- Integrate APIs or middleware to automate data transfer between internal and external systems.
- Create workflows using tools like Zapier, IFTTT or Microsoft Flow to trigger automated actions based on certain events.
Related: How Busy Entrepreneurs Deal With Mundane Tasks
4. Break large tasks into small chunks
If you have a big repetitive project that you really don’t want to spend an entire day on, break it down into smaller chunks that you can tackle a bit at a time. For example, if you need to organize 1000 photos, set aside 30 minutes daily for a month to go through 100 photos. Breaking large projects into smaller chunks also helps to prevent boredom and burnout.
5. Go for process optimization
Identify where there are inefficiencies in your repetitive processes and look for ways to optimize and streamline them. Ask yourself: Are there any steps I can eliminate? Can I implement any tools or checklists to speed things up? Can I organize my data or work environment more efficiently? Even minor process optimizations can multiply over time, freeing up more of your energy.
Related: Why You Need to Start Automating Repetitive Tasks
6. Schedule dedicated time blocks
Designate specific time blocks for your repetitive tasks, preferably when your creativity is lowest. For example, schedule admin work first thing in the morning before your creative juices start flowing. Stick to your time blocks and avoid letting routine work creep into your creative time. Having dedicated time blocks for repetitive tasks also helps to compartmentalize “busy” work from more stimulating work mentally.
7. Let go of perfectionism
Perfectionistic tendencies can eat up time spent on routine tasks. Remember that these are just repetitive chores – they don’t require your full attention to detail. Do just “good enough” work and then move on instead of getting stuck fixating on tiny details. Focus your perfectionism on higher-value work instead.
Related: Why You Can’t Be a Perfectionist and Be an Entrepreneur
8. Out of sight, out of mind
Physically remove yourself from repetitive tasks between work sessions. Close spreadsheets, log out of admin panels and put away paperwork. The less you see routine work out of designated time blocks, the less mental clutter it will cause.
9. Assign priorities
Make a clear distinction between important and unimportant tasks. Focus only on the most important repetitive work – skip relatively inconsequential tasks. This will free up more time and mental energy for higher-priority tasks.
Related: 3 Simple Tactics for Finishing Your Workweek Early
10. Form productive habits
Develop daily or weekly habits that minimize the drain of routine work. For example, batch similar tasks and tackle them all simultaneously to get them out of the way. Or tackle the most dreaded repetitive task first thing to get it over with. Productive habits and routines can help you minimize the time and effort spent on busy work.
The strategies above can certainly help you regain lost hours each week. But why stop there? Don’t just accept routine work as an inevitable part of your job. Instead, completely eliminate recurring tasks that zap your energy and motivation.