Rethinking the requirements of the job

Some time next month I hope to publish the 3,000th daily article on this blog. Before you think “that’s impressive”, spare a thought for the handful of readers who, the records show, have been with me from the start. Now that’s dedication. The recurring question I receive is: “How do you find things to write about every day?”, but in fact that’s not the real challenge. My list of future topics rarely runs out. The only occasional difficulty is motivation – and that’s something everyone gets with repetitive tasks.

If you’ve set yourself a goal of tidying up the on-page SEO for 100 web pages, or just writing 20 blog posts, there’ll be times during the process when anything becomes preferable. Heck, you might even offer to make coffee for anyone within earshot just to defer the job. So how do we overcome our inertia?

For me, it’s getting away from my usual place of work. If the task is computer-based, it might be possible to take it somewhere lacking in distraction, even somewhere that you associate with nothing other than the task in hand. Authors often have sheds. I prefer my local health club café. The only options there are to get on with the work in hand, to do some exercise, or to stare at the wall. There’s only so long anyone can stare at a wall, and the exercise option is too scary, so I find I’m pretty productive.

Of course, few of us can work from a café all of the time (or ever!), as most jobs don’t lend themselves to a laptop and rucksack. But a technique which works anywhere is to break down the elements of each task and to concentrate on one particular element at a time. It’s Adam Smith’s division of labour, but you get to perform all the roles, just one after the other. So, for example, if you have to tidy up the on-page SEO for 100 web pages, that’s a daunting task, with lots of different things to examine on each page, e.g. choosing the keywords, rewriting the title, sorting out the description, etc. Perhaps the job would be easier (and perhaps more efficient too) if you chose the keywords for all 100 pages, then rewrote the titles for them all, etc.

Also, just do the job at the time of day when you’re most productive in that job. Perhaps it’s one where you don’t mind being interrupted, because it’s the sort of task which you can instantly pick up on again. And perhaps the mornings are when the person at the next desk is making phone calls that you find hard to ignore. In that case, save the afternoons for jobs that require continuous concentration.

My definition of employment is someone giving you just enough money to spend your days doing something you wouldn’t do otherwise. Inevitably sometimes that will require more motivation than you have available, but rethinking the requirements might get you over the line.