Has it ever happened to you that you had a job at a cool company but your daily tasks were somewhat meh?
If you’ve been working for at least a few years, I’m sure that this happened to you. Probably several times. At least the part about the “meh tasks”, you don’t need to work for a cool company to have those.
I still think that there are no inherently boring tasks.
On the other hand, I think that there are certain tasks that are boring for certain people. This can have different reasons, such as personal interests, level of expertise or simply ignorance.
Life is not a cake topped with whipped cream. You’ll have to complete tasks that you consider boring.
There will be tasks that you will consider boring as an experienced engineer and you might wonder why on Earth someone gets paid so well to perform that kind of work. First of all, good for you if you feel you get paid so much and you have a job where you have to perform not-so-challenging exercises.
Or is it?
According to research, boredom is a surefire way to
boreout, burnout. So no, in that sense, having to work on not challenging tasks is not such a piece of great news.
Yet it will happen, and the better you handle such situations, the happier you will be.
First, let’s focus on why it makes sense from the company’s perspective to have an experienced engineer doing such a task and then let’s see what is in it for you.
The company might need an expert’s precision
You might think that a junior should have got your boring task and you should work only on shiny exciting projects.
I remember that in my first developer job, always the newest people on the team got some recurring tasks. Those were coding tasks supported with a little automation and thorough documentation. Every few months, we had to add some new columns to a database table, ship the database update and then release a new version of our C++ APIs that had access to the new fields.
It was quite well documented and gave a good initiation to those who just started. In addition, someone who just started didn’t have much right to complain. After all, they just started. Everything was new for them and even if someone was more experienced as a developer in general, they could be still told that it was a way to learn more about the product.
After a while, the team stabilized and we had no new people joining us for a longer period of time.
It’s not fair to give the entry task to the same person for a year just because there was nobody newer there. We needed either a rotation or volunteers.
I strongly believed that these tasks should have been automated much more than they were and I was ready to implement the necessary automation.
What’s the point of this story?
If there are some recurring tasks for juniors, but you want to get a different solution, probably an automated one, it makes sense to assign someone experienced to those tasks.
But there are other reasons too. As a manager, you might want to have a senior person working on something relatively simple because you are under time pressure and you think that the experienced engineer can perform the task much faster than a newbie.
Or you might assign someone experienced because you want a deeper analysis of the usefulness of the tasks, maybe it can be replaced, simplified or even dropped.
You might also say that the task is very important right now and you want to ensure that it will be executed at a high speed yet with fewer bugs than usual.
Probably we could find other reasons from the management side. Now let’s focus on you. Apart from getting your paycheck, what is in it for you?
Those boring tasks will give you time
Why working on boring tasks can be useful for you?
Let me repeat that there is no task that is boring by definition.
Recently I have been working on tasks that I consider boring but I learnt from others that they truly enjoy them and don’t find them boring.
It’s okay that you consider something boring. That’s your interpretation of the task, and at the same time, it still makes sense to pick it up. But why? What can be the reasons behind this?
- You might enjoy automation
- You want to destress
- You can deliver repetitive tasks promptly
- You want time to think
- You want to go deep into a related topic
You enjoy automation
You might be a developer who enjoys automation and see an opportunity in boring tasks. The opportunity can be twofold. As a C++ developer, I always enjoyed automation because I got the chance to get exposed to and practice different languages such as Python and bash.
While our daily tasks are often quite well defined on a technical level, when you decide to automate something, you have a big engineering freedom. You can explore and learn and if it doesn’t work out well, nothing bad happens. Well, maybe you lost a bit of time, maybe you have nothing to bring back, but you definitely learned something and maybe you have some scripts that will help you later.
But maybe your automation goes so well that it will be helpful even for others and you can make an impact by reducing the time and therefore the money to perform certain recurring tasks and that will support your promotion.
You want to destress
Maybe you want something boring because you recently had a lot of stress at work or at home and you want to destress a bit. You want to release the pressure, while you are still working and doing something useful for the company.
This is important because it helps you improve your mental well-being while you’re still doing something useful for your team. If you are already stressed and you get such a task you might simply think that “oh heck, what again?!” But instead of getting more stressed, think about it as a way to destress.
You can deliver repetitive tasks promptly
There are people who hate repetitive and boring tasks and their mind just keeps wandering instead of focusing on the task. But there are others - I’m in that camp - who can get really hooked on some repetitive tasks which can be easily considered boring.
Working on such tasks all the time would be awful, but from time to time it can be good. If you’re that kind of person, it’ll bring you to the zone and you’ll forget about all the problems, while you feel productive. Knowing that not everyone can tolerate such tasks, you will know that you help your team out. If you’ve been in a bad mood it might even help you regain your momentum.
Oh and don’t forget, a repetitive task doesn’t necessarily mean tasks that should be automated.
A programmer move from KnowYourMeme
It gives you time to think
Time is precious and we often feel we are deprived of it. Certain boring bug long tasks might give you the time to reflect and think. Maybe about work, maybe about something else. Let’s focus on the work part. You can get some “free” time to think about your career and the next steps that will lead you to your dream career destination.
Or maybe you can think about the idea, the initiative you want to prepare and propose. Now is the perfect time to invest in those without negatively impacting your current deliveries or without putting in your own free time. Maybe you can work on something now in parallel that will bring you to the next level.
You want to go deep into a related topic
The actual task might be boring, but you might want to dig deeper into the surrounding code, technology or framework that is involved. You can spice up your boring task by spending some time researching the technologies you’re working with.
There are tasks where this would slow you down too much. But when you spend a lot of time waiting for builds and CI, going deep is a far superior option than playing with your colleagues or browsing the internet.
It’s compiling by XKCD
If you use these dead times well, you can build up a strong knowledge of the underlying technologies that will be useful both for yourself and for your team.
In this post, we discussed boring tasks that you’ll encounter at work even (or mostly) as a senior engineer. We saw that from the company perspective, it makes sense to assign such tasks sometimes to senior people if they are looking for another perspective or timely and precise execution.
But we also saw that as a senior engineer, there are many ways you can benefit from a seemingly boring task. Maybe it will give you the opportunity to destress a bit, maybe you will take on an automation journey! It can also happen that it “just” gives you time that you can use to think about your career or to dig deep into some underlying technologies.
The point is getting a boring task is not something to complain about, you have many different ways to turn the situation around and use the situation to your own advantage.
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