How do you motivate the mundane

How do you motivate the mundane

I find that motivation isn’t usually a problem when you have new, exciting, rewarding or cool work projects.  The new client that has a problem that challenges you to come up with a novel solution.  The big project that will catapult your career or the company into a new stratosphere.  The project that if done well will get the high profile recognition both by the leaders of the company and maybe even the outside press.

Those are the low hanging fruit….

Those are the open layups you better make….

Those are the no-brainers…

It gets harder when the task or project doesn’t have the same “appeal”

Here is the $50,000 question for you – how do you make sure employees are motivated to do the everyday, mundane, boring tasks that lead to better company performance?  These are those tasks that do not get your picture in the company newsletter.  The tasks that make your mind so numb that you swear you’ve lost half your brain.  The tasks that are essential, but you would easily skip to watch paint dry as that would be more enjoyable?

Give your thoughts in the comment section below (I know, commenting on blogs can be one of those mundane and boring tasks)…


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  1. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…. Oh yeah… your post on mundane motivation….

    I’m a big believer that a manager’s job is to inspire and guide – and whether the job is mundane or not – there is always – capitalize that – ALWAYS something that can be looked at, twisted, changed, enhanced, connected to and disconnected from. The minute something becomes mundane it is because the team (manager included) have stopped wanting to get better.

    That is a culture issue. When we stop wanting to get better – it gets mundane. So to motivate the mundane…. stop making it the same – make is better. Ask the question – what should change?

    That is all… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    • Paul,

      Sorry to wake you up!

      I think you hit on a great point about the manager’s role and responsibility in this. One more element that you mentioned was keeping it fresh (ok, my words). That is always a challenge. How do you keep “accruals” fresh for employees? How do you keep the “process review meeting recap” fresh? In my eyes, this is what separates the great managers and the so-so managers – they come up with ways of keeping it new and fun.

  2. A few thoughts on this. What is mundane to one may not be to someone else, so exploring whether the right tasks have been assigned to the right people is a great place to start. If this is not possible then reframing the task as an opportunity to rest your brain and re-charge is a good thing to try. I’ve always found that giving people the chance to restructure, re-arrange or streamline a routine task is usually quite motivating and leads to some great ideas. Finally, most routine tasks are more fun when done with other people so managers should get creative and let people work together on these things. Music can help too. We need to move away from traditional mindsets of “how” work should be done and let people bring a more creative approach to less exciting tasks.

    • Katie,

      You have some great ideas here. I really like the idea of “reframing the task” as I’ve seen this done in a number of different ways that are usually successful – particularly when you involve the people who are doing the work in the reframing. Your social aspect is also important and it ties into the Drive to Bond & Belong.

      Thanks for the tips.

      PS. I just turned on Pandora – music helps even when the task is not mundane!

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