How much of your day is taken up by repetitive work? An hour? A few hours?
In business, we often highlight the benefits of repetition — “Practice makes perfect,” as the saying goes. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he puts forward the notion that you need 10,000 hours of intense training to become an expert at something. And that’s what we want in our professional lives, right? To be seen as experts.
But repetitive work also has a negative side. Research in the Journal of Organizational Behavior shows a clear link between repetitive tasks and mental strain. Other research suggests that high levels of repetition can lead to increased boredom, stress, and burnout, and that employees feel more motivation when they do a variety of tasks.
If you find yourself doing the same tasks over and over each day, and you’re not finding joy or fulfillment in the effort, it’s time to make a change. Here are three ways to eliminate the repetitive work eating up your day.
Automation of repetitive work
The average worker spends about 69 days per year on repetitive, administrative tasks according to a study by DJS Research. This might be costing the global economy upwards of $5 trillion annually.
But there’s a reason to be hopeful. This incredible waste of time and resources could be largely eliminated with the right automation solution.
Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in the past two decades and automation is no longer limited to huge corporations. Low-code tools have made automation accessible to anybody with a bit of tech knowledge — empowering a huge portion of the workforce to eliminate boring, stressful, repetitive tasks.
First, there’s browser automation. With a low-code tool like PixieBrix, you can enhance, integrate, customize, and personalize any webpage to suit your needs while automating away repetitive work.
Some of what you can achieve with PixieBrix includes:
- Pulling data from a page or email directly into a CRM, Google Sheet, Slack message, Jira ticket, and more at the click of a button
- Overlaying interactive information onto a page based on a specific need or context
- Creating automated alerts to notify you of changes or opportunities in real time
- Building on-page walkthroughs to guide your team through specific tasks and processes
If you are a knowledge worker, chances are you spend most of your day looking at a browser. A browser automation tool like PixieBrix can completely change your routine, eliminating repetitive work and drastically increasing your productivity.
Of course, depending on your role and field, there are other general automation tools and solutions which can help you eliminate repetition. Zapier is one popular solution that uses pre-built trigger-based automations to help you avoid simple busywork. With over 3,000 apps covered by their “Zaps,” they offer a huge playground of existing formulas which you can use to cut out simple tasks.
Beyond SaaS solutions, people with some knowledge of coding and development can write scripts to build shortcuts and automate away day-to-day work. The advantage of scripts is that they can be used to automate work happening on your desktop or in more traditional desktop-based programs. But the technical knowledge required and the increase in cloud-based work make this a less appealing solution for most.
Templates and standardization
Do you ever find yourself searching through old tasks or old documents looking for things to use in a new project? Or maybe you spend endless hours editing the formatting or design of something so it meets your requirements? A lot of repetitive work can be avoided simply by standardizing your approach.
Standardization is about establishing norms and rules for how work should be approached, and then ensuring that you and your collaborators follow them. A common example of this is the use of templates.
Instead of building out a new legal agreement for every new client, you use a templated one, swapping out only the unique information. Instead of creating a brand new Trello board for every new project, you use a templated board with the right information and processes already built in.
While building out templates and standardizing your workflows require a lot of upfront work, this effort is paid off tenfold over time as you eliminate endless repetition. It also helps you avoid time wasted on back-and-forth communication with colleagues and ensures that the work you’re doing meets specific standards for your business.
The best part? You don’t need to build out your templates from scratch. Most software, documentation, and spreadsheet tools have templates built in. And if they don’t, there’s frequently a passionate online community building their own templates and sharing them online.
Finally, templates can also be combined with automation. PixieBrix has a marketplace of pre-built automation templates, for example. You could even use a PixieBrix template to build a new Trello board based on a template. Not bad!
Outsourcing repetitive work
A final option for eliminating repetitive work is to outsource that work to someone else.
If you’re in a leadership position within your workplace, you may be able to simply delegate some repetitive tasks to others on your team. It’s important, though, to ensure that you’re not simply passing off the boredom and stress that comes with repeated tasks to others. The goal is to alleviate the negative consequences of repetition, not distribute them.
Freelancers and consultants can also absorb some of the burden of repetitive work. From writing and editing, to design, to the extremely mundane data entry tasks, you can almost always find a third party willing to take on this work for a price.
The same applies to virtual assistants. Where freelancers and consultants tend to be specialized in a specific field, virtual assistants are often generalists who can remove many of the time-consuming and repetitive tasks that you need to handle each day.
While freelancers and virtual assistants will cost you or your business money, they will drastically increase your productivity — often more than making up for their fees. A more consequential risk of outsourcing these tasks is the potential decrease in quality. You will need to invest some time and effort into onboarding these people, training them, and ensuring that they’re doing the job to an acceptable standard.
Repeat after me: variety is the spice of life
Humans have always sought to avoid repetitive work. Where once we were building robots to fill our factories, now we’re using automation to manage our browsers. The end goal is to alleviate the burden on humans, increase productivity, and allow people to pursue the unique, creative, fulfilling tasks that motivate us.
Ready to rid yourself of repetitive work?