product designer, cyclist, armchair urbanist

The Currency of Monotony

Everyone posts their best work online, so it's hard to remember that most of us are probably doing about as much terrible, morale-sucking work as we are the kind of work that's worth bragging about.

So there it is, all out in the open. The naked truth. Monotonous work is our collective dirty little secret.

These projects usually don't budge. They aren't going anywhere fast. They loom ahead of us each week. They're the hurdle to overcome before we can get to the stuff we really want to do.

But they pay the bills. They put gas in our cars, buy dog food and socks, and keep the heat on in the winter. You know what I mean. Mundane projects are here to stay.

What if we started manipulating these long hours to serve us, instead of yielding to their cruel power?

Here's a short list of ways to turn them into gold mines:

  1. Make small notes about progress. You can turn these into posts and articles. Write down the way you solved a complicated (or simple!) problem. Nothing fancy—just the details. Put them up on a spot on your website where you let yourself publish quick, imperfect notes. Someone will find your writing useful, and you'll get in the habit of communicating your ideas.
  • Go deep with learning. Push stuff as far as you can take it. Use the edge cases. Read the docs and use abnormal solutions. Learn to use the command line. Nerd out on your editor. Force yourself to learn keyboard shortcuts, and take the time to learn the hard stuff you've been kicking down the road.
  • Tweak your workflows and productivity hacks. Grab a copy of TextExpander, and build up your snippet libraries as you work. Write quick aliases or bash scripts to automate your tasks. Break everything into little pieces, and see the patterns. Work smarter, not harder.

The worst way to spend these long hours is just to wish them away, and count down the minutes until closing time. Start thinking of long, boring projects as a growth incubator—a juicy slow cooker.

Personal growth is the currency of monotony. We just have to train ourselves to cash in.