For my summer job while I was in college, I worked at a local factory making 5 cubic ft. deep freezers.  You know, like a small apartment version of the deep freeze your grandparents used to have.  For reasons unbeknownst to me, the inside liner of the freezer was produced upside down.  My job on the line was to flip it right side up, and place the “breaker strip” around the top which is the plastic thing that the lid shut down against.  Later down the line, they’d place the assembled liner inside the outer casing and eventually screw on the lid.  Over and over and over again.  We made around 500 of these per day.

You read that right.  500.  Per.  Day.

I have no idea where all these things were shipped, but it blew my mind that there was a market for 2,500, 5 cubic ft. deep freezers per week across our great nation.  But apparently there was.  (This was over 20 years ago, and that factory still exists, and they still are cranking these puppies out each and every day.)

I’d estimate that the inside liner that I was flipping weighed about 15-20 lbs.  Not necessarily heavy.  But after doing this 500+ times per day, every day, for the entire summer…I was a mess.  Call it lack of ‘right form’, but after I went back to college, I couldn’t move the right side of my body.  After several visits to the chiropractor, they adjusted my right shoulder back into place, put 4 ribs back in on the right side of my back, and worked for months on loosening my strained piriformis muscle on my right side.  The piriformis muscle is located in the buttock region, and would spasm and irritate the nearby sciatic nerve that caused pain and numbness and tingling all along the right side of my leg and shot down into my foot.  But, every 2 weeks I got a paycheck, and it helped me get through my next year of school.  So, there was a cost to that paycheck, and a weight of the repetitive task.

That job pretty much sealed the deal that I wanted to get my college degree.  Factory work just wasn’t for me.  And I gained an immense amount of respect for those people who work in factories for their livelihood and for an entire career.

Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who is working at a job you really enjoy.  You know, the alarm goes off and you go about your routine of getting ready, instead of hitting snooze and dreading the day ahead.  My guess is, though, that your job entails a fair number of repetitive tasks.  Maybe you’re not flipping a 20 lb. deep freeze liner 500 times per day, but maybe you’re entering data or filing papers.  Unlike factory workers, you may not get physically exhausted, but the cognitive and emotional toll of repetitive tasks is real, even if it doesn’t leave your piriformis muscle strained.  Having the discipline and persistence to get through the slog is key to a successful day.  Gamifying the task can make it fun and pass the time quicker.  For example, when I was at the factory, I’d make up little games to count the freezers that’d pass by, trying to get a certain number done in a specified amount of time.  Or I’d name them like a newborn baby as they’d make their way to me.  This made the repetitive tasks a bit more bearable.

Nowadays, I have a lot more diverse objectives in my job; one day looks nothing like the other.  But repetitive tasks still exist.   Sorting through email, following through on client tasks, and reading through my normal set of investment articles can all be repetitive.  I’ve found the most important part of these things is my mindset.  If I go below the line and complain about the tasks before me, it just doesn’t go well.  But if I get my mind right and stay above the line, I can maintain the discipline needed to get through.

The key to this discipline is to invest the time in getting your workflow right instead of paying the penalty of inefficiency and poor digital hygiene every single day.  And ultimately, those reps make you even better at your job.  Similar to getting your reps at the gym to build muscle over time, so will reps at the office to make you a better teammate and worker.

Bottom line, adjust your mindset when encountering repetitive tasks.  Get your reps, complete the task, and move on to a future that’s bigger than your past!