This Strategy Will Help You Embrace the Work Tasks You Hate

Jun 04, 2015 - Joe Matar
This post is an excerpt from Jon’s new book, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work & Never Get Stuck. The good thing about reinventing your work is that once you do, you never have to do things you don’t like again. You’ll be like one of those people who have dream jobs and get to spend 100 percent of their days on passions. You’ll probably sail to the Galapagos Islands to study tortoises and have one of those Instagram accounts we all love/hate to follow. Just one sunset and tortoise after another as you enjoy the perfect life. Only you know that’s not true. There’s no such thing as a perfect job. There’s no job where you get to do only the things you love doing. Those don’t exist. As a doctor told me, “In every job, there’s a rectal exam.” You’re going to need a “grit list,” a collection of things you hate doing, but are critical to your career. I said “hate,” although my mother always told me that was a horrible word and I should instead say, “I do not prefer cauliflower.” But we’re not talking about eating albino broccoli right now. We’re talking about hustle. About shaping our jobs in such a way that we’re ready to capitalize on unexpected opportunities. We’re talking about digging in our heels, buckling down and doing all the little things that add up to big careers.

The grit list: a place to reflect on the things you can’t stand doing

We’re talking about grit. (Click here to tweet about the grit list.) There will be tasks, projects and activities you have to do in your career that you hate. No matter where you are in your career, you’ll have to do some things you don’t love. You might not have to do as many  later on in your  career as you become  established, but there will never be a time when you only do the things you like. That’s why we all need a grit list: a short list of the skills we grit our teeth and do regardless of how we feel. Instead of trying to trick ourselves into liking them, we admit we hate them, recognize the value of them and then commit to do them.

What goes on a grit list?

Email is on my Grit List. I can’t stand doing email. It’s never done. Every time I do it and feel good about emptying it out, it refills itself. I hate saying no to things and every e‑mail feels like a chance for me to fail. I’m not very organized, and the folders are overwhelming. After years of trying to fall in love with email by using systems and apps and methods and all manner of technology to beat it back into submission, I am resolved that we hate each other. That’s OK. But guess what? My job requires email. Responding to email is part of what it means to be a modern writer. Maybe if I were in my late eighties and called computers “the computer machine,” I could avoid ever using them. But I can’t. I’m too young to make a play for pigeons as my mode of communication. Ponies stopped expressing long ago. So I admit I hate it and put it on my grit list. Then I recognize the value. My inbox isn’t just full of data. There are relationships in there. There are skills in there. How I respond to people reflects on my character. I don’t get to say, “I want to invest  a lot in relationships, but not via one of the most popular ways people communicate today.” I also get to hustle on unexpected opportunities if I stay on top of my email. I got to speak to one of the teams at Comedy Central because I responded to an email from one of their executives. On my grit list I wrote the value of email (new opportunities, stronger relationships, chance not to be a Luddite, etc.). Then I committed to do it. I don’t need to love it to get it done. I just need to do it. With grit.

Commit to dealing with grit

It’s like running. Some people love it. The very idea of doing it makes them smile and they bound out the front door with glee on their face. I do not like running, I like being done with running. I like the feeling I get after, not before. I like my pants fitting. In order to run regularly, I recognize the value of it, put it on my grit list and then do it. What skill would you put on your grit list? Is it email, like me? Is dealing with work vendors on it? You love doing design work but can’t stand the printing process. Paper samples, price quotes, figuring out the exact number of brochures to get printed and press checks are your nightmare. In the connected Internet age, the idea that you have to drive to the print shop to physically check the print run drives you crazy. Time to admit that’s part of your job. Time to admit the best way to produce the best print pieces is to check samples on site. It has value. Is budget season the worst part of your job? You can’t stand balancing all those numbers, trying to predict your costs and revenue next quarter? Put budgeting on your grit list. Acknowledge that if you don’t work hard on your budget, your team won’t get any money allotted for projects next year. And teams that don’t have budgets or projects don’t have reasons to be employed for very long.Thus, even though you might  feel overwhelmed or afraid to sit down with next year’s budget, you can see the critical value of that activity. Fear and frustration are coming. They’re a consequence of actually doing something meaningful with your career. We all get scared. That’s part of the price of reinventing your career. Most people won’t pay it. Don’t be most people. Go with grit. Jon Acuff is the New York Times Bestselling author of five books, including his latest, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work & Never Get Stuck. He’s worked with some of the world’s biggest brands, including The Home Depot, Staples and Bose.