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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

Our Favorite Way to Get Our Least Favorite Work Done

We all have them.

Those items that linger on your to-do list because you absolutely can’t bring yourself to do them. Those challenging emails you’re not sure how to respond to. The problems that you just can’t quite figure out how to tackle.

These sorts of tasks are the worst. They bog up our workdays and leave us frustrated with our jobs.

But what if I told you there was a way to get them off of your plate and done—and potentially better than if you had completed them yourself?

Let me introduce you, dear friend, to the work swap. It’s kind of like a clothing swap—where everyone brings clothes they no longer want and trades them out for others’ discards—but instead of making your wardrobe better, it improves your career.

Here’s the gist: Next time you’re facing one of the aforementioned situations—or any other time at work when you’re not sure how to (or just don’t want to) move forward—turn to your closest colleague and ask if he or she wants to swap. You send over one of your abysmal tasks or problem items, and your work friend sends one of his or hers; and you both get to work. (Obviously, this works best with someone moderately familiar with your work, like a colleague in the same department or similar role.)

This is beneficial for several reasons. First of all, doing work that hasn’t been sitting on your plate for a while is likely to feel far less treacherous than doing work that’s been constantly at the back of your mind. But, perhaps more importantly, you may very well get better solutions to your problems than you would have come up with on your own. After all, the best ideas often come from outside parties, and someone who hasn’t been aggravating over the assignment might quickly be able to see something you can’t.

My boss and I do this often with articles we’re stuck on: Rather than spending hours of our time fighting to get them done, we’ll send them to each other to take a look at. We’re still doing our fair share of work—each writing a challenging article—but swapping it makes the work feel a little fresher and less frustrating and ultimately gets it done more quickly.

So, next time you’re feeling stuck on something, propose a work swap. It might seem a little strange at first, but trust me: Once you’ve tried it, you’ll wish you had done it all your life.

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