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Here's how to tackle those dreaded tasks that go against your personality type

Six expert tips that will help you jump on professional tasks that aren't in your wheelhouse — and get the job done.
Image: Smiling businesswoman with paperwork in meeting
Not sure how to tackle that dreaded to-do? Modeling your approach to a task after that of an esteemed colleague can help you build confidence. Hoxton/Ryan Lees / Getty Images/Hoxton

You probably know it's possible — even advantageous — to use your personality type to get ahead at work. But even if you’re lucky enough to have scored that dream job, there’s a strong chance you’ll also be saddled with a few professional tasks that go against your natural talents or tendencies. Introverts might have to present ideas or actually talk to people, while extroverts might occasionally be called upon to sit quietly, reflect and focus. Big picture idea people might have to do mundane tasks, while detail-oriented folks might have to brainstorm. You get the idea.

These kinds of tasks can even be more daunting if we don’t feel they’re terribly important: A 2018 study published by the “Journal for Career Assessment” found that participants said they do better or try harder at tasks that are meaningful.

Moving away from tasks we’re familiar with can be an uncomfortable experience, mainly because we face uncharted territory and can feel self-conscious about our lack of proficiency, says Amy Wrzesniewski, a professor at the Yale School of Management who researches how people make meaning of their work in difficult contexts. “People may lack confidence to tackle new tasks with which they have little experience or may have little skill,” she says.

So, how can we psych ourselves up, or mentally equip ourselves, to better tackle tasks that tend to go against the grain of what we bring to the table? Here are six ways to get the job done.

1. See new tasks as a growth opportunity

To conquer unfamiliar or uncomfortable tasks, a solution-driven mindset is key, says Josh Wand, CEO of ForceBrands, a recruitment firm for consumer products. “See them as a learning opportunity that gives you the chance to be more well-rounded, add value in other areas and grow within an organization,” says Wand. “Learning new tasks can be like going to the gym. If you do them five days in a row for a while, you’re going to get really good.”

2. Focus on the greater good

To psych yourself up for jobs that fall outside of your wheelhouse, Wrzesniewski advises connecting the task to the broader aims of your job, or your company. “For example, if someone actively avoids reconciling expenses in their role, but can come to see that work as essential to the long-term health of the institution, it can imbue less preferred tasks with the motivation needed to get it done,” she says.

3. Set expectations

Instead of shirking from tasks that are daunting because they are new or unfamiliar, be honest and set expectations with your colleagues, says Wand. “Like in life, you want to push yourself out of your comfort zone because that’s how you’re going to grow,” he says. “In any role you are in, there’s a learning curve to get better.”

4. Plan ahead

Say you’re an extrovert charged with taking on more detail-oriented tasks. Wand says one way to prepare for them is to get way ahead of them. “If you know there’s three things you can get accomplished when you’re productive and think clearly (either before work or after work), it helps. You can do the creative things after that but sometimes getting what you dread out of the way makes you see it’s not that hard,” says Wand.

5. Work by committee

Wrzesniewski says modeling your approach to a task after that of an esteemed colleague can help you build confidence. “Ask someone who seems to do the task with ease for their advice, to do a trial task with you, or if you can’t, watch a role model closely until you feel you could make your first attempt,” she says.

6. Seek out a mentor

When you’re faced with a steep learning curve, both Wand and Wrzesniewski say the guidance of a mentor can really help to see you through — even if it’s tough to ask at first. “Statistically I’ve seen that those willing to ask for help and seek out mentors are 40 percent more successful,” says Wand. “If there’s someone at work that you admire, you can approach them and say you value their opinion and guidance and would be so grateful for it. If they’re senior level, they’ve more than likely had people had people help them through the process also.”


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