How to Motivate Yourself to Do Tasks You Hate
Now wouldn’t it be nice if you got to enjoy everything you do? You would wake up with a smile, hum while you go through your day and possibly get to skip occasionally when you’re sure that nobody is watching.
Unfortunately, life isn’t like that. Just look at me. I get to do what I love. I get to write. And yet there are mornings (and topics) that elicit groans, sighs and the occasional phrase that I really can’t repeat here. That’s just the way it goes.
The trick, I’ve found, it to get the task done with. Otherwise, it just sits there – like a storm cloud on the horizon, threatening and ruining your day. But how do you do that?
Don’t think about it
The longer you dwell on the task you don’t want to do the more you start to hate it. And then you don’t just have to deal with a task you hate doing, but also with the hatred you have for the task. That’s twice the burden!
And so, don’t overthink it. Just leap straight in and get as much done as you can. Quite often you’ll have progressed a long way into the task before the hatred reasserts itself and it becomes a real drag.
And that will make things far easier later on.
The Pomodoro method
Too late for you to just jump in? Then try the Pomodoro technique. This one’s great. What you do is, rather than try to tackle the whole task in one go (which will often feel insurmountable – that’s why you’re procrastinating) you instead agree with yourself to work on it for 25 minutes.
Hit start, turn off all distractions and really dig into the task for those 25 minute. Then when the buzzer sounds, feel satisfied that you at least got some of the task done. Or, if you can summon up the energy, start the timer over and do it again!
One important thing to do is get a notebook and put it next to the task you’re supposed to do. Why? Because I’ve found that when I’m applying this method, there’s a constant stream of ideas that cry for my attention. Often, some of them are really good, so I don’t want to lose them. At the same time, I don’t want to stop my task. Otherwise, I’ll never get it done!
And so, I write them down and then get back to the task at hand. This will quiet the idea without me having to actually lose it.
Is the task repetitive? Is it incredibly boring? Does it just drag on and on and on (and on)? Then see if you can reimagine the task. See if you can find ways to do things differently. For example, can you do it in a different order?
Will that change things?
You’d be surprised how much it can. For example, did you know that the world record holder for hotdogs (and Twinkies, and pizza and a whole bunch more) is a skinny, tiny little man? The reason he’s the world champion is because he reimagined hotdog eating. He realized that he didn’t need to eat the dog and the bun at the same time. When he first applied this method he doubled the previous world record.
Can you reimagine your task, make it more interesting and possibly even make it go much faster? You don’t know until you’ve tried.
Just make sure that you actually get on with the task while you’re trying to reimagine it. In that way, even if you don’t manage to come up with some creative new insight, you’ll still have a big chunk of the task out of the way.
Reimagine the goal
Let’s say you work in a factory, attaching one doohickey to another thingamajig. It’s incredibly repetitive and therefore incredibly boring. How can you make the task more interesting?
Well, have you considered the outcome? What if you’re working in a car factory and that doohickey is essential for the functioning of the car? What if an improperly attached thingamajig would mean the breaks don’t work?
In that case, couldn’t you say that every time you correctly carry out your task, you’re saving a life – possibly several?
The next time you see the type of car that you work on, on the street you can say to yourself you’re still alive because of me’. And at that moment your repetitive task becomes something much more. It becomes a part of thousands upon thousands of lives that continue because you did your task well.
Link it to something that you really want
Really want to buy that computer game, that new dress, or go to dinner in that new restaurant? Then put that as the prize at the end of the task, so that you’ve got something to look forward to even as you plod along with whatever you’re doing.
In that way, you can suppress the severe dislike and focus on what you do want.
One thing to watch out for: Don’t reward yourself before you’ve done the task. Don’t buy that dress, don’t book that dinner, don’t get that game. The moment you do that, you’ve detached the reward and the task and chances are good you’ll end up enjoying your ‘reward’ without actually finishing the task that was supposed to do.
Imagine being successful
Sit down, close your eyes and really imagine what it will feel like to have the task done. How will you be better? How will your life be better? If you can really envision being successful and enjoying the accolades that come along with completing the task, you should find that your dislike of the task ebbs drastically.
One thing to be aware of: Don’t think about what it would be like to fail at the task. That will just make the task seem even more insurmountable. And that is the last thing you want! Fear is not a good motivator, so try to avoid it.
Know somebody else who doesn’t like the task that you’re doing? Then join forces. Sit down and do it together. The ability to vent and complain about what you’re doing will actually make the task far more enjoyable.
Of course, do make sure that the person you’re going to do the task with isn’t going to be an excuse for not doing the task. That doesn’t get either of you very far. They have to be disciplined and dedicated to getting the task done.
Then you’ll both be able to work your way through it and high-five each other when you do actually manage to get the beast of a task out of way.
If you’ve been paying attention, then what you might have noticed as you read through this list is that you’re looking for ways to distract yourself. You’re either trying to reimagine the task, find ways to change things around or find people that you can work with.
In other words, what you’re trying to do is not dwell. Dwelling, as I mentioned in the first point, is the enemy of getting through a task. If you keep repeating the same task over and over in your mind you’re going to find yourself turning a molehill into a mountain.
And so, the important thing is that you just get on with it, or if you can’t, that you go do something else for a while and then return to what you’re supposed to do (but then when you do come back to the task, that you jump straight in – no getting a cup of tea or cleaning up your living room).
Don’t let your mental faculties run away with you. Instead, use them to your advantage. If you can pull that off you’re far more likely to get through the tasks you’re supposed to do. Heck, you might even find out you don’t hate them quite as much as you think you do.