Everyone has things they hate to do, but need to do anyway. Sometimes it is doing basic chores that need to be done. In other cases, it’s the boring part of an otherwise interesting project. People who get things finished (as opposed to people who just get things started) have mastered the ability to push through the things they hate doing, to work on the things they love.
Getting over activities you hate means combating a special type of procrastination. Everyone procrastinates. Even on things that they normally enjoy doing. I occasionally procrastinate with writing, even though it is one of my favorite things to do.
While a few minutes or an hour of procrastination for a neutral task happens occasionally, you can procrastinate for years on the jobs you really hate. If there are things on your to-do list that never make it to the top, you probably know which jobs these are.
Stomaching Unappetizing Work
There are a few strategies you can use to make bad tasting tasks a little more pleasant. The first is simply to focus on it. You might have noticed that you chew a lot more when you don’t like the food in your mouth. This is probably an instinctive reaction to force you to carefully examine what you’re going to eat before you swallow.
You can do the same thing with the work you don’t like. By focusing on boring or awful work, it is easier to overcome your reflex to spit it out and work on something else. I’ve often found that focusing on work intensely can even make me like tasks I once hated. I normally hate cleaning, but if I invest 100% of my attention towards it, the chore becomes a lot more fun.
Normally, the first reaction to unenjoyable tasks is to “get it over with”. Finishing as quickly as possible so you can move on to something better. However, with this attitude, it is a lot easier to never get started at all, and procrastinate forever.
Try taking a reversed approach. The next time you have an activity you hate, commit to focus on it completely. Invest all of your mental energy and concentrate on the activity until there is nothing else in the world. You might be surprised how much easier the task becomes when you do this.
Make it an Art
Sometimes tasks can be unenjoyable simply because there is no quality in doing them. For me, writing an article is more enjoyable than cleaning dishes. While an article has incredible depth, ranging from complete trash to life affirming, dishwashing is a narrower activity. I either clean the dishes or they stay dirty. That on-off approach usually makes a task incredibly boring.
One solution I’ve found is simply to take that on-off task and give it more depth. See your boring activity as a previously unrecognized art form you can master. When you give an activity more depth, the interest level goes way up. More importantly, it becomes easier to focus on the task completely, making it easy to swallow.
Several years ago I did part-time work as a janitor. Although this wasn’t a glorious position, I found I was able to enjoy it by doing this step. Instead of seeing my job as being an on-off task, I gave it more depth. I saw that there were many ways I could increase the quality of what I did. Taking on those little steps made the work far more enjoyable.
Leverage Yourself With Another Goal
Despite your best efforts, the first two steps might not work. In those cases, trying to transform an ugly task into a beautiful activity won’t help. You might be better off just trying to get the work done, instead of wrapping a bow around it.
The first way you can push through the muck is to use your goals as leverage. Reconnect with why you started important projects and how any activity fits into your bigger picture of success. If you can do this, you can bring some of the motivation towards your final goal and use it to finish an ugly task.
This is why it is important to constantly remind yourself of your goals, and why they are important to you. Those reminders are often necessary to push through the tasks that don’t excite you.
Don’t Do the Work at All
The best solution is to simply not do the work you don’t enjoy. This may sound like a fantasy, but there are ways you can get away with avoiding the stuff that doesn’t interest you:
- Outsource or delegate it to someone else.
- Eliminate it from your project. (Is it really necessary?)
- Find a better way to do it. Technology and tricks can often help you shortcut boring steps into ones that are more interesting.
Ultimately, you should try to minimize the amount of work you need to do, but don’t enjoy. Productivity shouldn’t be about pushing through the muck, but enjoying work you love. However, if you can’t get yourself to stop procrastinating on an ugly task, these are a few ways to move through it.
How do you motivate yourself to complete tasks you hate? Please share your tips in the comments below.
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