No matter how generally motivated you are, all of us have some tasks that we don’t want to do. Maybe we find them boring, pointless, draining, time consuming, annoying, or anxiety producing. So how do you get moving in these types of situations?
The first step is to recognize that getting motivated doesn’t mean that you have to experience a particular feeling, like excitement or anticipation. Instead, motivation is simply one or more reasons you have for acting in a certain way. You can decide to do something without ever getting excited about it by finding a personally meaningful why.
For example, you could choose to do something because it will:
- Lower your anxiety.
- Benefit someone who you care about.
- Lead to financial gain.
- Avoid a negative consequence.
- Make you feel good about yourself.
- Clear your mind.
- Align with your values.
- Reduce stress.
These reasons might sound something like this in your day-to-day life:
“I don’t want to do _______. But if I do ________, then I will see a significant financial payoff both now and in the future and will feel good about my choices.”
“I don’t want to do _______. But if I get ________ done, then it will make my boss happy and lower my anxiety every time I have a one-on-one meeting.”
“I don’t want to do _______. But if I make progress on ________, then I will have so much less stress next week and be prepared for ________.”
Even if we never feel particularly motivated by a task, we can find a reason to move forward by looking beyond the task to the results.
The second step for success involves coming up with a strategy for getting tasks done when you have a low to non-existent emotional drive. Depending on the task and your work style, one or more of these strategies may help. You can consider these methods as tools in your toolbox when you’ve come up with a reason to take action on a task but still feel uncertain on how to complete it.
One set of action-taking methods includes involving other people in the process. This positive social pressure can provide the impetus to get something done. This could look like delegating part of the task, teaming up with someone else to complete the activity together, getting accountability, or simply being present with other people who are also working. In regard to the last point, for some of my time management coaching clients, this can look like sitting in a library where other people are also getting work done, or even having a virtual session where they work on a task while someone they know is on the other side of Skype also cranking away.
Another set of action-taking methods revolves around how you structure your approach to the work. These types of strategies, each illustrated with an example, can help you to gain momentum when you have low drive to move forward:
- Put a low-frequency activity ahead of a high-frequency activity. For example, I can’t open my email until I’ve filed my expense report.
- Give yourself a standard time. Every Friday from 2-3 pm, I have time blocked in my calendar for weekly planning, and I honor that time as sacred for that activity.
- Limit the time commitment. I need to work for 10 minutes a day on this task and then I can stop if I want to do so.
- Set the bar low. I just need to take one action step a week on this activity.
- Get ‘er done. I want to get this entirely off my plate so I’m setting aside a whole day to complete the task.
A third set of action-taking methods involves pairing unpleasurable activities with pleasurable ones to boost your overall mood. This could involve giving yourself permission to do a more difficult task, like writing or putting together a presentation, in a location you really like, such as a cozy coffee shop or even a park if the weather’s nice. You can also try layering tasks, such as listening to music or a podcast while organizing your office. Even getting a little physical activity in during the process can help. I may have been known to practice speeches while going on walks. I probably look a little funny, but I get two activities done at once.
When you employ one or more of these strategies, you may not make speedy progress or perfect progress. But you can move tasks forward, slowly but surely, and get the things done that you don’t naturally want to do.
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is a time management coach and the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Speaking. She is author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money and Divine Time Management. Find out more at www.ScheduleMakeover.com.