In a recent article (How to enjoy the dullest tasks) I talked about ways to make a dull task enjoyable and appealing. In response, friend and fellow writer Oliver Dale posed this question: “Once I’ve started the drudgery, completion isn’t usually an issue. What do you have for getting up the steam to start?”
It’s a great question. Even granting that dull tasks can be enjoyable, how do we face down the initially unappetizing prospect of jumping into them? Here are 7 tricks that can help a person launch into a task that may not be the most appealing possible option. For a wider treatment of getting motivated on short notice, read Don’t Feel Motivated? 10 Ways to Find Motivation Right Now
- Visualize doing it. When we picture ourselves doing something, our brains tend to become inclined to do that thing. It’s easier to act on an intention when we’re already picturing the experience.
- Focus on the most appealing thing about the task. How appealing a task is often has a lot to do with what aspects of it we’re thinking about.
- Get in a habit of doing the task regularly, in the same circumstances, on the same schedule. Unpleasant tasks tend to lose their harsh edge when repeated regularly and done with less conscious thought.
- Add something pleasurable: for example, put on some music to listen to while doing tedious paperwork, talk to a friend while doing dishes, or watch a movie while folding laundry.
- List every reason you want to get the task done. Motivation tends to increase when we are more aware of the purposes and intentions of our actions.
- Focus on the first physical step and just do that. It’s easy to get bogged down in objections and internal debate. If you know you’d like to get something done, sometimes the easiest and most direct approach is to take the first physical step and proceed from there–take out the papers you’ll need, put old clothes when about to clean the attic, pack your gym bag, etc.
- If you find yourself mentally resisting, figure out what you’re telling yourself and repair your thoughts. For instance, you can change “Ugh, I hate cleaning the fridge” to “If I get started now, in 20 minutes I’ll have a clean fridge.” See the posts on detecting broken ideas and repairing them for specifics on how to neutralize negative thoughts.
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