Even when you have a job that you love, there will be tasks that you hate. It’s inevitable: You’ll have to run reports, use a computer system that makes you crazy, and attend seemingly endless meetings. In those moments, you may have trouble getting up the gumption to do what needs to be done, and instead of tackling it, you’ll find anything else to do.
But, you can’t avoid unpleasant or dull tasks forever. Sometimes, you need to find a way to motivate yourself, and thankfully, that’s easier to do than you might think.
Many motivation experts tout visualization as a way to get yourself psyched to do something. They suggest thinking about what could happen if you do not complete a task or follow through on a commitment. If you’re working for yourself, you might imagine what it would feel like if your business fails, for example — or if you do work for someone else, imagine being fired.
Scaring yourself with “what if’s” isn’t always the best idea, though. Instead, consider ways you can still get the job done without having to suffer through the parts that you hate. Are there solutions that will make it less cumbersome, or make it go away altogether, such as outsourcing or a new computer application? If so, find a way to use them.
Most everyone tends to have one dominant “personality type,” or traits and characteristics that influence their behavior. For example, some people are more artistic or social, while others are more focused on finding answers or creating order. That our personality style can make a significant difference in the types of tasks you enjoy doing and what motivates you.
While this doesn’t mean that you can get out of running monthly reports if you’re a more artistic personality, it does mean that when you understand why you feel the way you do, you can tap into your personality type to find better ways of accomplishing your work.
As the old saying goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If you just can’t seem to muster up any motivation, break your tasks down into manageable chunks. Set a timer for one hour, block out all distractions, and focus on the worst parts of the task. You might find that you finish sooner than expected, or that the hour flies by and the project isn’t so bad after all. Sometimes, tasks seem overwhelming because you’re thinking about having to do everything at once. Approaching it in pieces instead is much less frightening — and you’ll be able to celebrate small victories along the way, which will keep you going.
“But I cannot stand these meetings!” you say. “I’d rather have a root canal!” While there are some tasks that just make you feel frustrated or angry, research shows that we procrastinate even more when we’re in a bad mood. We make excuses, like “I just don’t have it in me to deal with that right now” or “That’s just going to make me feel worse.”
Instead of looking at your dreaded task with pessimism, though, try being an optimist. Being happy and upbeat makes you more productive — and as a result, more successful. Can’t be positive? Fake it until you make it. Celebrate the small wins, and remind yourself of the good parts of your job. Instead of saying “Ugh, it’s monthly report time,” try “I have to do these reports, but it’s a good way to review my progress — and once they are done, I don’t have to do them again for a month.” It might feel like false cheer, but eventually you’ll feel more positive for real, and you won’t procrastinate as much.
Finally, when you do complete the dreaded task, give yourself a pat on the back. You survived! If you sit through a dull three-hour meeting, reward yourself with a latte and 15 minutes of reading celebrity gossip online before getting back to work. Did you vanquish your fears of the database? Make plans to hit the town with friends this weekend. When you give yourself something to look forward to and acknowledge that you overcame your lack of motivation, you will be less likely to procrastinate in the future.
Motivation is a tricky thing, and sometimes we have no choice but to motivate ourselves to do dreaded tasks. You aren’t going to love everything you have to do, but when you figure out ways to get yourself going, you’ll be more successful and more appreciative of the things you do enjoy.