You know that thing that’s been popping up on your to-do list for way too long? And now it just irritates you every time you see it? Or that mammoth task that is just overwhelming and soul-crushingly boring that even if you did know where to start, you just don’t want to? It can be so hard to get motivated and get these things off your list.
Sometimes it’s something so simple and menial that it just never reaches the top of your priority list. An example might be cleaning out the pantry. Or it might be something that’s just too complex and time-consuming that you just can’t find the time to get into it. A uni assignment or a report for work might fall into this category.
Either way, it’s slowly nibbling away at your happiness – or maybe it’s taking huge greedy gulps – so let’s just deal with it and let you get on with the good stuff in life.
Here are nine ways to get motivated and just get it done:
Stick a note somewhere prominent
Do you find yourself just forgetting the task because other things are more important or more fun? Then stick a big fat reminder on your bathroom mirror, on the fridge, on the front door, or on your hand. Every time you get distracted or start to procrastinate, you’ll remember what it is you’re supposed to be doing. And you’ll have a sense of satisfaction when it’s done and you can tear down that annoying note!
Visualise finishing the task
Whenever I submitted a uni assignment I would feel a crazy wave of relief that it was over, and excitement that I could now move on to something else. Despite often spending waaaaay too many hours sitting at my desk and way too few hours sleeping as I approached a deadline, I would be filled with energy after submitting the assignment. So when I was feeling stuck or unmotivated, I would try to visualise hitting the submit button and feeling that awesome rush. It was often enough to push me to keep working.
Think about WHY you must do it
Using the example of a uni assignment again, I’d often feel resentful because the topic wasn’t interesting or the assignment seemed pointless. So I’d remind myself of the big picture. I was completing a degree that was important to me because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of other people. That assignment, however boring, was contributing to my overall degree. Using the example of a menial task around the house, I think about how having a clean and organised home makes me feel happy and helps my family to function easier. Thinking about the big picture can often help you to either appreciate the importance of the task, or at least just grit your teeth and get it done.
Set a timer
We often overestimate how long something boring or difficult is going to take. I sometimes think I don’t have time to empty the dishwasher, but in reality, it only takes me two minutes if I stay focused on it. I know this because I can empty the whole load in the time it takes my oats to cook in the microwave! It’s when we get distracted (hello Facebook) or start procrastinating that these tasks take forever.
See how much you can get done in 15 minutes and allow yourself to stop once the timer goes off if you feel like it. You’ll often find that once you get started it’s easier to just keep going, but even if you stop after the 15 minutes, you will have achieved so much more than if you hadn’t focused for that time.
Even if it’s a huge task and you know it will take hours, setting a timer can help keep you focused and get more done. One of my favourite tools for staying focused is the Pomodoro technique. This is where you work on the task for 25 minutes, and then have a 5-minute break, then work for 25 minutes, then another 5-minute break. During the 25-minute focus zone, whenever I think of something else I want to do, I just jot it down and then do it during the 5-minute break. You can have a CRAZY productive day working like this.
Break it up
If, like me, you love the satisfaction of crossing things off lists, then break the task up into smaller chunks and write them on a list. As you do each part you can cross it off and see that you’re making progress. Or if lists don’t excite you, you can at least make progress on the task in smaller chunks, so you don’t feel like it’s taking up all of your day.
Plan a nice reward for yourself once the task is done. It might be a relaxing soak in the tub with a book, or a night out with the girls to celebrate. Whatever you choose, it should be something that you don’t normally do and something that you’re not going to indulge in before the task is done.
Pair it up with something enjoyable.
Having time to listen to a podcast uninterrupted is a very rare treat for me these days, so if I have stuff around the house that needs doing, I find it’s actually more enjoyable if I can listen to a podcast at the same time. For something like an assignment or a work report, try doing it in a different environment like a café or by the lake.
Set a deadline
Tell yourself that by 5pm Friday this task is no longer going to be haunting you. Even if the task already has a set deadline (like a uni assignment for example), bring that time forward so you can get it done sooner and move on to something else.
Think about what’s stopping you
Is it that you don’t understand the content or process? Or you don’t have the right equipment? Are you afraid of failing? Are you worried about how long it will take? Is your environment dragging you down? Work out what it is that’s making this task so unappealing, and see if you can find a way to address that.
Get in touch
Feel free to comment on this post or contact me about which boring or difficult tasks you’re struggling with. Or let me know other tricks you use to motivate yourself. And then… just get that thing done and move on with your life!
If you need some more targeted and individualised support with getting – and staying – motivated, consider hiring a coach to help you.