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How to Do What You Don’t Want to Do (but Have to Do Anyway)

How to Do What You Don’t Want to Do (but Have to Do Anyway)
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Do you feel like your chores are piling up around you? Whether you’re inundated with housework, or you have a growing list of nagging tasks to complete at work, you are probably overwhelmed and frustrated. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all balked at completing these menial jobs.

As much as we’d rather go on an adventure or tackle that exciting work project, everybody has to spend time doing things they don’t enjoy. Your productivity and happiness is at stake if you can’t clear minor tasks out of the way. Most of these jobs take no longer than a few minutes to complete, but they can compound into a mountain of work if left unattended. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Every exciting work includes some tedious tasks, it’s inevitable.

Regardless of how your chores make you feel, you still have to do them. Having a negative view of your duties sets you up for failure. Instead of thinking of them with disdain, turn to them with gratitude. Even the most exciting assignments at work come with a certain amount of administrative baggage.

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Know that hacking through the red tape, filling out the forms, and answering your emails is just a means to get to the work that you enjoy. Envision how much more productive, healthy, and happy you will be if you keep up with your chores.

To accomplish things you don’t feel like doing, plan your tasks with strategies.

Balance your day.

Use the Pomodoro technique to maximize your time without burning yourself out. Start by establishing your to-do list and grouping similar items on your list. Then, work for a solid 25 minutes on your first task or set of tasks. Take five minutes to recharge your batteries, and repeat the pattern. After you have worked for four 25-minute intervals, take a 20-minute break.[1] By working this way, you spend about 75% of your time on task and 25% at rest.

Make routine tasks automatic.

Forwarding your emails to a single address can keep you from having to open several email services. Most email services also give you the option to set up filters to automatically sort your messages. If you generate the same types of documents or messages over and over, come up with a standard template. You can still customize your work, but it is a lot easier to change a few details in your message than it is to reinvent the wheel every day. Automating processes such as paying your bills and refilling your prescriptions means that you won’t have to spend your lunch break doing tedious tasks.[2]

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Make chores part of your schedule.

Block out time for them the same way you set aside time for appointments. Incorporate practices like the “One Touch Rule” to save time.[3] This rule requires you to take care of items right away so that you only handle them one time. For example, instead of throwing junk mail into a pile on your desk, throw it in the trash right away.

Do the things that require the most effort first.

Knock out your most challenging work early in the day. These might be things that require the greatest amount of creativity, or they could be the chores that you hate doing the most. You are less likely to experience decision fatigue[4] early in the day, and your levels of self-control will be higher.[5] You don’t want to spend all day dreading a task and then be too exhausted to complete it.

Complete tasks in batches.

When you tackle similar and related tasks in the same block of time, you will be able to complete them more quickly. Have a portion of your day set up specifically for making phone calls or completing orders. Designate times to check your email, and silence unnecessary notifications. Multitasking is rarely as effective as sustained focus on a single task.[6]

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Turn completing chores into a game and reward yourself.

Think about things that make you happy and try to connect your chores to them. If it’s a vacation that you crave, agree to put a few dollars in the travel fund for each day that you clear all the items out of your incoming and outgoing files. You not only get the benefit of thinking about that vacation, but you also turn completing your chores into a game.[7]

Ask for help when necessary.

Depending on your position, you may be able to get some additional help with those chores. It is often less expensive to enlist an experienced helper than it is to waste valuable time trying to teach yourself how to do everything well.[8] Even if you don’t have the power to hire an assistant, you can still have an honest discussion with your manager or coworkers if your workload is untenable.

If you want to make your chores more manageable, keep up with them.

Edward Young once said,

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“Procrastination is the thief of time.”

Putting off chores today only compounds the amount of time you’ll need to spend on them later. When you approach menial tasks with a positive attitude and complete your chores efficiently, you’ll have more time to enjoy the things you love.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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Reference

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Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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