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How To Do What You Don’t Want To Do

How To Do What You Don’t Want To Do

We all have to do things in life we don’t want to do. For me, it’s laundry, cooking and exercising. For others, it’s something else. Some of these things we need to do on a daily basis, while others are more long-term goals. In a world where every person seems to be a procrastinator, how do you find the willpower to do those dreaded activities in your life? Here are 10 tips to help you do what you don’t want to:

1. Make a decision to grow by facing your fear.

Not all of the things you need to accomplish are based in fear (think cooking, laundry). But many of them are. What if you have to give a big presentation but you feel like you’d rather put a bullet in your brain than speak in front of a group? Many of the things you need to do can lead to self-growth. Facing your fears head-on will make you a better person. And remember, the more you do something, the easier it gets. But you have to stop putting it off and just do it.

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2. Remember how it affects you in the long run.

Let’s say you know you need to eat healthier and exercise (don’t we all?). Procrastinating is only hurting you. The longer you wait, the more your body will deteriorate. It’s easy to get stuck in your comfort zone, but some of the time, your comfort zone has negative consequences for your future. So the trick is to think long-term. Think about how your actions (or inaction) today will be affecting your tomorrow or 10-20 years from now.

3. Realize it might affect other people.

Maybe your spouse has been asking you to clean up your huge pile of junk in the kitchen for a long time. And the reason the junk pile is there is because you hate dealing with the details of paper, mail and all the other random stuff that has collected in that spot. Putting off cleaning is probably creating resentment toward you from your spouse. Not only is your inaction affecting him/her, but also the overall quality of your relationship. So suck it up and do what you need to do – if not for you, then for someone you love.

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4. Break it down into smaller steps.

Sometimes the tasks you need to accomplish seem so daunting and overwhelming you don’t know where to begin. So what happens? You do nothing. And accomplish nothing, too. Before I started my Ph.D. program, the thought of writing a dissertation that was several hundred pages long seemed like an impossibility. But once I reframed it and thought of it as several shorter “papers” put together, then it didn’t seem so bad. Breaking it down into smaller tasks helps immensely.

5. Don’t do it all at once.

If you need to clean that junk pile, don’t feel like it all has to be done in one sitting. Any effort toward your end goal is progress. Even if you’re pursuing a degree or doing your taxes, any small effort counts. And if you’re like me, it helps to not have to do it all at once. So give your self permission to take the time to get the job done. But you have to stick with it – don’t forget about it and give up. And you also can’t leave it until the last minute because then you will have no choice but to do it all at once.

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6. Prioritize steps.

Once you have the small steps mapped out, rank order them on what is most important. Start with that. What is the most immediate need? What is the least? Maybe you’ve been putting off paying your bills (that’s a dangerous one), but if that sounds like you, make sure you first pay the ones due soon. As obvious as it sounds, many people don’t prioritize like that. Even if it’s cleaning your house you are procrastinating about, start with the room you think is the dirtiest.

7. Put the steps on a calendar.

I am addicted to my calendar. Without it, I would accomplish nothing. But I do know people who don’t keep a calendar. If that’s you, then get a calendar. Heck, most smart phones these days have calendars on there for you. Put your tasks down on particular days. So when you get up that morning and look at what you have to do that day, you will see your tasks and will be more likely to accomplish them because it’s on your daily to-do list.

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8. Remember the end result.

Some goals don’t show results quickly. Those are the most difficult ones to start. If you need to lose 50 pounds (or more), you’re probably not going to see the scale move a whole lot for the first week or two. So it’s easy to become discouraged when you are not seeing the results of your efforts. But stick with it. Remember how great it will feel once you accomplish your goal.

9. Discover an appreciation for what you have to do.

If you’re grumbling about cleaning your house, doing your laundry, paying your bills, or cooking, remember how lucky you are to have a house, clothes, food and money to pay for it all. Not every activity you do is fun, but you can always find some appreciation in whatever you need to do.

10. Reward yourself.

Grab a hot fudge sundae or treat yourself to a long, hot bath and some wine when you’re done! It’s okay to spoil yourself. And when you decide to reward yourself after you have accomplished what you don’t want to do, it will serve as more of an incentive to get it done!

Doing what you need to do doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. If you follow these 10 steps, you’ll have your goal finished in no time!

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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