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.
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.
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.
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.
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!