Motivate Yourself to Do Things You Don’t Want to Do

By Harvard Business Review
February 12, 2019

Here are three suggestions to get yourself going when you have little interest in getting tasks done. 


No matter how generally motivated we are, all of us have tasks we don’t want to do. Maybe we find them boring, pointless, draining, time consuming or anxiety producing.

So how do you get moving in these situations?

RELATED: Having Trouble Staying Motivated? Science Unlocks a Possible Reason

You can move tasks forward, slowly but surely, and get the things done that you don’t naturally want to do, when you employ one or more of the following strategies:

Involve other people in the process. This could mean delegating part of the task, teaming up with someone else to complete the activity together, getting accountability or simply being among other people who are working.

RELATED: Motivation Improves When Supervisors Commit to Training

Structure your approach to the work. Several strategies can help you gain momentum.

  • Put a low-frequency activity ahead of a high-frequency activity. For example, you can’t open email until you’ve filed your expense report.
  • Give yourself a standard time. Every Friday from 2 to 3 p.m., you could block time in your calendar for weekly planning.
  • Limit the time commitment. Work for 10 minutes a day on a task and then stop if you want to.
  • Set the bar low. Take just one action step a week on an activity.
  • Get it done. When you want to get something entirely off your plate, you could set aside a whole day to complete the task.

RELATED: Feel Less Guilty About Work You Haven’t Yet Completed

Pair unpleasurable activities with pleasurable ones. Do a more difficult task in a location you really like, such as a coffee shop or a park. Or try layering tasks, such as listening to music or a podcast while organizing your office. Even a little physical activity during the process can help.

Copyright 2019 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate. 

Topics: Management

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