One of the secrets to life and being productive is the ability to get yourself to do things that you don’t want to do. We all have them – tasks, projects, action items that sit on our to-do lists day-after-day and highlighted in red that we never seem to “get around to” because we just don’t want to go near them.
Let’s look at how to get around to them, and how to hack our way into getting them done.
1. Do It First
The simplest, easiest way to do things you don’t want to do is to do them first – as in, the first thing in your day. Take the hardest, most unpleasant task you have and get it done and out of the way.
This is known as eating that frog:
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.
I like to think of it like this: if I get the hardest, or most unpleasant thing done between 6am-7am every morning, the rest of the day will be easy – very easy. This involves getting into the office early – before everyone else, and working on that unwanted thing. By the time everyone else lumbers in at 9am-ish, it’ll be done, I’ll have a great sense of accomplishment and achievement and end up having a great day.
This applies at all levels – hit your hardest and most unpleasant tasks and outcomes the first thing every day, every week, every month, every year – then the rest will be easy.
2. Solar Flaring
What we call Solar Flaring others call the “I’ll just do it for 5 minutes” technique. You basically tell yourself “I’ll just try this for 5 minutes” and end up tricking yourself into completing the task.
You can do this with any task.
Let’s take cleaning the house for our first example – start doing it for 5 minutes, and if it really, really is unbearable (i.e., sucks), then stop. If not, keep going.
A second example would be writing a blog post or working on your to-be-best-selling book. Just write the first paragraph… and if it’s horrendous, stop. If not, then keep going, and that first paragraph becomes a headline, an outline for other paragraphs, and eventually more and more content.
25 minutes is really nothing if you think about it. It takes most people longer than 25 minutes to eat dinner, and modern-day TV shows run in the 40-50 minute range per episode. Anyone can do almost anything for just 25 minutes.
4. External Authority Technique
Also known as “getting someone else to tell you to do it”. There are 2 variations we recommend.
The first is using money. Give $100 (or whatever amount hurts) to a friend, and tell them not to give it back to you until you’ve done the unwanted thing.
The second is veto power. Have someone in a position of authority and with the power to enact consequences force you to do it. As an example, most of us will do what our boss tells us to do. And children will mostly do what their teachers or parents tell them to do.
5. Make it Pleasant
If you’re going to have to do something you really don’t want to do, make it pleasant. Put on your favorite music, go sit on a park bench on a sunny day, or ply yourself with a reward afterwards. Make it appealing, and more palatable to do and it’ll come easier.
6. Make it Horrible
This is the reverse of making it pleasant. Make the experience of clearing all these unwanted tasks as horrible as possible.
Take all your unwanted tasks, and lump them together into 1 masochistic day. Start in the morning, and knock them all out, one-by-one. I call this clearing excess tasks, and usually reserve 1 day a week or every couple of weeks for taking them all out.
A perfect time to do this is on a Friday, because then you get the weekend off.
Where to Go Next
For more on beating procrastination and more permanent solutions to doing things you don’t want to do, check out the Asian Efficiency Primer.