3 ways to motivate yourself to do work you don’t want to do

By Ann Gomez
Dec 14, 2021
Photo credit: azatvaleev/iStock/Getty Images

In our podcast episode, Ann Gomez, founding president of Clear Concept Inc., chats with Leah Giesbrecht, communications specialist at CPABC, about techniques you can use to safeguard your time, increase your focus, and boost your productivity. Part of our Coffee Chats with CPABC podcast series.


 



Despite loving my career, there is an aspect of my role I down-right despise: paperwork. Like me, you may feel a chill run down your spine when you hear this word. Or you may be part of the population who finds an inexplicable amount of joy in paperwork (and thank goodness there are people like you in this world!)

It’s not the detailed nature of paperwork I dread. Rather, I resent any work that feels overly laborious in a “make-work” kind of way. Paperwork often feels like this to me.

Regardless of how much you love what you do, you are likely to come across some tasks you don’t love doing. It’s tempting to put off such work until tomorrow. But odds are you won’t be any more inclined to tackle the task after another rotation of the earth. Deep down, we know procrastination, while enticing in the moment, doesn’t work.

How, then, can we do work we don’t want to do?

I’d like to share three simple, yet effective strategies.


1. Commit to a deadline

Nothing drives productivity like a deadline. It’s amazing how much we can accomplish when we owe a report to our key client by noon. If you can find a way to attach a deadline to a dreaded task, you might find your reluctance fades away as the timeline draws near.

Where you can, tell someone else when you’ll complete the task. If you simply tell yourself, you’re more likely to put it off.
 

2. Pair the task

When we pair a task we don’t love with one we do, we’re more likely to complete the unlikeable task. This is the equivalent of cleaning your house while listening to your favourite tunes. Are you reluctant to share feedback with a colleague? What if you chatted (virtually) over a yummy lunch? Do you avoid doing pre-call planning?

What if you took your laptop outside to soak up some glorious sunshine while working (when the weather permits)? Pairing tasks can feel like a luxurious approach. One client I know prepares her mandatory, monthly report while treating herself to a pedicure. So decadent!
 

3. Find meaning

I’m saving my favourite strategy for last: find meaning in every task. The world’s most successful people relate everything they do to a greater sense of purpose. This is like taking your car for an oil change: not necessarily fun on its own, but vital if you enjoy having a car that drives well.

Does your dreaded task help you sharpen your skills? Better service your clients? Support your team? When we link a mundane chore with a bigger goal, it is easier to see the value in the minutiae. We start to see how it is a critical step in our overall journey.

As for that paperwork I mentioned earlier? I remind myself it is a necessary part of allowing me to do the work I love. This helps me attach value to the paperwork associated with this bigger goal. And doing the less pleasant tasks outdoors on a nice sunny day always helps!

I can’t resist adding one more note. It is normal to occasionally encounter work you don’t want to do. However, if these negative feelings occur regularly, maybe it’s time to step back and reflect on your career. Where can you make some changes to help you enjoy your work more?
Ann Gomez is an engaging speaker and the founding president of Clear Concept Inc. She is passionate about empowering the world’s busiest people to perform at their best. She is also the best-selling author of "The Email Warrior", an active blogger and media spokesperson.