…To do things you don’t want to do.
I’m sure everyone has had these moments from time to time, at least. Whether it’s a project or task for work, paper or studying for school, cleaning or organizing at home, or dealing with any other range of burdensome responsibilities you don’t want to deal with, the procrastination bug sets in and getting started on anything at all feels daunting and overwhelming.
So, what are some ways to create motivation for something that you have really little desire to do in the first place?
1) Reward yourself — Come up with something that you will reward yourself with once you complete the task. Try to keep the reward in line with the level of the task and not overdo it (for example, it would make little sense to buy yourself a car for cleaning the kitchen). Simple rewards can be quite motivating — watching a movie or TV show, getting yourself a certain food (doesn’t have to be sweets), an evening out, etc.
2) One minute of work — This one asks you to agree with yourself to jump right into the project, but only for one minute. The idea with this is that hopefully by telling yourself it’s just for one minute that your mind will agree to allow this small amount of time in. Basically, “Okay, if it’s just for a minute, I’ll do that.” The hope beyond that is once the project is started, it’s often easier to then keep on going with it. Breaking through that starting wall is often the toughest part.
3) Help a friend (and vice versa) — If you have a friend who could also use a boost of motivation at times, arrange to be a monitoring presence for each other. This works great in moments where you both need to become motivated at the same time, but it can also work as an exchange any time one or the other needs the boost. This can work in many ways, but one way is to text your friend and say that you need someone to hold you accountable for something you need to get done. You tell your friend what the task is, and what you plan to have done in the first ten minutes (or other specific amount of time you set up front). Ask your friend to then check back with you in that amount of time to report to them what you’ve accomplished. They can then ask this same support of you at another time, or at the same time.
4) Breathe and Start — This is exactly like it sounds. The idea for this one is to not overthink the task, and to not allow yourself to the room to procrastinate. Essentially, close your eyes, take five slow deep breaths, and after fully exhaling the last breath as far as you can, open your eyes and immediately start into the task without pause or thought.
5) Commit to disconnect — This is a very hard one for many people, but when they are able to commit to doing this, it can be really motivating. This asks you to fully disconnect from all devices — phones, tablets, computers, TVs, etc., until the task is complete. If you need a device as part of the task, then disconnecting from texting, messenger, emails, internet (aside from any specific site you may need for a the task), phone, etc. is essential. This is partially a reward driven method as the reward for finishing is to earn back recreational use of your devices. Note: It’s better to actually shut off your devices rather than just to say, “I’m not going to use them until I’m done.” There may be urges to check them or use them during the task, but see if you can work through the urge by telling yourself that once you’re finished you can then return to them, but not before.
6) Focus on the built-in reward — This is different than establishing a reward for yourself. This one is about focusing on the reward that automatically comes with completing the task. For example, the built-in reward for cleaning the house is having a clean house; or the reward for doing that boring task for work is that you have it off of your plate. Essentially, take notice of the positive of getting the task done, and use that as motivation.
7) Opposite Action — This is a common DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) skill. Opposite Action asks you to take notice when you’re avoiding a situation that would be healthier for you to participate in. When you notice you’re starting to avoid or procrastinate, this exercise asks you to act opposite in that moment. If you start thinking, “I just want to watch an episode of this show first”, or find yourself starting to surf Facebook instead of doing the task you need to do, Opposite Action would say to stop in the moment and do the task you need to do. (This exercise can be used for many other things beyond procrastination, as well).
8) Psychotherapy — Hopefully you’ll be able to find what works for you from the list above and be able to use them effectively to create some motivation when needed. However, if you find that motivation is consistently hard to come by, or if you find that procrastination and avoidance is a pattern for you (and nothing above seems to be of much help), this may be a good time to consider professional help to figure out what is happening on a deeper level to cause these patterns. Many underlying processes can contribute to the reinforcement of procrastination. Therapy is a good way to work your way out of these patterns so you can become overall more empowered in your daily life.