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bookish1's avatar

How do you motivate yourself for work you don't want to do?

Asked by bookish1 (13052 points ) October 27th, 2012

I find myself facing this question often, because I have a project that I am very enthusiastic about, but I often have to put it aside to do work that I find less than interesting. I’ve noticed that I often use the psychological trick of “approximation” on myself. That is, if I have to start some work that I don’t find particularly compelling, I’ll find a way to approach it through an angle that is interesting and motivating for me. Even if I don’t end up using that angle, it makes it easier for me to get into thinking about a project.

I also find that just getting started (in my line of work, writing my name and a title and first sentence on the page, haha) is the hardest part. If my work were a chemical reaction, it has a very high activation energy. But after I take that difficult first step, it’s pretty easy to keep going.

What tricks do you use on yourself to motivate yourself to work? Or do you not need to use any tricks?

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15 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Sometimes I use a reward system. Once I finish a project I am not particularly enthused about, I can go out to lunch or go buy a book.

Coloma's avatar

Not well and not easily. I need a reward, and usually that’s a happy brownie. haha
I don’t do it a lot, but, a wee bit o’ the herb totally motivates me because it makes the mundane FUN!
If I want to tackle the boring, dirty jobs around the house like cleaning my garage or housework the brownie puts the whistle in my work.
My temperament, more so than any other is notorious for procrastinating.

We really, REALLY, NEED to create FUN in all we do!

Shippy's avatar

I try to think about how nice I will feel afterwards. Like for example, because my home is open to the public (I do massage) it has to be a certain way. It’s a drag. But I do enjoy it when its all pristine.

(Which is also a small miracle since a few months ago, there was dust and cobwebs everywhere and I didn’t give a dam).

Unbroken's avatar

I am a chronic procrastinator, I find a task I don’t want to do or takes energy to get into I often find all the other work I have been procrastinating and tackle it.
I have tried a reward system, several, a timer, motivational music, or whatever the situation calls for. I set deadlines… I seem to really get things done in crunch time. But often when it is just an arbitrary deadline I don’t mind hearing them whooshing by. I create pressure for myself by telling other people. They all have worked and they all have failed.

laineybug's avatar

I really hate studying and in my history class I was ready to just not study for a test that I had until one of my friends told me that they didn’t think I would study. I studied all night that night.

downtide's avatar

I focus on the direct reward. Whether that’s money, or a nice clean kitchen, or another completed chapter of my book.

bookish1's avatar

@marinelife: Good idea. I could always use a lunch treat! Books, however… I had to set a moratorium on book purchases, seeing as my library already threatens to topple my bookshelf, and has colonized my sofa!

@Coloma: Yeah, wish I could get away with that with the kind of work I have to do ;)

@Shippy: Reminds me of a saying, “It’s like hitting your head against a brick wall. It feels really good once you stop!” (Haha, a lot of my school work feels like this.) Also, way to go on cleaning up your space, I know how impossible that is when you are depressed.

@rosehips: I’m afraid I’m a chronic procrastinator, too. And yet somehow, I made it into grad school! I can do decent work at crunch time, which I guess has gotten me this far, but my work is so much better if I get it done far in advance and have time to revise it.

@laineybug: As a history teacher and history student, I don’t know whether to say tisk tisk or give you a high five :-p

@downtide: How very practical of you! I guess the direct reward of most of my work that I try to put off is that I get to return to my ‘fun’ work… Which means that eventually I’ll get to go back to France, so it’s indirect in the end. Eye on the prize!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Close your mind and just. start. doing. it.

newtscamander's avatar

I can’t do it, I really can’t. I’m a procrastination addict! It’s like an illness!

laineybug's avatar

@bookish1 well the challenge set me on the right path because it made me realize that I should have studied in the first place and now I’m determined to not procrastinate.

Coloma's avatar

I go in cycles, with everything, there is little middle ground for me. I am either a tornado or a mudflat. lol
I vacillate between extreme self discipline and wanton hedonism and procrastination.
I give up on balance. ;-)

Unbroken's avatar

@Coloma don’t say you give up on balance. There must be a success story out there somewhere.

@bookish1 Yes the result is better when you have time to edit. Good tips here to add to your reading pile… http://www.anti9to5guide.com/book/d

rooeytoo's avatar

I agree with you, the first step is the hardest and once I start then it does seem to get easier. I also find it helpful to not dwell on how much there is still to do, one step at a time, don’t look ahead, stay in the moment!

Coloma's avatar

@rosehips haha…aah well….it comes and goes, but nothing is sustainable, just gotta go with the flow IMO. :-)

wildpotato's avatar

I portion it into really small chunks and take a break calibrated to how much work I just did in between doing each bit. So I guess it’s back to reading Hegel right about now, then…

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