I was listening to a podcast about habits and one of the guest speakers mentioned that he tapes a $100 bill to the calendar on the day he has to go to the gym. If he doesn’t go, then he has to burn that $100 bill. That’s craziness, right?! Or is it? He said he hasn’t had to burn the bill yet because he’s gone to the gym each time. It sounds crazy but he found the motivation he needed to get the task done, however unconventional it might be.
I can relate. My issue isn’t with the gym, but instead with small, mundane tasks around the house that I. Just. Don’t. Want. To. Do. Period. Things like ironing, cleaning the bathrooms, washing the dishes in the sink, filing papers, etc. Those things that are lingering around in my mind and on my to-do list, but that I can’t find the time (or motivation) to get to them. It’s a constant struggle.
Recently, I started playing what I’ll call “Jedi Mind Tricks” to motivate myself to tackle dreaded tasks on my to-do list. Similar to the $100 bill on the calendar, these are little, quirky things that help me tackle the tedious on my to-do list.
1) Set a Timer – Sometimes a looming task seems so large and daunting that I don’t even want to start it. I keep pushing it to another day. Once I see this trend on my to-do list, I make a bargain with myself that I only have to do the task for 10 minutes and whatever I’ve done in 10 minutes will be enough for the day. Then I set the timer and work as fast as I can for those 10 minutes. Here’s why it works: First of all, I can talk myself into 10 minutes of nearly anything. Second, you’d be surprised how fast I work when the timer is ticking! Third, in most cases, I’m usually almost done with the dreaded task by time the timer rings so I usually go ahead and finish up the task – or – I’m so entrenched in the project that I end up working on it a little longer before I put it away. I’m realizing how much can get done in little pockets of 10 minute increments. I’m also realizing just how quickly things can get done. So now when I see mopping on my to-do list I know that I only need 30 minutes, not the hour and a half I used to imagine it took me. Things we don’t want to do always seem sooooo long and time-consuming, but most of the time we can get them done in less than an hour.
2) Rewards (i.e. Saving My Favorite Podcasts For Chore Time) – There are two podcasts that I look forward to each week (Happier and What Should I Read Next) and I usually rush to listen to them as soon as they pop up, but on the weeks when I know there is a horrible, non-thinking chore on the to-do list, I save the podcasts to listen to while I’m doing my chores. For example, cleaning the bathrooms is a great time to listen to/catch up on podcasts. It makes the time go by so much faster!
3) Bribery – I’m not proud of this but sometimes I have to bribe myself like I’m a spoiled 2-year old. It’s true. But, on the other hand, it’s cheaper than a cleaning service. If there is a treat or a fun purchase that I need to make, I won’t do it until I’ve taken care of the dreaded task for that week.
4) Music – I’m constantly reminded how much upbeat music helps me tackle my chores. Music encourages and motivates! It’s the reason people listen to music when they’re working out. I’ve said several times, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but Rhianna sure helps me get the dishes done!” Also, there’s something stimulating about new music, so when I’m doing a monotonous task in my office, I click on a new album in iTunes and “Preview All” of the songs on that new album. Listening to something new keeps me alert.
There’s no science behind these tips and ideas, but for some reason this is what works for me. Ultimately, it takes the dreaded task and turns it into something a little less dreadful. And that’s always the goal!
Your turn: Do you have any Jedi Mind Tricks that you use to keep yourself motivated? I’d love to hear them!