How To Start a Task You Don’t Want To Do

January 10th, 2021

Everyone is guilty of putting off a hard, lengthy, or mind-numbingly boring task until later. However, prolonging the task by repeatedly ignoring it can do more damage than actually just getting it done. 

A recent study titled “Impatience and Savoring Vs. Dread” sheds some light on why this is true. Essentially, when we’re anticipating a positive event, we associate the idea of savoring the event with positive emotions. On the other hand, we feel negatively about waiting for a positive event. When we know a negative event is coming up (like sitting down to pay the bills) we feel double the negativity. The wait still feels negative, and we anticipate the event with dread instead of excitement.

It’s easier to wait for a positive event due to the mixed positive and negative emotions. But what do you do when you have to do something you dread?

It turns out, the easiest way to complete these tasks is by embracing how much they’ll suck. It sounds counterintuitive, but once you acknowledge that cleaning out the gutters, balancing your budget, or organizing the basement won’t be fun, it can motivate you to complete them faster. 

But think about it this way: if you do the task quickly, you won’t prolong those negative feelings. If you keep putting it off, you won’t just dread doing it eventually. You’ll also feel continually frustrated that it’s still on your to-do list. At that rate, you might as well get it over with and reward yourself with a little treat for a job well done. 

It can be easy to build up a chore in your mind until it seems even worse than it already is. But if you just do it now, you may even find that it takes you less time than planned. If you really don’t have time for it now, put it on a calendar or add it to a planner. And, this is the important part, make sure you do it at the time you scheduled.

While this works well for chores, it also works well for conversations you’d rather not have. Even though you’re dreading it now, you can look forward to the relief and other positive feelings of knowing you got it over with quickly.

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