How To Do Things You Don’t Want To Do

How To Do Things You Don’t Want To Do
Carly Jacobs

I walked from the kitchen to the living room, dragging my feet behind me. I moved a few chairs. Fluffed up some pillows. Re-folded the already perfectly folded throw rug on the back of the couch.

I went back to the kitchen and opened the fridge. The contents hadn’t changed since the last time I looked in there five minutes ago. So disappointing.

I decided to put on a quick load of washing and as I was shoving towels in the barrel of the machine I heard Mr Smaggle calling me from the study.

‘What are you doing?’ He said with a touch of laughter in his voice. ‘You’ve been slunking around for the last hour doing pointless shit. What are you supposed to be doing?’

I was SUPPOSED to be preparing a report for a client on some sponsored work they had on Smaggle. I fucking HATE preparing reports. I always forget where all the stats are in the Facebook business page and I end up clicking around for hours trying to find out exactly how many people reacted to a post I wrote months ago. Spreadsheets also hate me. I set them up perfectly and then for no reason three cells will just permanently change their text font and size for no reason and I won’t be able to change it back. Then I’ll get grumpy and I don’t like being grumpy and that’s why I was strutting around the house like a petulant, bored toddler.

Every job has shit bits. Every life has shit bits. One thing we all have in common is that we all have to do things we don’t want to do. Sometimes daily.

how to do things you don't want to do

How to do things you don’t want to do…

1. Stop waiting until you feel like it 

Imagine the task you don’t want to do is a shit sandwich that you have to eat. Would you wait until you felt like it before you ate it? Hell no, because no one is ever going to feel like eating a shit sandwich. That’s ludicrous. You’d have to force yourself to eat a shit sandwich. It’s the same with any task you don’t want to do. Like the report, I had to write. I’m never going to feel like doing it so why waste time waiting for an emotion that’s never going to materialise? Acknowledge that you’re never going to feel like it so you can either get on with it or find another excuse.

2. Allow yourself to do that thing badly 

Sometimes we avoid doing things because we’re worried we’ll suck at it. Like writing a speech you have to do at a wedding or doing your taxes for the year. Half the trouble with tasks like this is getting over the need to do it perfectly. You don’t have to give a Bill Murray-esque performance when you give a speech at your best mates wedding. Something simple, sweet and from the heart is perfect. And as for your taxes? Who cares? That’s a task you definitely don’t need to worry about sucking at. Like cleaning the toilet. You don’t need to be able to eat your dinner off it, it just has to be the minimum level of not totally disgusting so you’re not embarrassed when your mates come over.

3. Time yourself 

A survey by Harris recently revealed the top productivity killers at work. Here’s how they rank.

  1. Talking on the cell phone and texting – 50%
  2. Gossiping – 42%
  3. On the Internet – 39%
  4. On Social media – 38%
  5. Taking snack breaks or smoke breaks – 27%
  6. Distracted by noisy co-workers – 24%
  7. In meetings – 23%
  8. On email – 23%
  9. Distracted by co-worker drop byes – 23%
  10. Distracted by co-worker calls on speaker phone – 10%

I’m sure this isn’t breaking news to anyone. You’d have to be in some pretty serious denial to not relate to at least a few of these. Although I strongly object to the first one – who actually talks on their cell phone? The point is, these activities can really sneak up on you and they can take up a huge portion of your day. One of the easiest ways to combat this is to give yourself a set time to complete a task. For example, I’ve just set myself an hour to get the first draft of this article done. That’s a pretty tight time frame for what I’m sure will end up being close to 1500 words but if I really knuckle down and concentrate, I can get it done. I WON’T get it done if I pick up my phone, check Facebook, have a chat to my partner who also works from home, make a cup of tea, get a snack or open my inbox. So I set a timer and work on that one task for a full hour. Then I get a break. It’s a much more efficient way of writing an article rather than letting it take all day because I keep getting distracted by cat videos on Facebook or whatever snacks I can find in the cupboard.

how to do things you don't want to do

4. Seize the shitness

You know when you’re looking forward to something really delicious and you savour every moment of it? Like when you have clean pyjamas AND clean sheets AND an amazing book to read and you hop into bed and just lie there loving yourself sick? You’re obviously not going to enjoy something like cleaning out the garage as much as that but what if you tried to seize the shitness? Just admit to yourself that what you’re about to do is an awful task and just power your way through it? Mr Smaggle and I did this when we were in New Zealand on a holiday about ten years ago. We had rented a camper van that had a toilet in it but the catch was you had to empty this toilet. It was supposed to be a super clean job but we accidentally left it a bit longer than we should have and as a result, it was not as mess-free as we’d been promised. There was only one way out of this mess and that was to roll up our sleeves and get on with it. I don’t think we’ve ever laughed that hard in our lives. It was so disgusting and so hilarious and easily one of the worst things we’ve ever had to do. We just geared ourselves up, literally seized the shit and got it done. Then we rewarded ourselves with fish and chips on the beach. We still laugh about it to this day.

5. Sugar coat it 

If seizing the shitness isn’t really your bag, why not try sugar coating it? When I was a teacher, I really hated going on school camps. I don’t care how amazing a teacher is, no one loves being away from home with thirty children who don’t belong to you for no extra pay. There was a special kind of exhaustion reserved for the end of camp weeks. I’d have a stress headache that would take days to shift and the mounting anxiety of making sure several dozen hysterical kids got back to their parents in one piece at the end of the week left me in puddle of nerves and tears. This would leave me dreading school camps every year but instead of moaning and groaning about it I would point out the positives. The kids usually bonded on camps and watching new friendships bloom was lovely. The teachers also often bonded on school camps too and I usually made new work friends in the process. There were often cool activities like high ropes and craft and I love learning new things. By talking myself through all the positive things about this big daunting task I was dreading made it seem much more manageable. I was still a mess at the end of the week but I hadn’t spent the previous week feeling miserable about it so that’s a plus.

What about you? How do you get yourself to do things you really don’t want to do?

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  1. KezUnprepared 9 months ago

    For me these days, the things I don’t want to do are getting out of bed after a shit sleep. Doing the school runs with my 6 year old and a 3 month old baby. That’s where all of your tips really come in handy. I say, well, if I have no choice, I may as well do it with a smile instead of making my life (more?) miserable. Because there are so many good things. I don’t feel guilty if I don’t get out and about with the baby much. School runs provide her with stimulation and fresh air. The car is a place where I can chat with the Little Mister largely uninterrupted by having to tend with the baby – unless she’s screaming over us on occasion, she’s strapped in, safe and often sleeping! If I bitch and moan about bad sleep too much, I feel more tired. So I just get on with it!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 9 months ago

      Isn’t it lovely when you positively re-frame things? It’s amazing how looking on the bright side does actually work a lot of the time!

  2. Anne 9 months ago

    Lots of good ideas here. Sometimes the reminder that we all have to deal with these things is enough to just get it done. It’s easy to think our shiny happy friend has it easier but we’re all faced with unpleasantries. I try to remind myself that it feels so much better once I just do it.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 9 months ago

      Exactly, it’s so easy to assume that other people have it easy but even Beyonce has to do things she doesn’t want to do. Like workout for a million hours every day!

  3. Michaela 9 months ago

    My incentive to actually getting these things done is to do them right away as they come up or first thing in the morning – then they’re out of the way and you literally have the rest of the day to enjoy without that looming cloud of anxiety or foreboding hanging over you.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 9 months ago

      That’s the best tip and I’m the same. I’m such a frog eater – I get up, go the gym and do all my worst tasks first!

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