Get Things Done, Even When You Don’t Want To

Get things done by adding them to your calendar.

Most of us need to get things done, whether or not we’re motivated to work on them. These goals or tasks often get pushed aside. We procrastinate starting them or stop giving them attention after they’re underway. 

Procrastination also can occur for other reasons, such as fear of failure, lack of self-confidence in effective execution, self-imposed high standards will not be met, lack of an immediate reward or result, or a dislike for the task.

According to Psychology Today, procrastination may lead to a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort. In other words, leaving these tasks open on our to-do lists has negative effects on our mood today and impacts what we do down the road.

Regardless of why we may want to push them off, we may need to get them done, because their completion impacts other tasks and goals, or they may be required by a boss or by participating in team projects.

When you’re faced with a task you’re avoiding, you can tackle it with a simple tool: The five-minute take off.

  • Commit to focus on the relevant task for five minutes, and repeat until it’s done.
  • Schedule the time. Some people commit to five minutes, but block their calendars for 30 minutes, in case they’re inspired to continue. Other people devote five minutes and move on.
  • Incorporate this dedicated time into your routine, whether you schedule five minutes a day for a week, once a week for three months, or whatever you find realistic. You set the pace knowing your deadline or desired completion date.
  • Get rid of distractions. Turn off your phone — or at least its sounds and notifications. If your task is on your computer, turn off desktop email notifications. Close — or even lock — your door, if you have one. Let people know you would appreciate some time without interruptions.
  • Devote your undivided attention to the task during the scheduled time.
  • Stay focused, regardless of what you accomplish during the five minutes.
  • Celebrate your success. Take a moment to appreciate your attention to the task, even when devoting five minutes.

Starting the five-minute take off may not be easy, but you most likely will find it helps you begin the process of executing an uninspiring task or goal. Many people struggle at first and become more engaged after they begin. Whether or not your feelings about the task change, dedicating focused time to address it will help you get it done. 

When you’re struggling to set aside five minutes, remember the words of Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Sometimes, it’s that simple. You have to start to finish. 

Having an inspired goal greatly increases your likelihood to achieve it, but you’re not going to feel the same levels of motivation for everything you need to get done. Don’t let procrastination or an uninspiring task bring you down. Tackle it with a small amount of dedicated time, and you’ll get things done.

This technique can help you achieve success and thrive.