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The Task that Got Away

The other day, while jotting items on my new task list, I remembered one…long lost. A dusty one, that once gleamed so brightly with potential, but now seemed shadowed, intentionally missing on the most recent iteration of the list. The task was not done. It just seemed so unlikely to ever get done that I felt like, why bother putting it back on the list?

blog pic- task got away

Why continue this charade?

It’s always the same. It starts almost imperceptibly, like a whisper of doubt in the farthest reaching corners of your conscience as you scribble the activity on the goal list. The easier tasks? Piece of cake. You can brush your teeth and stop by the bank any day. But that other one? That one that involves a little more of you? The one you’re secretly pretending is not even on the list? That one just stays there. And then gets bumped to the new list and the newer list and the newest list. Maybe this time though, you try to rephrase the task, make it seem more palatable, more likely to actually be considered. Perhaps, if you abbreviate words or describe it differently, you will light that fire under your…no. Also not gonna work. This task is gonna require some serious will-hacking.

So what do I do when the shame is just too great? First off, I stop depending on my will. Will is great when it works, but most of the time, it’s a guilt machine. So I use confinement. My favorite version is public transportation. I don’t know what it is, but I am insanely productive on the train, the ferry, the airplane, and the subway because I have nowhere to go. I can’t escape. It’s also because I’m often without wifi and so, I complete all the tasks (i.e., clean out dropbox) that I couldn’t get myself to do previously.

Another great option is the power of numbers. Work with someone else. I recently sat down with a friend for an agreed upon 45 minutes and I actually started the research project that I was too chicken to start before.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky and you get real quiet, there is a tiny moment, a litte rush of “I could do this right now”. If this little voice arises inside you, do not box your ears. This is a magic moment. Start the task NOW. I often find that this voice is most vocal early in the morning before 10am and late at night after 11pm. Everyone’s different, though. So listen up.

My new recent favorite, racing in small segments, originated out of the unconscionable amount of time it takes to download an On Demand tv show. One night, I just couldn’t sit and watch the pinwheel whirl anymore. I had 2-5 minutes and that was the perfect amount of non-committal time to get up and do the dishes or start the laundry or pick up clothing around the house. It was like exercise. I couldn’t commit to an hour, but 2-5? I could do that. And then I made it a race. How much could I get done in 2-5 minutes?

Note: This works extremely well with children. They love to race you and they love to win. Why can’t that be applied to toys all over the room?

A few more quick tips:

Need to get in a productive mindset? Make your bed. Get dressed and put on shoes. I like sneakers.

Having a hard time cleaning up? Host a dinner and let your vanity and sense of pride do the motivating.

Don’t want to exercise? Sign up for a workout class where you will be fined or lose money from if you don’t go.

Can’t seem to start the junk drawer organization project? Pull out the drawer and throw it on the floor.

Can’t seem to post that blog? Write down topics and phrases of interest that you think of through the day and just type those in. Revisit in bits and pieces. Eventually, you will have a complete blog (even if it IS months later).

The goal here is to create situations where you have no choice but to do something. They always say where there is a will, there is a way, but what happens when your will is M.I.A.?

There is a whole lot of electricity in you, but not in a dark room.

What flips your switch on and forces the light to work?