Motivating Yourself to Do Things You Hate (A Surprising Mental Trick)

Jordan Brown

I'm not proud to admit this.

I have a really hard time forcing myself to do things I hate.

My wife knows this all too well.

My parents knew this when I was a kid.

And I know it--I'm just now admitting it in public.

Cleaning the dishes.

Washing the sheets.

You name it.

I can work up productivity tricks for things I want to do, but if I don't like doing something, it's very hard for me to get it done.

BUT...I've discovered a way to trick my brain.

And now I'm having more success getting things done that I detest.

Doing the Dishes - Do Things You Hate

There's something about washing the dishes that eats away at me.

I almost go into an existential state of dread when I'm doing them.

This is such a waste of time!

My life is slipping away...

My hands are cracked and will bleed, and it will make my life miserable.

Is this what humans are meant to do???

I know. It seems dramatic.

And my brain is a bit dramatic.

But I've learned something about my anxious brain.

It's hard for me to get started doing something I dislike because my anxiety tells me that the task will take forever. Or very close to forever.

And because I feel a task will take forever, that means I'm not going to have time to pursue what I want to do with my life.

I won't accomplish my goals. I won't visit faraway lands.

The interesting thing is that while I'm worrying about what I won't get to do I'm not actually accomplishing anything of value.

I'd be much better off...just doing the dishes.

But the brain has a way of failing to get started when it's latched onto an idea.

It will make you feel like not getting started is the only way to protect your time and your independence.

It will leave you in limbo so that it can control you.

But not getting started on a task I hate causes several problems.

It makes my partner resent me.

The tasks taunt me the more they don't get done.

And I don't feel good about the fact that there's something I should be doing so I can get on to what I want to be doing.

Fortunately, there's a simple trick.

How to Confront What You Hate Doing and Motivate Yourself

That simple trick has to do with, for lack of a better word, tricking your brain.

Because your brain knows what it likes, and you can use that to your advantage.

The next time you're confronted with a task that you hate, pair it with something you love.

For me, it's listening to music or podcasts.

This activity, without fail, brings me joy.

And if I can't look forward to doing the dishes, I most certainly can look forward to listening to an educational podcast.

Learning is something I value over almost everything else.

I believe that if I'm not learning, I'm dying.

I'll sometimes put reading over eating for the day.

And so I've learned to use this to my advantage.

Now, instead of thinking, Oh no, I have to do the dishes, I think, Yes, I get to listen to one of my favorite podcasts.

This is a pretty privileged position to be in, I get that.

Not everyone has access to this kind of luxury in their lives, and I'm very grateful I can even pair activities in this way.

Other things you could do when you're struggling to do things you hate:

  1. You could pair dancing with making the bed.
  2. You could pair singing with taking a shower.
  3. You could pair listening to music with folding laundry.
  4. You could pair having a favorite tv show in the background with cooking.

You're smart.

You know what you love and what you hate.

Put the two together the next time you're stuck.

It's surprisingly effective once you know what motivates you.