Every time you see this dreaded task on your To-Do List you cringe. Something in you says this is pointless “busy work.” Why do you have to do it? No one will read or care about it, you imagine. Feels like a box-checking compliance task that bores you to tears. On and on I could go describing a variety of dreaded tasks that simply evoke frustration and drain your energy.
Imagine you could eliminate dreaded tasks or at least take a big step in that direction. When tasks become energy-draining, do you notice a pattern?
Some Characteristics of Dreaded Tasks:
- Required but not important. The value of the completed task feels much lower than the value of the time the task requires to complete it.
- Tedious and time-consuming
- Outside your strengths and require significant energy and focus with unsatisfying results
- The end toward which the task is leading doesn’t feel valuable to you or perhaps doesn’t feel achievable.
- Scope of the project is so vast this task feels minuscule and insignificant (like draining the ocean a spoonful at a time)
- Completing the task requires collaboration with others who you find challenging and unpleasant to work with
Consider a few of these strategies to get these tasks complete with less dread and energy.
Practical Strategies for Contending with Dreaded Tasks:
- Work on the task at low energy times of the day when your productivity is naturally lower. This strategy applies to tasks that don’t require significant focus.
- Pair the task with something you enjoy.
- I’ll work on this task outside on my porch while listening to the birds.
- I’ll work 90 minutes on these tasks on days that I treat myself with a speciality coffee or one of my favorite takeout lunches.
- Link completing the task with a reward.
- Happy hour awaits me when I finish this.
- I won’t watch anymore of my favorite Prime series until I complete this task.
- I’ll up my Starbucks budget and reserve them for treats linked to completed dreaded tasks.
- Reconsider the desired quality of the outcome.
- Is a C+ or B- quality sufficient for this task?
- Determine what amount of time would be equivalent to the value of the task. Then only give it that much time.
- Find an accountability partner and hold each other accountable for tackling dreaded tasks.
- Get together and brainstorm some shared strategies in advance and reconvene over one of your rewards to celebrate and check-in.
- If it’s fun for you, make a competition.
- Text a reminder to each other at random times for inspiration and to lighten the dread.
Dreaded Tasks? Try a Mindset Shifting Strategy
Since an interpretation of the task as time-consuming, time-wasting, not valuable, pointless, etc. creates much of the energy drain, consider reframing the meaning of the task.
- Link the task with something that does feel meaningful and valuable.
- One approach to discovering that link is to identify why you feel this task is required and not optional. If that distinction is not clear, as a thought exercise consider not doing the task. The consequences that pop to mind will likely clarify the link between this task and something that is meaningful and valuable.
- If the link between the dreaded task and the desired value or goal is several steps away, create a narrative of the journey to help cement the authenticity of it in your mind.
- Discover in yourself why you’re willing to give more of your time and energy to something that doesn’t feel valuable. Possibilities:
- I’m afraid of what so and so will think of me if I don’t do it.
- I want to please so and so, and they won’t be pleased if I don’t do this.
- I’m afraid I’ll miss out on a future opportunity if I don’t do this well.
Find Deeper Growth Potential in a Dreaded Task:
Take what you discovered in yourself from #2 above and imagine how you might handle the dreaded task if this fear or nagging desire evaporated.
Then imagine what else would be possible for you if this fear or nagging desire evaporated.
To stimulate your thinking ask yourself:
- If completing this task was effortless when and how would I approach it?
- If all my dreaded tasks were instantly completed, what would I do next?
- If I spent 45 minutes per day on dreaded tasks, how might my feelings of accomplishment at the end of the workweek change?
When you reframe your thoughts around a task AND incorporate one or two of the practical strategies, you can make real progress on a once dreaded task. Then that energy might fuel something unexpected.
There are many valid reasons we dread tasks that drain our time and energy. Yet imagine the upside of working through the resistance of dreaded tasks. Imagine what accomplishing dreaded tasks might do to move you forward on your goals. Next time you’re resisting a list of energy-draining tasks, try implementing some of these mindset shifts COMBINED with the practical strategies. Leave a comment and share what works for you!