My grandma always said that not everything in life was going to be fun. And boy, was she right.
When I talk to people who build their business or side-hustles and why they do it, they all mention one thing, without failure. Because I can finally do what I want. I am my own boss. I can work on my own schedule and make my own decisions.
I was the exact same when I started out.
Having your own thing gives you a lot of freedom — you can finally do what you love doing. And while this is true to a large extent, you will inevitably face a point when reality hits. You will realize that no matter how much you love your work and your business and everything that comes with it, there will be things that you hate but still have to do.
Case in point: I love writing and producing content. I love creativity and everything that comes with it. However, I hate the marketing part. SEO, funnels, e-mail lists, keywords, etc. It drives me nuts. Can I work on my own schedule and do what I want? Yes. Can I focus on producing content and mostly do what I love? For sure. That’s why I do what I do. Will my business be successful without me putting a lot of effort into marketing and everything that comes with it? Nope. Not a chance.
Your examples might be different, but the story is the same. No matter how much you love your work, living your life, and doing what you do, there will always be things you hate doing, but still have to.
Cleaning your house. Making a dreaded phone call. Getting up in the morning even though you are tired. Dealing with annoying customers. Split testing. Apologizing to someone. Doing your taxes. Coming to terms with bad things that happened in the past. Cleaning the dishes. Regular Instagram posts to keep your community engaged.
When we are faced with these things, they can really sour our mood. One moment everything was sunshine and rainbows, and the next you realize that there’s something on your to-do list that you tried to avoid for the last two weeks and that will screw up your day.
The problem is that you can’t avoid these things forever. They are essential tasks that you can’t avoid but try to postpone as much as you can.
And because you know that you have to do them, your conscience keeps creeping up on you. Until you finally have to do them — and because you have dreaded them so much, when the time finally comes, they really ruin your day.
Let’s face it: We’d all like to be able to get these sucky things out of the way, put a checkmark behind them, and feel good because it’s over.
The only problem is that finding motivation for something you despise isn’t that easy.
Time for some real talk: There will always be things in life that you hate doing, but still have to because they are essential for your business and your life. No way around that.
But what you’re about to read is going to make the difference between “I’d rather smash my hand with a sledgehammer” and “alright, this isn’t as bad as I thought.”
I don’t know about you, but if there was a smart technique that could save me hours of headaches, that’s something I’d be willing to try.
Mindset First: It’s Part of the Job
The shift you have to make in your mind is simple but powerful.
Whatever you have to do, however annoying, dull, or hard it is — if you have to do it, it matters in some way. Otherwise, you could just not do it and things wouldn’t change.
Focus on the outcome of the task and figure out how it fits into the big, strategic picture. Once you recognize what it is useful for, you understand that it is part of your job and it has to be done so you can get where you want in life.
Even if it’s mind-numbing paperwork — if you have to do it, it’s a crucial part of the overall plan. It doesn’t matter what your plan is — financial independence, your own business, or a stable job, wife, and two kids — it will only work if you accomplish its individual parts.
And whatever these individual parts are — they’re part of the job.
Instant Rewards > Future Rewards
Our brains love rewards. It’s how we get motivated to do things. Go to work, get paid. Flirt with a girl, have sex. Build your business, enjoy the entrepreneur lifestyle, and get the shekels. Work out, look good. The thing is that not all rewards are worth the same. While bigger rewards are more satisfying than small ones, timing is also a crucial component.
Instant rewards have a much higher value to us than future ones. Prime example: Doing your taxes. You know that you potentially have thousands of dollars flooding back into your bank account. But even though it takes only a couple of hours (or in the worst case, days), most people postpone this task until the last couple of days [study?].
If you have to do something that won’t pay off until a distant point in the future, look for instant rewards. This can be as easy as allowing yourself some off-time on social media after you’ve cold-called a number of clients or treating yourself to a nice meal once you’ve redesigned your website. It’s much easier to do something you despise when you know that you will be rewarded instantly once you’re done with it.
Make It Pleasant
A lot of things that suck at first sight actually don’t have to. There are tons of ways to combine them with pleasant experiences and emotions.
Listening to your favorite music or a podcast, sitting in the sun with your laptop, or enjoying a nice cup of tea can make even the most unpleasant of tasks somewhat bearable.
Look for things you enjoy and that spark positive emotions in you but don’t distract you too much from what you have to do.
This is also a great way to finally get to the things that you’d like to do but can’t find the time for. Case in point: I am not a morning person. If you try to talk to me within an hour of waking up, I’ll make Jabba the Hutt look friendly and smart in comparison. I hate getting up in the morning and have struggled with it for a long time. However, I always have tons of music and podcasts I want to listen to, but rarely find the time for doing so. The solution is obvious: Motivate myself to get out of bed early so I have time to listen to my podcasts.
Doing Something Is Better than Doing Nothing
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Some tasks are not only a pain in the neck to do, but also the sheer volume and amount of work required are overwhelming. I remember that when I was writing my first articles, the amount of work was staggering. Topic, research, structure, headlines, the writing itself, formatting.
And it didn’t stop there — I found myself in the same situation when I wanted to expand to another social media channel — there are tons of things to consider and work on. Connecting with people, deciding on the content, producing/uploading it, personal branding, and growth tactics.
So how did I manage to get through my first articles and how can you tackle even the biggest tasks? By committing to put in only a little bit of effort.
This is also one of the best tactics to fight procrastination. Getting yourself to put in only 15 minutes of work is way easier than forcing yourself to put in a whole day. And in most cases, you won’t stop after 15 minutes, but keep going. The difficult part is getting started, not keeping the momentum. One great way to apply this is the Pomodoro technique — it combines short bursts of highly focused work with small breaks in between. Perfect for anything you’ve been putting off.
If you’re facing a behemoth task, do the following: Break it down into smaller subtasks and commit to putting in a little bit of work — make the initial resistance as small as possible. Step by step, hour by hour, you will dig through the mountain of work, until it isn’t anymore.
Focus on What’s in It for You
One of the biggest problems I have when it comes to work is doing something I don’t see a benefit in. It’s meaningless to me and therefore I wouldn’t even do it for all the tea in China. But here’s the kicker: Whatever you have to do, there is always something in it for you. Sometimes you just have to look a little closer.
That annoying customer you have to deal with? An opportunity to build your patience, learn to handle special requests, and learn about what type of customer you want or don’t want.
Day crammed with appointments? An opportunity to increase your stress tolerance, have short, productive meetings, and learn about scheduling your day better.
Have to create content about one of your least-favorite topics? An opportunity to broaden your horizon and learn to be productive regardless of motivation.
This is not about sweet-talking and misleading yourself into seeing everything through rose-colored glasses. No. The annoying customer will still be a pain in the ass and there is nothing you can do about the way he is. But you can work on what you can control — your attitude and what aspects of the problem you are looking at.
Focus on what’s in it for you, focus on the positives. If you’re neck-deep in shit, it’s best to not let your head hang.
Motivate Yourself Through Inspiring Content
Sometimes, all the rational thoughts in the world won’t get you to do something. You know that you have to do it. You know that it’s going to benefit you. You know that it’s the smart and the right thing to do. But nevertheless, you still can’t get yourself to do it.
That’s because we humans are not completely rational. We have something called emotions and feelings. And at times, they can be very strong. Stronger than any rational argument your brain can conjure up to convince yourself to do the work instead of opening up a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and hanging out on the couch for two hours.
In these cases, you have to talk to your feelings and emotions. How do you do that? Through motivating and inspiring content that touches your heart. I have built myself up a small collection of such content — inspirational and motivational videos, quotes, texts, and images.
Every now and then, when I’m feeling a little down or exhausted and feel like I can’t go on, I turn to them. Although I am a big proponent of habits instead of motivation, I know that every now and then, we all need a healthy dose of encouragement. So go get yours.
Change Your Perspective
If you’re an entrepreneur or fancy building your own side-hustle or business, chances are that you’re somewhat of a rebel. You don’t like it when you’re being told what you have to do. That’s true for me, at least. If someone tells me that I have to do such and such, my first thought is always No, I don’t.
I bet that you like being in charge of your life. It feels good to be the one running it. It gives you a feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment.
The problem is that when you face an unpleasant task that you have to do, this feeling is taken from you. You feel like you have to do it if you like it or not, and as a consequence, your motivation plummets. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Nobody likes to be told what to do.
But here is the cool thing: You can use this mechanism to your advantage. How? By replacing the I have to with I choose to + a reason why.
Instead of saying I have to do my taxes, say I choose to do my taxes because I want my tax return to be as large as possible.
Instead of saying I have to have dinner with my mother-in-law, say I choose to have dinner with her because I want to make my wife happy and our relationship work.
Retake the power of decision and watch your motivation skyrocket.
Get an Accountability Partner
This is my personal cheat code for hard cases. When nothing else works, I whip this one out.
The principle of an accountability partner is easy. You have something that you need to do, and now you get yourself someone who holds you accountable. This person can be anyone, although I’d pick someone you’re close with — you’re much more likely to hold up to your promise.
Ask them if they would like to become your accountability partner and that all they have to do is poking you if you don’t keep your promises. Then, tell them what you’d like to accomplish (I commit to set up my LinkedIn profile/have the house cleaned/send a newsletter out by Friday).
It doesn’t sound like much, but the added social pressure of promising something to someone close to you and telling them to hold you accountable works wonders. Breaking a promise you’ve given yourself is one thing — most people are experts when it comes to that (New Year’s Resolutions, anyone?) But losing your face in front of someone else, especially when it’s someone close to you? That’s another story. You’ll go to hell and back to avoid that.
Doing something you despise isn’t easy. You have to take any help you can get. And sometimes, most people can do is to hold ourselves accountable.
You Are in Control
“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”
— Lou Holtz
Life consists of ups and downs. We all get to do things we love and things we hate. Neither do you have any control over this nor can you change it.
The only thing you have control over and can change is your attitude and how you deal with these adversities.
And there are two ways this can go. You can either complain, be miserable, push things off, and feel sorry for yourself. Or, you can accept the things as they are, work on making the best out of it and get yourself to fight through it.
In the end, you’ll still have to do what you have to do — but one way teaches you to be miserable because of it, the other one to be happy in spite of it. Choose wisely.
If your to-do list can’t handle the mass of tasks you’ve been putting off, it might be time to try a smarter one:
The Only To-Do List You’ll Ever Need to Have Your Life in Order
Focus on what’s important and makes sure that you don’t forget the rest — in just two minutes per day.
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