Every day, there’s stuff we absolutely have to do, things we really should do, and stuff we don’t need to do but want to do.
What ends up happening to many of us is that we get the vital stuff done, postpone the important but non-urgent tasks, and then fill our time with the things we feel like doing but don’t actually get us anywhere. And then we’re surprised when we’re not reaching our goals.
Where to find motivation for even the non-urgent stuff
I have a friend who is self-employed, running his own business and doing a great job… except that he finds himself procrastinating on important tasks like writing.
(No, I’m not talking about myself — although, to be honest, I do the same thing, too.)
We all do, I think: we know there’s something we should be doing that’s really important for our careers, personal lives, businesses… but there are other less important we do instead. We check our email, respond to messages, read news, check out the latest on social media, and otherwise find interesting things to browse online.
Our problem isn’t that these important tasks are that hard… it’s that we don’t feel motivated enough. So we procrastinate.
Finding that spark of motivation
It’s hard to motivate yourself when you’re self-employed, or when no one is breathing down your neck making you do things right now. Especially when there’s a world of fascinating things online, or a million little tasks you can do instead.
What can we do? Here’s what I suggest:
1. Reconnect with why it matters
If you want to write something, for example, ask yourself: why is it important to you? What do you love about the writing?
For my friend, he loves teaching others what he’s learned, and seeing the comments of the people he’s helped. It brings him joy.
That’s incredible, and it’s easy to forget this deeper meaning when you’re caught up in the busy-ness of your day.
2. Remind yourself how much you love it
Sometimes we actually find enjoyment in these important-but-not-urgent tasks. Yes, there’s something about them that you’re not looking forward to — perhaps it takes more mental concentration, or requires more time than you’d like to dedicate — but there’s also the beautiful side of the task.
Maybe writing is a nice time out from your chaotic day, maybe it’s a way to reconnect with what’s important to you, or just maybe it’s a vital form of self-expression that you don’t often get a chance to do.
3. Talk to someone about it
When my friend reached out to me with this problem, and had to answer some of my questions, he suddenly found the motivation to start writing again.
It wasn’t anything I did, but I think forcing yourself to talk to someone else brings out the problem in the light of day, and the little childish fears and impulses that normally rule us don’t have as much power under that bright light.
4. Ask what’s stopping you
Sometimes it’s the idea that you don’t have time right now, but the truth is you probably do have time. Sometimes it’s that you don’t know how to do the task, in which case you might ask someone else or do some online research on how to do it. Other times it’s just that it seems hard or uncomfortable — in which case, I suggest you try the three suggestions above.
But usually, there’s nothing really stopping you. In truth, nothing stands in your way from doing important, joyful, meaningful work. So get to it!