Motivation 3: "Chores"

Date: 5/8/2008

If you have had to do an unpleasant task and found yourself procrastinating, then you are familiar with the third ineffective motivation style, "Chores". 

The thought process of "chores" that leads to procrastination is pretty simple and straightforward:  You imagine the unpleasant process of doing the task.  In order to avoid experiencing that unpleasantness, you to keep pushing off doing the task.  "Ugh, I really don't want to sit down and do that report..."

Eventually you must do it because time is running out.  By the time you actually do the task, you have mentally experienced the unpleasant feeling of doing the task as well as stress as you keep pushing off what you know is inevitable.  And this is unnecessary and ineffective.

Of course, we all have to do things we don't want to from time to time.  That is the reason that it is crucial to have a way of motivating ourselves without the stress and negative feelings that accompany the "chores" motivation style. 

A great alternative to "chores"  is to imagine the task completed.  Picture that sink full of dirty dishes empty and the sparkling, cleaned dishes drying on the side. See that report you've been pushing off for the last month typed up and sitting on your desk ready to hand in.   Keep holding the picture in your mind as you go through the task. Also, get a sense of how you will feel when it is completed and let yourself experience that feeling as you do the task. In many situations, this will suffice to motivate you to do the task.

If it is not sufficient, you can go a step farther and connect to your values.  Ask yourself: Why  is it important to do this task?  You will probably have more than one reason so ask yourself the question until you have at least 2 or 3 good reasons to do the task..  When you become consciously aware of why it is important to you to do this task you will feel more motivated.  Values are very powerful motivators! "When the kitchen is cleaned I will be much more patient with other family members."   "By paying that bill on time I will be reinforcing my reputation as an honest, reliable customer." (The definition of "values" is whatever is important to a person.  In these examples, "patience" and "a good reputation" are values.)

Keep in mind that many of the tasks we find unpleasant are requests other people make of us.  It may be important to them but not to you. "I fail to understand why the boss is so insistent that I straighten up my failing cabinet..." In that case you can ask yourself:  What benefit will I gain by doing their request?  Perhaps it is important to maintain or improve your relationship with them.  Perhaps there are indirect benefits.  "If I straighten up the filing cabinet I will feel much more confident asking the boss for a larger office space to work in.."

Give it a try!    Next time you find that yourself procrastinating, take a moment and contemplate if it is because you find the task unpleasant. 

If yes, then reread this article and follow the instructions above. 

Then, do the task!

(based on "Heart of the Mind" by Steve and Connirae Andreas)

Please send me feedback and personal stories you have relating to this article.