We’ve all had the experience. The boss hands us a project that just makes us cringe. Somehow we’re going to have to solider through. Here are 10 tips for staying on task when you hate the project.
1.) Break a Big Project into Smaller, More Manageable Tasks.
If it’s a big project, it can look overwhelming at first, a towering mountain of this-really-stinks. Sit down and pull it apart. Break it down into manageable segments. Project the time it will take to complete each segment, and think through the order in which the segments must occur. This will not only make it appear more manageable, it will help you get organized and allow you to see areas where you can outsource.
2.) Outsource Where You Can.
Do you know someone in the office who is better at some of these tasks than you are? Someone for whom doing this would be effortless, even enjoyable? Approach them and ask them to take on some of your project in exchange for your help on a project of theirs. Even if you can’t get anyone to sign on, you might elicit some good advice that will help you tackle the more daunting aspects of the project ahead.
3.) Visualize Yourself Completing the Task.
Athletes have long known the power of visualization, the practice of using vivid, highly detailed mental run-throughs of a performance before plunging ahead. By imagining yourself completing the project, by holding a mental image of it in your head with as much mental detail as you can muster, you train your mind to achieve the goal. Studies have shown that visualization enhances motivation and increases confidence, two qualities necessary for getting on top of the project and getting it done.
4.) Place a Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow.
Your boss doesn’t think this job is grueling, only you do. So if you are going to be rewarded, the reward will have to come from you. Do not hesitate to define clearly in your mind the plum that will be yours when you finish. Maybe it’s a dinner out, or two tickets to a hockey game, or a new pair of shoes. Whatever. And when you get it done, be ruthless in giving yourself that reward. You deserve it. Your dependability in doing so will make you more inclined to accept distasteful projects in the future.
5.) Clean Up Your Desk and Get Organized as a Way of Marshaling Your Focus.
Mountain climbers don’t amble up casually to a mountain and start testing handholds. First, they prepare. If it’s going to be a big mountain, they build a base camp. They get organized. Doing so helps them to climb safely. It also helps them to get focused for what could be a grueling effort ahead. You can do the same thing by getting your work space organized. Clean up your desk, put relevant files and discs within easy reach, make sure everything is comfortable and properly prepared, and then plunge in.
6.) Do the Most Distasteful Tasks First.
Take a look at the tasks you’ve listed. Which are the most distasteful? If possible get these out of the way first. As you complete these bummers, the overall project starts to look less stressful. The natural tendency is to do just the opposite, to take the easier tasks first as a way of easing into the project, but then the ugly truth looms larger and larger, discouraging your forward progress. When you sweep these monsters off the path first, the way forward opens up. But to do this you’ll need to be able to stay focused.
7.) Banish Interruptions and Stay on Task.
When you really don’t want to do a task, normal everyday interruptions are like a godsend, an opportunity to escape. While these interruptions may offer a temporary respite, they break your concentration and derail your motivation. Turn off the phone and hang a Do Not Disturb sign on the door. If that doesn’t seem plausible, try moving your effort to a library or coffee shop, some place where you can work uninterrupted and get as much of the project behind you as fast as you can.
8.) Complete at Least One Task Each Day, Even if it’s Just a Small Part of the Project.
Don’t let a day pass without making a measurable impact on the project. Even one day of not working on the project is an invitation to backslide. If one day leads to two days, you’re on a slippery slope. Remember, you want to get this nightmare over with. The only way to do that, short of being let go, is to finish it. So commit to a goal that says you will not let a day go by that something is not done to whittle this project down.
9.) Set Incremental Goals and Reward Yourself Along the Way.
Label the segments of the project as like, love tasks, or should, need tasks, and reward yourself when you complete a should, need task by allowing yourself to take on a like, love task next. This performance-reward strategy can keep the engine humming through the middle parts of the project when you are most likely to run out of steam and stall. A decision to reward yourself for a job well done can go far to pushing you to completion.
10.) Think positive.
Even with all that, there will be moments when the specter of doubt looms. You will want to second guess yourself, to tell yourself that this is not for you, and to resent those who gave it to you. You may try to rationalize not finishing a task, when you know it would be better to do so. Your bitterness and resentment will make it easier to shirk. Don’t succumb to this. The project in front of you will not go away until you dispatch it, and the only way to dispatch it is to finish it. These 10 tips should help you to do so.