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How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To - Heidi Grant Halvorson - Harvard Business Review


Stashed in: HBR, Productivity, Procrastination, General Wisdom, Improvement

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Work is a habit, not a feeling:

Reason #2     You are putting something off because you don’t “feel” like doing it.

Solution: Make like Spock and ignore your feelings.  They’re getting in your way.

In his excellent book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman points out that much of the time, when we say things like “I just can’t get out of bed early in the morning, “ or “I just can’t get myself to exercise,” what we really mean is that we can’t get ourselves to feellike doing these things.  After all, no one is tying you to your bed every morning.  Intimidating bouncers aren’t blocking the entrance to your gym.  Physically, nothing is stopping you – you just don’t feel like it.  But as Burkeman asks,  “Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it?”

Think about that for a minute, because it’s really important.  Somewhere along the way, we’ve all bought into the idea – without consciously realizing it – that to be motivated and effective we need to feel like we want to take action.  We need to be eager to do so.  I really don’t know why we believe this, because it is 100% nonsense. Yes, on some level you need to be committed to what you are doing – you need to want to see the project finished, or get healthier, or get an earlier start to your day.  But you don’t need to feel like doing it.

In fact, as Burkeman points out, many of the most prolific artists, writers, and innovators have become so in part because of their reliance on work routines that forced them to put in a certain number of hours a day, no matter how uninspired (or, in many instances, hungover) they might have felt.  Burkeman reminds us of renown artist Chuck Close’s observation that “Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

So if you are sitting there, putting something off because you don’t feel like it, remember that you don’t actually need to feel like it. There is nothing stopping you.

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