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The art of doing the work (even when you don’t feel like it)


Work in Progress

November 9 · Issue #57 · View online
The newsletter about work

During one of my latest webinars for Dutch readers, we got to talking about discipline. I see discipline as the art of doing things even when you don’t feel like it. Or especially when you don’t feel like it. 
Anyone can do things they’re excited about. Doing them when you don’t feel like it is a choice. And a skill you can develop.
Once you’ve developed a knack for doing things – whether you feel like it or not – then you’ve got discipline
At work, we’ve all got things that need doing that are repetitive or dull. And I’m not telling you anything new when I say that some of those tedious jobs turn out to be things that benefit you in the long run.
If you work by feel, you’ll miss out. 
When you work by willpower, then you set aside your feelings temporarily. And that can be a good thing. When everything has to feel good, of course work’s frustrating. Every little thing on your to-do list can feel annoying and make you think there’s something wrong with your job.
But what if it’s not your job. What if it’s you? I mean, there’s a reason they call it work, right?
I get the sense that exploring how we feel about work isn’t terribly helpful during the workday itself. Especially when it comes to the question of “What should I take on next?” Note your feelings, and take a closer look if need be in your Friday recap, but don’t let your feelings rule your workday. 
Things to try this week
Here are some concrete tips that work for me. They can help you do those things you’re not at all looking forward to doing:
  • Make the first step smaller and smoother. Make sure you know exactly where to start, and pare down this step until it’s as easy as it can be.
  • Do what you’re dreading FIRST. Annoying tasks won’t magically become more fun. Do them now and clear the way for the good stuff.
  • Eliminate any room to negotiate. My most annoying tasks are scheduled for a certain time, and I stick to my calendar. If your running clothes are ready and waiting for you when you get out of bed, there’s no deciding whether to go. You just get dressed and get going.
  • Agree on a time to stop. With big jobs in particular, it can help to set a stopping point beforehand. A plan to study until 2:30 at the latest can help get you started, because you know when you’ll be done for the day and ready to enjoy other things.
  • Picture the outcome. Visualizing the launch of the English edition of my book GRIP helps motivate me to get back into the trenches, cold-calling folks about this project.
Tough tasks are part of the job. They’re a chance to show that you don’t work by feel, but on the basis of clear priorities you’ve set for yourself. So get to work and make way for what matters most.

Have a good week!

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