Omar Shehata

Do it even if you don't feel like it

From Omar's notebook.

One technique that has been really effective in helping me get to where I want to be is one I call: Do it even if you don't feel like it.

A lot of times I know what I need to do, but I can't muster up the motivation to do it. Most commonly this will be: doing the dishes, writing an article, or going for a run.

When I'm feeling unmotivated, my instinct is to wait until I'm feeling ready to tackle the challenge before attempting it. I think this comes from a fear that I will attempt it, fail, and then feel even worse after.

This is especially bad if it's been a while since I've had a success that's made me feel good. Waiting for motivation to strike, and it not coming, feels bad, so it becomes even harder to start.

I've learned that often the best thing to do is to just start and trust that the motivation will show up when I show up.

And most times, it does! This is good to combine with Don't do all the dishes at once. If I commit to just a small achievable goal, that feels like success, and builds momentum, and makes it really easy to keep going, or pick back up the next day.

This is also good to combine with Think about the end. This thought experiment helps a lot: I can (1) try to do the thing, and I'll at least feel better that I made some progress, or maybe I end up failing and be back where I started. Or (2) not attempt it, and stay exactly where I am. That makes it really easy to see that option (1) is almost always better than procrastinating on something I know I'll need to do later.

This works even if finishing the thing won't make you feel any better! That's where Think about the end fails. It's OK if you don't think you'll feel any better after finishing it. If you can't think of anything better to do, just do it anyway. Even if you really don't feel better afterwards...well achieving this goal helps give you more options in the future (assuming this goal helps get you more money, or career, or recognition). And maybe by that time you'll feel better and can appreciate the position you're in!