How to Get Sh*t done – even when you don’t feel like it.


Steven Burns

Hi! I’m Steven. I’m a professional therapist, coach, trainer & author with over 20 years experience. I teach the latest psychological tools and techniques to help you transform and make a difference.

We’ve all been there.

You have a task that you have to do but you just don’t feel up to it.

After all, there are so many more interesting way to spend your time so why do something that doesn’t make you feel good, right?

So you flip into full-on procrastination mode; you push away the nasty task or activity and hope that it doesn’t come back to bite you on the ass in the future.

Or you convince yourself that you’ll do it t tomorrow but, as the saying goes, “tomorrow never comes” and it ends up being pushed further into the future.

Perhaps you’re not quite as extreme as this but I know that you’ll have experienced something similar at some point.

It’s a simple fact of life:

That sometimes we have to do things that we really don’t want to do and it can often be super hard to get ourselves motivated.

It would be wonderful if life was filled entirely with tasks that provide us with joy and bliss, the like of which that’s intimately connected with our passions, but it’s simply not the case.

Sure, it’s important that we spend the majority of our time doing things that we love, but there will always be a list of tasks and activities that don’t exactly float our boat.

But we still have to do them.

And to complete them is crucial if we want to get the best out of ourselves, and life.

I notice this regularly in business. I love my work. I find it deeply fulfilling and the majority of the time I don’t have to pump myself up in the morning to get myself going.

But it’s not all rosey.

I, like everyone else on the planet, have a list of activities that I don’t particularly enjoy doing, but I still have to find a way to get them done.

Even though I’m living my passion, life can still sometimes be a bit of a grind –

Bills to pay; emails to send; invoicing; receipts to pay; or bureaucratic procedures that make me want to run up a hill and shout like I’m doing primal scream therapy!

Having to do things we don’t want to do is a reality of business but it’s also a reality of life.

→ Perhaps it’s cleaning.

→ Or visiting the in-laws.

→ Or exercising.

→ Or eating healthy.

→ Or going to meetings.

→ Or doing your taxes.

→ Or something else.

We all have our own ‘list’ so we need to find a way to lift ourselves out of lethargy and into action. We need to have a strategy for self-motivation.

So how do we do that?

Well here are two quick tips.

The first is more to do with managing the problem and the second is a self-motivation strategy that can work wonders when it comes to getting yourself to do things you don’t – initially – want to do.


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Tip 1: Delegate - if you can

The first thing you want to consider is delegation.

This is great, if you can do it.

If you have tasks or activities that don’t require your unique expertise then you can outsource it to someone else.

That way you minimise the amount of time you spend on tasks that don’t fit with your passion.

But here’s the thing: delegation itself won’t entirely cure the problem.

Even if you do delegate well, there will still be tasks that you have to do that you don’t want to.

For example, I have an accountant to rid me of the anguish of doing my tax return. She loves pouring over spreadsheets and I absolutely don’t, so it makes sense that I outsource it.

But, I still have to send her my accounts.

I still have to meet and discuss the spreadsheets.

I still have to file all my receipts and send them over at the end of the financial year.

Even though my workload has reduced, it still requires my input, and this is something people often don’t realise when they delegate.

Every piece of delegation produces another layer of work so, while it’s still absolutely worth doing, it doesn’t entirely eliminate the requirement to do things that we don’t want to do.

Plus, delegation is often a work-specific strategy, and not something that’s easy – or appropriate – to implement in our personal life.

For example, You couldn’t very well delegate a friend to go visit the in-laws for you with your wife could you?! 🙂

So delegation is great, if you can do it, but it won’t entirely solve the problem. To do that, you have to have an effective self-motivation strategy, and one simple but powerful one is what I call the ‘Bring the Feeling Forward Strategy’.

Tip 2: The 'Bring the Feeling Forward' Strategy

Okay, it’s not the most punchy title for a strategy but it’s all I’ve got.

Plus it accurately describes what you’re looking to do with it.

One of the main reasons why we struggle to do tasks that we don’t want to do is because of how we are imagining them in our mind’s eye.

When we think about a task that we hate doing, we generally don’t imagine ourselves dancing in a state of effortless flow and bliss loving the experience of moving towards the completion of it.

We’re not anticipating the good feeling we’ll get when we finish the task, we’re usually doing the opposite: thinking about how gruelling, painful, and unenjoyable it’s going to be!

Often the pictures that we make inside our mind are static, dark and colourless, accompanied by an inner monologue that sucks the life and soul right out of us.

Because we tend to respond emotionally to our inner perceptions, the result of thinking about a task in this way is that we often start to feel lethargic towards it, or worse: we feel a compelling desire to move away from the task and do something more appealing.

As human beings, we are programmed to move away from pain and towards pleasure, so by building up a horrible picture inside your mind of how unpleasant the task is going to be is only going to make you want to procrastinate and do something else.

{Note. If you’d like more information about your natural motivational circuits, then check out the blog post, Healthy Motivation Tips – that make a big difference}.

To test this out, give this quick little thought experiment a go now:

→ Step 1: 

  • Think about a task that you don’t want to do but know that you have to.

→ Step 2: 

  • Think about it until you feel the sense of de-motivated that usually accompanies it.

→ Step 3: 

  • Now, become aware of the pictures, movies and sounds that you make inside your mind when you’re feeling this de-motivated feeling.

→ Step 4: 

  • Now also become aware of any inner monologues that are going on, and the tone of voice you’re using for them.

→ Step 5: 

  • Ask yourself, how motivated are you to do the task on a scale of 1 – 10?

When you do this little thought experiment, what do you see, hear and feel?

And how motivated do you feel to do the task?

Chances are it wasn’t a pretty picture and it didn’t compel you to do anything other than procrastinate.

Usually people say that they focus heavily on the unpleasant nature of the task, make it larger in their mind than it actually is, and then get stuck somewhere in the middle.

Or, because it was so unappealing, they pushed out of their mind in an attempt to forget about it.

These are standard strategies that almost always lead to procrastination.

So what’s the solution?

Well, it’s fairly simple but it takes a bit of self-awareness and a slight alteration in how you use your imagination.

Instead of focusing your mind on the unpleasantness of doing the task go to the end of it, the point when you’ve completed it, and imagine how good you’re going to feel having finished it.

Then, from there, use this anticipatory pleasure as ‘fuel’ to get the task done quickly and efficiently.

When people feel a lack of motivation to do a task, they almost never do this. They’re usually too busy imagining how difficult and unpleasant the act of doing the task will be.

They almost never anticipate the pleasure of finishing the task and then use this pleasant feeling as inspiration to get the task done.

This is what I refer to as ‘Bringing the Feeling Forward’.

If you have a task that you need to do – but don’t feel motivated to do it – then one of the simplest and most effects ways to motivate yourself is to quickly imagine how good you’ll feel when you’ve completed it, step into this piece if imagination, feel the good feelings, and then bring them back to the present.

Then, as you start to work towards that end outcome, occasionally remind yourself of the end picture.

That way, even though you perhaps don’t like the task, at least you’ll be moving towards something pleasurable.

You’ll feel a sense of motivation, and a desire to the complete the task, because you know there’s a good feeling at the end – we are naturally programmed to move towards pleasure so it kicks in our innate motivational circuits.

A Quick Example:

To make this clearer, consider this scenario:

Say, for example, you’re on a training day at work and the subject matter is dull as dishwater.

You walk in feeling like you want to be anywhere else but the training room. You’re 100% not motivated to engage with the trainer and learn the subject.

Then the trainer announces that, if you work hard and fast, you’ll be able to leave 2 hours early.

All of sudden you feel a sense of motivation, urgency and enthusiasm to get the work done because you know there’s something good at the end of it.

Because the trainer has create a ‘blue sky’ for you to move towards, it kicks in your motivational circuits and creates desire and momentum.

You may still dislike the subject matter but you’re now motivated to get it done because the trainer connected you with a pleasurable end outcome and brought the feeling of it forward in time.

This is the power of the ‘Bring the Feeling Forward’ Strategy. It can get you to do tasks you – initially – don’t want to do.

Here are a couple more applications of the strategy:

→ Application 1 – Exercise:

To motivate yourself to do exercise, imagine the endorphin rush you’ll get when you finish. Step into it and then reflect on the fact that every part of the exercise – no matter how unpleasant it may feel at the time – is taking you closer to that amazing feeling.

→ Application 2 – Cleaning (a task I hate):

Before starting to clean, spend a few moments visualising the room looking fresh and clean. See, hear, feel, and smell the pure cleanliness. Perhaps even imagine how it helps you think more clearly too because everything is organised. Then bring that feeling forward in time into the cleaning process.

Perhaps these examples resonate with you perhaps they don’t. It doesn’t really matter because you can use the ‘Bring the Feeling Forward’ strategy with any task you dislike – bit still have to do.

To pull everything together, here’s a quick synopsis of this self-motivation strategy:

→ 1. Pick a task that you have to do – but don’t feel like doing:

Choose something in your life that you have to do but when you think about doing it, you struggle to get motivated.

→ 2. Reflect on it in your imagination:

Think about doing this task and notice the pictures, sounds and feelings you get.

→ 3. Project into the future – in your imagination:

Now zip into the future to the point of completion – image the task being finished. Step into this future vision and feel the wonderful feelings of accomplishment. Enjoy these feelings for a while.

→ 4. Bring the feelings back to the present:

Bring those feelings back to the present day and then imagine doing the task in the knowledge that each step takes you closer to this good feeling.

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Closing Comments


There we have it.

If you can delegate then great, delegate.

But even if passing a task off to someone else is an option, I’d be willing to wager that you’ll still have a list of things you have to do but don’t want to, so you’ll need to learn a self-motivation strategy.

And that’s where bringing the feeling forward can be extremely useful.

I use it regularly and find it to be a life – and time – saver.

All the best,

Steven Burns

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