5 Tips to Transform Your ‘Don’t Wanna’ Tasks into ‘Done!’

Let’s face it – we all have tasks that we have to do that we just don’t wanna do! Maybe it’s a have to do task that we know will benefit us in the long run, but we keep putting it off, thinking we’ll get to it sooner or later. Or maybe we are finding ourselves too tired, too overwhelmed, or too busy to carve out time to do a task that’s too tedious in the first place. Whatever the reasons, getting over the don’t wanna do this hurdles to reach the checked it off my to do list finish line, is a win! Thankfully, there are skills that can be practiced to help you along the journey. My clients often hear me say that I genuinely try to practice what I teach. So, here are a few tried and true tools for tasks in the just don’t wanna do this column to help you get over the hurdles and get it done!

  • Break down tasks into bite sized chunks: I’m sure you’ve heard this advice before. Certainly, taking a big don’t wanna do task and breaking it down into smaller pieces can make it seem like less of a chore. The key with this tool is to find the sweet spot between breaking down the task into small enough steps that the task seems more approachable but not so many small pieces that the task seems never-ending. Creativity can help. Play around with some options to see what feels more manageable. It can even be helpful to group particular steps together – even perhaps changing the natural order sequence – that can make the task easier.
  • Identify your finish line prize: Sometimes we try to convince ourselves to just muster up a ‘get to it’ attitude. That can work. The problem is that it may not be very sustainable or replicable. One tool that can help is to decide prior to starting the task how you are going to reward yourself for getting the task done. Rewards – even self-implemented – can be a powerful motivator. Who doesn’t like prizes?!? The prize doesn’t have to be big or expensive to be a motivator – my clients know I’m a huge fan of peanut butter cups – it just has to work!
  • Use the well-tested Pomodoro Technique: Don’t be surprised with this one if you are already using a very similar strategy. In case this technique is unfamiliar, I’ll briefly summarize. It involves 1) picking a task, and 2) setting a timer (this one is actually pretty cool), but any timer will work. TIP: You’ll sometimes see Pomodoro Technique guides that say set the time for 25 minutes. Generally, I advise setting the timer for a small amount of time knowing that “small” is relative. But your personalized sense of a small amount of time is where the magic happens with this tool. If you think you can stick to the task for 10 minutes then start there, if you think you could swing 30 minutes then go for it. Next, 3) work on just the one task until the time is up, and then 4) take a short break. TIP: Again “short” is relative. The key is that you want the break to be long enough to feel like a break but not so long that you don’t want to get back to the task – whether that’s right away or in the future. Finally, 5) if needed, or if you are up for it, go through a few more cycles of working until time is up and taking a break until either the task is done or it’s time to take a break from the task for a while. The Pomodoro Technique is actually often touted as a time management strategy. So why discuss it here as a task completion tool. Because sometimes we don’t want to do something when it just seems like, you know, “I just can’t even!” I find though, that often, “I can…if it’s just for a little bit.”

You can do the thing…even while feeling like you don’t wanna do the thing! The two are not mutually exclusive.

  • Remember the big picture: This is a bit of a ‘mind over mood’ strategy. When the ‘don’t wanna’ feeling seems to keep you from jumping the hurdle of tackling that task, here are a few tools might help. Try identifying personalized and driving reasons why you are doing the task in the first place. Fitting the task into the larger picture of something personally important can help to move you along your journey of completing the task. Again, this doesn’t have to be an awe-inspiring reason. For instance, you may not be particularly motivated to complete the task of doing the laundry, you may be motivated to have an enjoyable and peaceful living space that is organized and relatively clutter free. Completing a values clarification exercise can help you identify your whys. You can also try out a tool called refocusing. What we pay attention to has a powerful influence over our mood and our thoughts. To use this tool, try purposefully paying attention to a helpful aspect of completing the task. Visualize yourself having completed the task or the benefits that you’re looking forward to once the task is completed. Sometimes, even a ‘phew it’s done’ kinda feeling of accomplishment can be enough to get us moving along. Other times it may be knowing that you are now free to move on to more enjoyable or rewarding activities.
  • Aim for excellence not perfection: Perhaps, this is familiar advice. The idea here is to get. it. done! The experience of ‘don’t wanna’ feelings can stop us in our tracks – especially if our tendency is towards perfectionism. In many cases, however, if we can distinguish between what needs more of our attention or knowledge in a task and what requires less intensity, we can transform a ‘don’t wanna’ task into an ‘at least it’s done now task.’

Try to stay focused on one task at a time. There was a time when multitasking was praised as a superpower! It was like the more tasks that you were able to juggle, the ‘better’ you were at life! Nowadays, multitasking is thought to contribute to decreased productivity and increased stress. Instead, try some of the strategies above to help move through your to do task lists and to move some of your don’t wanna tasks into the ‘done’ column.

The guidance of a professional can be invaluable. Should you feel the need, be sure to reach out to an expert who will work with you to support you along your journey.


J. Oni Dakhari, PsyD is a psychologist, language and travel enthusiast, and gets really excited about learning.

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