There they sit. Undone. Gathering dust. Accusing. Seven jobs that have been on my to-do list now for about 10 weeks: two unpredictable phone calls, one tricky email, two challenging articles, one long report, one feared meeting. They have all been near the top a few times, before being safely relegated to the familiar territory of “tomorrow” once again.

I could get some of them off my list in about 30 minutes. I could get rid of all of them in about 10 hours. Yet there they still sit, heaping guilt and failure upon me. I dread doing them. I dread seeing them undone. The only happy one here is my old “friend,” procrastination. As I settle down to start, he gently settles on my shoulder with his winning arguments: “You’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow….You work best under pressure…Time pressure makes you more creative…It isn’t that important…Maybe you should check your email first.”  

So, I’m thankful to Gretchen Rubin, of Happiness Project fame, for passing along Six tips for forcing yourself to tackle a dreaded task:

1. Do it first thing in the morning. One of my Twelve Commandments is “Do it now.” No delay is the best way.


2. If you find yourself putting off a task that you try to do several times a week, do it EVERY day. If you’re finding it hard to go for a walk four times a week, try going every day.


3. Have someone keep you company. Studies show that we enjoy practically every activity more when we’re with other people.


4. Make preparations, assemble the proper tools. Clean off your desk, get the phone number, find the file. I often find that when I’m dreading a task, it helps me to feel prepared. 


5. Commit. We’ve all heard the advice to write down your goals. On the top of a piece of paper, write, “By the end of today, April 7, I will have _____.”


6. Remind yourself that finishing a dreaded task is tremendously energizing. Studies show that hitting a goal releases chemicals in the brain that give you pleasure. If you’re feeling blue, although the last thing you feel like doing is something you don’t feel like doing, push yourself. You’ll get a big lift from it.

Read the whole article here. No, don’t. Do the dreaded job first.

Picture: 2009 © Marek Uliasz. Image from

  • Scott@fb

    Good stuff. I don’t want to blanket endorse Tony Robbins, but his OPA/RPM system (Outcome-Purpose-Action) is extremely helpful to get beyond to-do lists. I don’t think it’s even a product any more, but you can find MP3s of the old cassette tapes online. This is one of the few genuinely useful things Robbins has come up with.