5 Ways to Deal With a Task That Scares You
There are things that you want to do. There are things you want to do. Sometimes it's the same thing. But in this post, we'll talk about situations where it's not.
Thinking about the task can be enjoyable or painful. That's because the brain always builds some kind of future scenario. You rejoice, imagining how you will experience the feeling of flow (when you take on a third-party project at the weekend, you are interested, and time flies by unnoticed). And you suffer if this scenario describes something monotonous or unsuccessful. It's bad when the forecast is so painful that you can't even think about your actions properly. For example: "I have to deal with taxes... When do I have to do it? [still in mental anguish] Can I think of something else, please?”
You start doing something, but you don't finish it, and the price of completing the task increases. Your brain builds a model based on past behavior. If you fail to complete a task, your brain predicts that you will fail again. So thinking about the problem is emotionally exhausting. Which increases the likelihood of failure, it is a vicious circle on repeat.
Fortunately, these predictions are often wrong. All you must do is change the patterns of thinking. Here are a few strategies that I find useful to fool myself and do the right thing.
Break a big target into small tasks
You predict failure when you don't know what to do. Never, ever, ever include a frightening task in your to-do list. Even "deal with taxes" is too vague. How do you do that? Where do I start? And more importantly, what is the smallest step you can take today to get to the goal? Break the big idea into small pieces. Tiny tasks that can be done with minimal suffering and keeping time on task is much easier. That's how we create a good forecast model where we manage to accomplish tasks, even if they are very small.
- Rename. Don't do something that sounds terrible. Just change the wording of the to-do list. Don't "do taxes." Write "collect financial documents" instead. It's the smallest step. Of course, you can do it right now. That way, you can trick yourself into turning the task into something very simple. And even if it doesn't work, now, thinking about the task, you will form another forecast.
- Visualize. Just fantasize. What will you do when you pay your taxes? Direct the movie in your mind. Some parts of it will cause a neutral reaction. Some will be negative ("Ugh, you have to collect a lot of documents... boring!"). You give yourself positive data to make the task less complicated. You demystify it. Athletes who visualize their performance achieve better results. Become a performance athlete.
Talk to the people around you
Communicating with other people has advantages:
- They may have good ideas about it.
- The conversation will make you more responsible, especially if you tell your interlocutor that you will complete this task.
- The conversation encourages reflection, and a more specific, detailed task is easier to complete.
Find another way
Sometimes I get a frightening task that can be performed manually or with a script. Manually faster. But if I give in to prostration, I force myself to write a script, which even gives me pleasure, because it is a new formulation of the problem.
"Amplifiers" of will power
I do not think it's possible to "increase" willpower forever, but some kind of temporary push can be provided. We need to find out what makes you feel better and use it as a tool.
- Music. I have a playlist that I play when I need energy. These are songs that I love and don't listen to often. I think that the power of a song decreases if I listen to it all the time.
- Training. I often take on scary tasks after training. It works for two reasons. First, you feel great thanks to the endorphins, you are more tolerant of pain. Secondly, because you have just coped with the "challenge", your consciousness will think that you can cope with one more. I convince myself that the task is just an exercise to be done.
- Coffee. The right amount of coffee makes me feel better. If you drink too much, I get nervous. I need a small amount, about 50 mg.
Experiment and find the right one for you.