How do you get things done when you don’t feel like it? The way people respond to this common problem is what differentiates the outliers from the average. This scenario presents a unique opportunity to fast-track your growth and materialize your goals.
Only you can master your mind, which is what it takes to live a bold life filled with accomplishments most people consider beyond their capability.David Goggins
Some days your alarm goes off in the morning and you have an exciting event to look forward to. You feel motivated to jump out of bed and refrain from hitting the snooze button. You can’t guarantee you will wake up feeling this way every day.
Many days you will wake up groggy, moody, and unmotivated. Maybe you have a daunting task you don’t want to complete and you stay in bed as long as possible to avoid getting started.
Feelings are unpredictable and temporary. Operating solely based on how you feel in any given moment will not lead to a successful or fulfilled life.
If you’re stuck in a rut and unable to break out of a dysfunctional job, routine, or relationship the truth is… you may never feel like making the uncomfortable decisions it takes to change. Sometimes it requires a force of nature to push someone out of the nest. Some people don’t change unless it’s forced upon them through a crisis such as a health scare, an unexpected breakup, or a job loss.
The good news is, you don’t need to hit rock bottom to make meaningful change in your life. You can engage in healthy habits that allow you to do the things you need to do no matter how you’re feeling in that moment.
How do you get things done when you don’t feel like it?
You no longer have to be owned by your fluctuating emotional state. The more consistent you are with regulating your behaviours and working through challenging emotions, the easier it will become to change your life.
It’s easier to push a boulder that’s already rolling. That’s why the hardest first push happens when you’re in a rut.
If you’re feeling stuck, you’re too comfortable. It’s possible you habitually sleep in, eat poorly, skip exercising, or complain about the job you hate. You can reclaim the course of your life by changing your habits.
We’ve established the following:
- You’re never going to feel like doing hard things.
- Feelings are fleeting and unpredictable.
- You don’t need to hit rock bottom to get out of a rut.
- Healthy habits allow you to do things when you don’t feel like it.
There are five simple techniques that you can use to do things when you don’t feel like it and get out of a rut.
1. Write down your values.
What type of person do you want to be? Our actions shape our character and influence what other people expect from us. A great example of this is “the flakey friend” scenario. Many friends are reliable, consistent, and punctual. If you make a plan with a reliable friend you feel confident in their ability to follow through.
Then there’s “the flakey friend”. When you make a plan with the flakey friend you may consider making a back-up plan in the likely scenario where they bail. Many of us have been the flakey friend ourselves. We make a plan and then the day or time rolls around and we don’t feel like it. In the long-run, being an unreliable friend can lead to lost relationships and social isolation.
Writing down your values helps you demonstrate the person you want to be and act in alignment with these principles. If you want to be reliable, dependable, and build strong friendships you will act accordingly. Here are examples of common values:
- Meaningful work
Prioritize your values to make decisions even easier. If your top three priorities are your family, your job, and your physical health, it’s possible that building strong friendships lands somewhere lower on the list.
It’s okay to say no to a commitment if it conflicts with higher priority items that week. This tactic helps you prioritize plans, narrow commitments, and show you why your to-do list is important.
2. List your non-negotiables.
Once you have established your core values you can break down each value into more specific non-negotiables. Non-negotiables are conditions you will not compromise on. Non-negotiables are also known as boundaries and they outline what you will and will not accept based on your values.
For example, if one of your values is health and fitness and a healthy sleep schedule is a main pillar of your well-being, your non-negotiable could be something like:
If you’re at a dinner party and need to be up at 7AM the next morning you will create a boundary to leave by 9:30PM and ensure you fulfill your primary needs. When we compromise on our non-negotiables we may have feelings of regret, resentment, and anger that stem from abandoning our needs.
Sometimes we harm our future self by doing what our present self wants. Our present self wants to stay up late, sleep in, overspend, or procrastinate but our future self experiences the consequences. Setting non-negotiables allows us to respect our future self and work toward long-term goals despite momentary feelings.
3. Create rules that will improve your life.
Learning how to do things when you don’t feel like it is a practice of self-regulation. Parents help children regulate their behaviours and emotions by setting rules. Rules are actually a form of self-protection. Rules protect us from ourselves and from other people who want to cross our boundaries.
If you grew up in a home with excessively strict rules or no rules at all, you may struggle with implementing self-regulation. Honouring rules does not have to be unpleasant. Be gentle with yourself and recognize that the rules you outline were created to improve your well-being and freedom.
Here are examples of several rules that you could implement to do the things you don’t want to do and improve your life:
- Wake up at 7AM every week day.
- Start every morning with a big glass of water.
- Walk minimum 5KM every day.
- Meditate 10 minutes every day.
- Exercise at least three times a week.
- No screen time one-hour before bed.
- Never play on your phone when someone is talking to you.
Create rules that line up with your values to live a principle-centred life.
4. Break up tasks into bite-sized pieces.
Every evening I plan out my essential to-do list for the following day. In this process I discovered that the more specific and action-oriented you make your tasks, the easier it is to get started on them. The following example compares vague tasks to a specific action-oriented tasks.
|Vague Task||Specific Action-oriented Task|
|Meditate||Meditate for 15 minutes with Guided Morning Meditation on Insight Timer|
|Exercise||Go for a 40-minute run at 3PM|
|Drink water||Drink 3 litres of water per day|
|Meeting prep||Create action plan and talking points for 2PM meeting|
|Write||Write 500 words of “How to do things when you don’t feel like it” blog post|
|Eat healthy||Prep and freeze four Nourish Bowls for the week|
|Apply for jobs||Finalize resume and apply for five jobs by end of day|
When you read a vague task like “finish business strategy” it feels overwhelming and may lead to procrastination. If you break the task up into bite-sized pieces like “Edit slide 5-10”, “Send strategy to marketing for review”, and “Export to PDF and send to boss”, you can check off individual steps and feel the satisfaction of progress.
5. Apply the five-second rule.
The famous five-second rule was discovered by Mel Robbins. Robbins was experiencing a major rut, a failed business, bankruptcy, and a marriage on the rocks when she starting applying the five-second rule.
The five-second rule is a simple yet effective technique that involves counting down from five, getting up, and doing the thing you know you have to do that you don’t feel like doing.
The first time Mel Robbins used this exercise was to get out of bed in the morning. Her alarm went off and instead of laying in bed making excuses about whether or not she should get up, she counted down from five and jumped out of bed. No more excuses.
She promoted this technique to deal with more complex or difficult tasks.
Need to make an intimidating work call? 5…4…3…2…1
Have to instigate a hard conversation? 5…4…3…2…1
Procrastinating on starting a big creative project? 5…4…3…2…1
Mel Robbins reiterates that you’re never going to feel like doing hard things and no one is coming to save you. It’s up to you to regulate yourself, create rules, and follow through with your rules so that you continue to show up for yourself and make your goals happen.
It’s not enough to know. It’s time to take action.
It’s not enough to know. As people living in the information age we love to collect books, download podcasts, and feel temporarily motivated by self-help quotes. We have all the information we need and it’s time to start applying this information to our lives.
If you’re researching how to do things when you don’t feel like it, you know what you need to be doing. The hard work starts when you stop collecting information, count down, and start putting in the work step-by-step to actualize what you know is possible.
What’s the first step? Get up and start that thing you’re avoiding.