post written by: Marc Chernoff
How To Make Difficult Tasks Easier
This guest post was written by Karl Staib, author of Work Happy Now.
“Why am I insisting on procrastinating right now?” You all know what I’m talking about – that dreaded task that makes you ignore reality. It’s just sitting on your ‘to do’ list, ready to be tackled, but for some reason you keep checking your email. You just checked it five minutes ago, but maybe now there is an important email needing your attention.
Does this sound like somebody you know?
This is a common theme throughout many of our work days. We keep avoiding a difficult task because we are afraid to face it.
The questions of…
- What if I **** it up?
- What if I can’t do it by myself?
- What if I look stupid?
These debilitating questions can kill the motivation of even the strongest person, especially if these questions are left to fester. Once the wound is open, it’s hard to ignore it. Worry creeps in and it won’t let go.
Here are some of the concepts that I use to overcome my dread of a difficult task:
When you let your molehill turn into a mountain, the fear only builds and builds until you face it. That means you just have to jump in and get started. Once you start, you will begin to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Breaking down the task in parts will make it seem possible and actually enjoyable to do.
Separate the hard parts from the easy parts
Every task has its hard and easy parts. When you can separate the two, you can pick the type of work that fits your mood. Let’s say you work best in the late morning. You can then choose to pick the hardest tasks for this time period. If your energy dips in the late afternoon, you can choose to do work that is easier and uses less brain power during this time.
Enjoy the emotional challenge
Difficult tasks are usually avoided because of the suffering that they may cause. You worry about how you might become frustrated, angry or sad. Acknowledging these feelings is a great first step in building your emotional strength.
A friend of mine told me that before she had kids, her patience was minimal. After having two kids, she has the patience of a saint. I’m always impressed with her calm demeanor when she is telling her kids to stop screaming while she is talking on the phone. She has this calm quality of a Zen master.
You can use a difficult challenge to become more patient, more relaxed, or just quicker to release frustration when you engage your emotional development at work.
Figure out how this task will help the future you
When I was an assistant teacher, I dreaded the days when the head teacher was sick. It meant that I had to be the disciplinarian, time keeper, leader and so many other roles. It was easier to just follow the head teacher’s lead. I kept thinking these thoughts until I realized that I could use the experience to my advantage, because I wanted to be a teacher some day (little did I know I would be a teacher of work happiness).
I embraced the work as a way to become stronger instead of trying to avoid it.
Chip away everyday
You may look back at the end of the busy day and realize you didn’t get half of what you wanted accomplished. This usually happens because you did the light work instead of the heavy lifting. The way to feel fulfilled at the end of the day is to tackle the difficult tasks early so you can ease up when your energy wanes.
You’ll be impressed at the end of the week at how much you really were able to accomplish.
Find someone that wants to help you
A difficult task is dreaded because of all the work that lies before you. You feel like you can’t do it all by yourself. And you shouldn’t. That’s why finding someone to help you is very important to your emotional health. This person can be a creative sounding board as well as someone you can complain to when things don’t go quite right.
Find someone who doesn’t have all the same strengths as you. Try to match yourself with a person who can make up for your weaknesses and complement your strengths.
Ask yourself, “Am I the right person for the job?”
There are some jobs that just don’t fit with your strengths. Heck, you can’t be good at everything. When working for someone, you may not have the power to turn down a project. That is why #6 is even more important. Adding people to your team will allow you to work on tasks that are aligned with your strengths.
If you are repeatedly given work that you don’t like, then you may need to make a change. You have an obligation to yourself to do work that makes you feel successful.
Share your insights with others
The bonus to working on a difficult task is the knowledge that you will gain. It’s a great feeling to have this knowledge, but you need to take it to the next level. Try sharing it with others via blog, newsletter, over the phone or in person. You’ll love the reaction from your audience.
And that’s the best part of teaching. Teachers learn as much as their students.
Karl Staib writes about the importance of happiness in the workplace and how to achieve it on his blog, Work Happy Now.
Photo by: Paulgi