external motivation on unpleasant tasks

I’m usually good at being intrinsically motivated. Once in a while I hit a scenario where I know I have to do something and don’t really want to.  I was talking to a co-worker about how I handle this and realized I use a similar technique for the rare occasions this happens at work and when working on the book.

I’ve only needed to do this a handful of times over the years. But it has really helped when I did need to.

Step 1 – Pick someone technical that I respect a lot

For work, I picked a co-worker that I work very closely with. For the book, I obviously picked my co-author Scott. It would have worked with our tech editor Ernest as well though.

The key is to pick someone who I’ll be embarrassed to tell that I didn’t do what I said I was going to do. It can’t be a manager. Because the point isn’t really to be accountable to the person. It’s to feel accountable. (I’ve only done this in advance of the due date so I don’t procrastinate. IF I waited for the deadline, I’d actually be accountable, but then I’d be more stressed.)

Step 2 – Figure out a way to feel accountable

The next step is to figure out a way that I would be embarrassed if I didn’t do the work. Sometimes this is just mentioning it. When I was really stressed, I asked my co-worker to send me an email reminding me to work on it. That way I could look at the email as a reminder. I haven’t needed this in a while. Lately, I’ve been able to just imagine it.

Step 3 – Do the work

The whole point is to do the work before it is due so it is off my plate. And strangely this approach has worked for me.

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