How to trick yourself into doing things


Most of the time, the hardest part of getting anything of importance done is to get started doing it at all. Working out? – Too exhausting, I don’t feel like it. Household chores? – I’ll do them tomorrow. Tax declaration? – I still have a week.

We procrastinate because the things we have to do appear to be insurmountable barriers, even though if you look at them objectively they would absolutely doable if we could get ourselves to start doing them. On a certain level we know that. We have been there. Often. And yet we still feel like putting things off.

But how do you begin? How do you make yourself do something you feel like putting off? Simple: Trick yourself into starting. How do you do that? By making very small commitments.

The other day I found myself putting off my work-out session for one reason or another (“what if something is on TV that’s never shown again?!”). Now rationally I know that lifting weights is one of my favorite things in the world. I also knew that if I did it I would enjoy it and feel a lot better afterwards. Yet I found it hard to build any motivation (and wanted to shoot myself in the foot for it – hey, I never claimed to be rational).

So here’s what I did: I only committed myself to do one set of one exercise (incline benchpress with dumbbells if you need to know) with a weight I knew I could handle. Only that, one lousy set and I would be allowed to put it down as a win.

Here’s what I ended up doing:

The reason why this works is because psychological it makes for a very small barrier to overcome. From afar in our mind all tasks can look huge, but when you get down to actually doing them, you often realize they aren’t as hard as you made them out to be. At that point usually momentum kicks in and before you know it, you’re done.

In my case, if I had told myself I’d work out for 45 minutes, I might not have started at all. But 5 minutes? Sure, let’s go. Those 5 minutes, that one set was all it took for my motivation to kick into autopilot. I only needed get started and then breezed right through the rest of the session.

I use this tactic for everything these days. Working out, apartment cleaning and other chores, writing job applications, almost everything can be tackled by making small commitments. Even this blogpost only came into being because I set myself the goal of writing down that one sentence that was floating around in my mind. One sentence turned into a paragraph, then into two, and before I knew it I had an entire post.

Are you struggling with motivation? What small commitment could you make? Share it in the comments.

Image source: flickr

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  1. 07 / Apr / 2013

    Übrigens: Ich würde mich über einen veganen Ernährungsplan fürs Fitness freuen. Ich kriege mein Körpergewicht aber einfach nicht über 15 Kilo… Wäre vielleicht ein Blogartikel wert? Würde mich sehr freuen!!

  2. 02 / Apr / 2013

    Kenne ich nur allzu gut! Danke für den schönen Artikel!
    Ich habe vorhin mit dem Ding die halbe Wohnung geputzt – als Teaser habe ich nur ein Fenster genommen:) Geiler Plan: Jetzt werde ich noch etwas Sport machen…

    • 03 / Apr / 2013
      Nick Schäferhoff

      Freut mich zu hören. Immer weiter so!

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