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Tell yourself you’ll spend five minutes working on it. This tricks your brain into thinking it’s not a big pain commitment. Once you’ve spent five minutes immersed in it you’ll be more willing to keep working.

Another trick is to break down the task into as many subtasks as you can, and when you’re feeling obstinate about working, just get one small subtask done. It also helps you visualize the finiteness of the total pain you have to endure.

There’s basically no way to be intrinsically motivated about tedious, pointless-feeling work, but you can connect it causally to the overall success of your project, which presumably you do care about.




This is the 'it's too cold outside' runner's trick for motivation.

If it's very cold outside, you tell yourself 'if it's too cold after 10 minutes I'll come back in'. But you never come back in. It's a matter of getting started, nothing else.

We are funny creatures.


That never works for me: after 10 minutes of running, I'd be thinking things like "Is my 10 minute rule really meaningful if I don't REALLY allow myself to quit after 10 minutes? I should quit today just to reinforce to myself that the rule is really meaningful.". Then, next time I run I have exactly the same thought and the whole concept falls apart.


Is that just because you don't actually like running?

I used to always want to quit running ASAP, and the feeling just didn't go away whether I ran for five minutes or an hour. Fast forward some years, I'd gotten into cycling, enjoyed my rides and was in a much better physical condition. I also had a heart rate tracker and was used to training with heart rate zones. So one time I went for a run, first time in years, and tried to stay in the <60% HR zone. I started at my normal speed, realized my heart is racing, slowed down and eventually realized that even at my slowest possible running speed I'm going over my heart rate target. I had to settle for alternating between very slow running and walking to keep the exercise level light. Of course, after a couple of "runs" i could keep up better, but still running at any kind of speed is hard exercise for me.

I gather this is a common phenomenon, and most beginners run way too fast.


But the rule is "if it's too cold after 10 minutes I'll come back in." If it truly was too cold out, then you really can quit and come in after 10 minutes. But it typically isn't actually too cold to be out there and you're just using it being cold as an excuse to not go.


Yes to that. There is this guy who once broke his leg climbing a big snowy mountain. He was alone and got to go back in the valley. But it could barely walk, was dehydrated and hungry. In very bad shape. What he did was looking ahead a couple hundred meters and telling himself "Ok, I just go there and stop". Once he got there, he was like "I might just go there and stop". He reaches the valley and got saved.


This sounds like Touching the Void (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0379557/).


I use this exact method to get myself to workout when I am not feeling like it. I tell myself I will slack off and not really go hard today. ie. It's better to do a workout at 75% effort than skip it altogether. Inevitably, once I start I find myself working out as I normally would.


My method is if I show up at the gym I already succeeded and pat my own shoulder that I'm great. The workout itself seems easy compared to get up in the morning and drive there...


Good trick.

I keep a separate list of "dumb little things" to fix that don't require much thought or effort. I'll grab something from that list, which makes it easy to start; then once the editor is open I start getting into the zone.




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