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There are some daily tasks I am too lazy to do: simple cleaning, washing dishes, etc. When I have no other pressing tasks, I end up not doing these simple tasks. However, when I have something coming up; i.e. an exam to study for, I tend to avoid starting to study by doing these simple tasks instead. I think "I can't focus on studying if my room is messy," or something along those lines. It there a way to manipulate this type of thinking to trick myself into doing simple day-to-day tasks without having more substantial tasks to complete?

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5 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I will block out time on my calendar each day for similar tasks. For example, in my practice I am not the best at returning calls, so I block out time day for making and returning calls. If you accept that everything on your calendar is an promise, either to yourself or someone else (in the case of an appointment), you might find it much easier to know out these tasks.

Along these lines, the technique detailed here (a modified version of the Pomodoro method) could help.

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The answer provided by @aszekely is perfect. I will just add some tips I derived form my own experience of fighting (successful) with procrastination - and daily routine in particular.

Try ... buying a plant (flower)!

As far as I can judge from your question, what you want is to try to produce the same psychological effect for completing small tasks as if you were under pressure, whilst actually you are not. For many people it is difficult to keep promises when they promised something just to themselves. People need to have somebody or something they can take care of. But you obviously live alone, so if you don't want to make yourself happy or just feel comfortable with how things are now, then you should try to create better surroundings for other living things (in this case, a flower). Of course this sounds crazy, but it somehow helps.

Another reason is that nice flowers and unwashed dishes just don't match. If you are esthetic, you just couldn't bear this. A beautiful flower will keep you alert and make you do tasks that you are normally just lazy to do. This is a sort of psychological stimulation, when, instead of saying "I can't buy myself a flower, how ironic it will look in my messy room!" you just go and buy it, and think "It looks ironic that I bought myself a flower when my room is so messy! I need to clean it!".

Note that in the previous idea, a plant can be interchanged with whatever you like : posters on walls, books, soap, new clothes ("How ironic it is that I buy myself new clothes while the older ones are not washed!") etc. Just think of what thing you adore and buy it! So basically try to figure out what you like the most and use this as a motivation. This works better than the idea "I will buy myself this thing if I clean my room".

To sum both points up: "I can't make anybody happy if I am not even able to take care of a plant". Which implies you need to clean your room.

Just remember that there is always a "more substantial task", but sometimes people forget about it.

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Build it into a habit. Set up a cue for it, e.g. Friday night. Set a reward, e.g. an episode of your favorite show, a favorite game, or a special dessert. Then do the task upon the cue and end it with the reward. In time, you'll automatically do it.

Note that the reward is critical to this, but it doesn't have to be a major one. Febreze is sold almost entirely based on rewarding housewives for cleaning up the house, and that's also what things like the foam in toothpastes and shampoos are added for.

I find that a good time to do tedious work like laundry is at the end of the day, when you're too tired to think but want to do something. I found it very frustrating to use up a lot of my alert, active time like Sunday/Saturday mornings.

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For me listening audiobooks works best.

On normal free time I can't do that, because I'm usually falling asleep and losing track of plot. On the other hand, I'm also losing track of the plot when I'm doing creative work. But time when I'm washing dishes, cleaning a room, or preparing meals is perfect for listening to an audiobook. If the book is interesting, the trick works like this: "This book is so cool that I need to listen to it a bit more. So I will wash dishes and clean a room so as not fall asleep like I would when I would just sit on couch."

The problem is that book should be cool enough to gain my attention but not so cool that I would drop everything from my schedule to just listen it more :)

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I listen to loads of interesting podcasts when I can't avoid doing slave work. That way my main activity is listening to the podcast, and I'm just doing some unpleasant stuff at the same time.

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