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Rephrasing the original question -

I want, and expect, to able to be effective and diligent on a task (arbitrary task) because I decide to, period. To be brief - presumably, there is some value and reason to do the task in the first place.

The question asked here could be "how do I do that?" but I want to add more to it.

If the task takes any more than a short term effort, once the task has begun, how do I (or others) avoid questioning the task itself -- negotiating with one's self about whether it is interesting, important or relevant? How does one avoid procrastination when the task has gone on so long that making deliberate effort to recall the purpose and value of the task is less motivating than before? If the task is for a personal project, and there is no one to answer to, how do you keep it from going on the back burner?

For the sake of isolating the question to the core issue, imagine a very high net worth individual, or a retired person or any other scenario where the motivation is intrinsic (i.e., not tied to survival, charity, vanity or to something in between).

For those who want specifics to address, here are a few real world examples for me.

1) (re: tedious) Many years ago as an eager new graduate in engineering I was hired on to a team that was implementing a project which was already way behind schedule. As the low man on the team I was given many tedious tasks and I stayed in that mode for about 18 months. The importance of doing well on this job (and most since) was extremely clear to me.

Had the form of motivation I am asking about been possible for me I might have been able to shave a month or more off the total effort.

2) (re: back burner) I have found the following very beneficial to me a) daily meditation b) formalized time management c) big picture management including GTD. In spite of the value of these it still is not uncommon for one of these slip off my radar for a while.

==== updates which were added to the previous version of the question =====

Update/Clarification: I am asking about transcending one's feeling about a task then just doing it and doing it well, quickly and effectively. Imagine a work situation in which you have been assigned a tedious task. Or, a personal project that requires an unavoidable but uninteresting step to achieve the end goal.

Maybe the question should be: Given that not all required tasks are personally interesting and valuable, how does one decouple those feelings then take on the task with some level of aggressiveness (I mean not dawdle) that may be required?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Rory Alsop Oct 15 '13 at 19:04

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I can't address any (perceived) shortcoming of the question without a comment to go with your down-vote. – Arbalest Oct 11 '13 at 15:54
This question is a bit rhetorical and it's difficult to figure out what you're actually asking. Are you asking "How do I do a job I don't want to do?" – Keith Loughnane Oct 14 '13 at 10:47
This question has been bothering me for several days. To start with, I don't think any question beginning "Isn't it reasonable to..." can be answered as anything other than opinion. I am not understanding what you are looking for. An edit to clarify whether you want help accomplishing your tasks that are not personally interesting, or to get other people to accomplish their tasks that you think they don't find interesting might be useful. – Dennis S. Oct 14 '13 at 14:03
The headline question is not really answerable (opinion mostly) and then the various questions in the body of your post are very unclear. If the final paragraph is the question you mean to ask, I'd suggest deleting all the rest as it just confuses the reader. – Rory Alsop Oct 15 '13 at 19:05
I attempted to delete this question but I cannot since it already has answers. For what it's worth, on this past rewording I had made various explicit forms of the question in bold font. If it is unclear then I would rather it be closed or deleted. Writing it out has given me some new perspective. – Arbalest Oct 16 '13 at 2:56

Humans are not robots. We know from research that motivation is a crucial factor when it comes to productivity. So if a task has no value whatsoever for a person, motivation will be zero --- you cannot expect productivity.

(This question may be off-topic for being too opinion based.)

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Not opinion based at all. Are you saying: If at work, a real job, your boss assigns you a task of no personal interest or value he/she should not expect productivity? – Arbalest Oct 11 '13 at 13:11
@Arbalest: That's why it's crucial to find a job you find motivation for, and as an employer, to hire people who are interested in their tasks. But generally speaking, as an employee you always want to do a good job, to promote your own career. So there's some personal value associated with "uninteresting" tasks as well. – Gruber Oct 11 '13 at 15:12
I agree with the importance of matching interests with a job. What I am asking might be best asked with this scenario: In a non-professional job a hypothetical tedious task is assigned to two hypothetical employees. They both do the task but one eventually does what is necessary while the other attacks the task with vigor. What I am looking for is the intrinsic "something" held by the latter employee that I think is the crux of personal productivity. I know that nugget may be the level of need for the job, upbringing, etc. But I think something more intrinsic is going on. – Arbalest Oct 11 '13 at 16:25

One of the things that this question addresses -- and why I think it is on topic, because an understanding of it helps group productivity -- is the notion of working styles, and by inference, personality styles.

For the purposes of this answer, let's assume that all things are equal in terms of motivation for a job. I may hate my job, but the motivation to eat and have a place to live far outweigh the discomfort of the job. Let's assume that there's a common baseline of productivity associated with getting a paycheck.

I am going to give you an experience from my own business. I am a huge fan of Myers-Briggs personality typing, which pegs me as an INTx. The NT piece of that, in broad strokes, affects my working style by allowing me to compartmentalize VERY well. I can have a supervisor or co-worker yell at me for something I screwed up, and within seconds, I'm over it and have switched to "What do we need to do to fix it?" or "How can I make it up to you?" I get over it and move on. That's one of the ways my brain is wired, and it's come in very handy in group settings. I'm the one that can cut through the bull, I usually take charge and telling everyone what they need to do in order to complete a task in the most efficient and effective way. And I often risk looking like a power-hungry jerk because of it.

On the other hand, my former business partner was INFJ. The NF piece of that finds it NECESSARY to build consensus and make sure everyone's OK with everything. A dispute over results could end in a week's worth of processing to figure out why it happens, how people felt about it, and how to make sure that they feel better and talk everything through so everyone understands each others feelings because of their actions and behaviors. She needs to be emotionally invested in her work; I do not. Her motivation is the emotional outcomes and mine is the tangible end result.

Needless to say, we made an excellent team, balanced each other well, and in the years we worked together, I learned a lot of techniques to take control of a situation in a way that didn't alienate people, and she learned to balance processing feelings with the need to move on and keep working.

People's motivation for why they do things is far too often based on something much more subtle and much less tangible than a work ethic. To expect the same from everyone, and expect the same level of commitment to a project regardless of the emotional attachment to it just won't work. There are too many variables in the human animal.

Over the years, I've found that a diverse group of people who include feel-ers and do-ers often find stability and a groove as a group when allowed to let their respective differences come out to contribute. The people emotionally invested in the project can knuckle down and get to work, and the ones who don't have as deep a connection can support and be involved in ways that they ARE comfortable.

Just as we all have different nuances of personality, we all have different nuances of working, learning, being in relationship. To expect the same level of aggressiveness from everyone is to lose sight of the other ways their working style may contribute to the project.

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