There is work you need to do now that you are not doing. You are avoiding this work because it isn’t the work you want to do. You procrastinate and busy yourself with the tasks and distractions you prefer, leaving the unpleasant but necessary work undone, lessening your results.
Motivation and inspiration are fleeting. Discipline is enduring, persistent. Your results are in large part determined by the few things that matter, not how much you enjoy the work (even though there is nothing wrong with enjoying the more difficult things you need to do). Success requires you to do the work you need to do, not the work you want to do.
The Discipline To Do the Highest Value Work First
Your task list might offer you a wide range of things to do, all of which are work of some kind or another. You might use your task list as a sort of shopping list, weighing your choices, and deciding on something you want to do now, leaving the hard work for some other time.
The decision you make might come from what you feel you are in the mood to do. You might also choose based on your present energy level—or lack thereof. There are lots of filters you might use to decide what to do, but there is one filter that should take precedence over all others, and that is “impact.”
Much of the time, the work that produces the most significant results is work you don’t want to do. The reason so few people generate the results of which they are capable is that they avoid doing what is difficult or unpleasant.
In sales, the work most salespeople refuse is prospecting, one of only two categories of the real work of sales (opportunity creation, and opportunity capture). For leaders, the work you avoid is often a decision you’re required to make or a difficult conversation with or about someone on your team. These tasks fall to you, even if you would prefer to do something else.
The impact of the work must drive the decision as to what you do with your time, not your desire to do it. Choose to do the highest impact tasks and activities first.
The Discipline to Do the Worst First
Most of us try to put off unpleasant tasks, saving them for some time later. We hope we’ll feel like doing them in the future. By putting things off, we risk the result that we need, and we allow the task to become bigger and more disagreeable than it is in reality. Most tasks are not nearly as vexatious as you believe, and your avoidance only increases that perception.
One of the ways you train yourself to do what you need to do without fail is to decide in advance to do the worst, most unpleasant thing first each day. There is research that suggests your willpower is strongest earlier in the day and wanes in the afternoon. By prioritizing the highest impact, most difficult or unpleasant task, you do the work necessary to reach your longterm goals.
By doing the worst thing first, you get it out of the way, and you strengthen your willpower and build your self-discipline. As your willpower grows, you become more comfortable with the things that were once uncomfortable.
The Power of Doing Hard Things
The difference between successful people and people who struggle is their willingness to do hard things on a daily basis. Those who produce the best results over time will themselves to do what they need to do, without hesitation or complaint. Their counterparts prefer doing the things they want to do, not the things they need to do.
Those who put up the best results do the hard things because they know that is what generates results, not because they enjoy it, and not because they find it pleasant. Those who succeed do the hard things because they are necessary. In a choice between comfort or effort, high achievers choose effort. Low achievers choose comfort, the things that require no discipline.
The More You Resist
The more you resist, the more you risk. The more you resist doing what you don’t want to do, the more you risk your results and your goals. More still, as you continue to procrastinate and avoid the things you don’t want to do, the more you burn in that pattern, making it easier for you to resist the work you need to do in the future.
How you learn to do the work you avoid is by training yourself to take action immediately, as soon as you feel resistance. Once you start doing what you need to do, it’s easy to keep going, as long as you don’t negotiate with yourself and lower your standard. The long term development and the discipline of good habits is how you set about accomplishing your goals.
If you want better results, greater success, and the achievement of your goals, start by improving your self-discipline and do the work you would typically avoid.