So many worlds, so much to do,
so little [truly getting] done.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson
Are you like me?
… Motivated to make progress in your life, filled with lofty goals, energized by where you want to see your life?
… but you find yourself spending waaay too much time doing the have-to’s and not the want-to’s?
You know what I am talking about. The have-to tasks demand much of our time, but return very little in the way of satisfaction, energy, or motivation. You just gotta grind them out and get-r-done.
Is there a way to transform the “have to” tasks into “want to” tasks?
The Have-to Tasks: Dragging your feet
If you look closely at the “have-to” items on your to-do list, you might notice certain items that don’t get done very quickly.
- At best, you put them off because they aren’t very energizing (think: doing the laundry, running errands).
- At worst, we get a knot in our stomachs thinking about them (think: making “that” call).
How can we increase our motivation to do these “have to” tasks?
Good news! Scientific research has verified an effective technique that, in many situations, work incredibly well at giving you a greater desire to do a have-to task.
The Transforming Power of Impact
There are many things that you “have to” do that in and of themselves seem insignificant and unimportant. But, that’s because you are only looking at it in its immediate context.
When you look beyond the specific task being done in that moment to what it will accomplish in your life or the lives of others, you will tap into a very powerful motivator.
A Real-Life Story About the Power of Impact
Here’s an example of how this works.
I worked on the Google Ads advertising campaign for a very small business. If you looked at the individual tasks being done every day, it wasn’t very energizing.
- Crunching numbers on a spreadsheet
- Writing (and rewriting) short ads that had to fit in a small space
- Fiddling with how to say things on a landing page
- Reviewing loooong lists of keywords
Yawn! Maybe I should check my email again…
Honestly, it was not a “want to” but a “have to” mundane task.
It was my J-O-B.
Taking a Fresh Look
Then I took a different approach. I tried to see what I was doing as part of a larger picture… how it was impacting my client.
My mundane efforts:
→ Led to more phone calls for their family owned business.
→ Phone calls were their lifeblood, helping them grow their business.
I imagined them at thanksgiving giving thanks for a “good” year:
- They could pay their bills without robbing Peter to pay Paul.
- They were able to hire additional help, which they desperately needed.
- They were even able to afford a family vacation for the first time in years.
All because of my mundane work.
When I looked at it that way, I was far more motivated and willing to do the grunt work. I knew my labors were helping them.
What Research Reveals About the Power of Impact
This change in perspective isn’t just an isolated event I experienced with this one client. Professor Adam Grant’s research has verified that seeing the bigger picture of what your efforts are accomplishing to help others can be highly motivating… and even lead to better results.
In a famous series of studies, Professor Grant used a call center to experiment with this “bigger picture” approach.
At the call center, paid fundraisers cold called a list of potential donors to a university. Cold calling (as many of you know) is one of the more dreaded tasks one can have on their “have to” list. Fundraising callers face constant rejection from annoyed or irritated call recipients.
Who wants to receive a call from a telemarketer? Who wants to make these kind of calls (day in and day out)?
Not surprisingly, staff turnover was high and morale was low.
A 5-Minute Transformation
In an effort to see if he could motivate call center fundraisers to stay on the job longer (a quantifiable result), Grant brought in a few scholarship students (the end beneficiary of the money raised by the fundraisers).
These students met with the callers for a very short 5-minute meeting. What can you accomplish in just 5 minutes?
In this case… a transformation.
The callers got to hear about their classes and experiences at the university. They could see and hear right in front of them young men and women recounting how the opportunity to attend the university was impacting their lives for good… both now and in the future.
The result of that meeting was astonishing.
Callers who had met the scholarship students (compared to the group that did not):
- Spent twice as long on the phone
- Were more effective, raising an average of 171 percent more money.
What was going on? Those who attending the meeting suddenly had a greater sense of purpose in what they were doing.
Plus, they were more willing to put up with the negative aspects of the job because they knew others were counting on their efforts to help raise money for a worthy cause.
[tweetthis]Recognizing the impact your efforts are/will have on others can transform a have-to task into an energizing want-to task.[/tweetthis]
3 Steps to Transforming Have-to’s into Want-to’s
Here’s how you make this technique work for you.
- Review your to-do list and identify those “have-to” tasks on your list for the current month.
- Evaluate and compile those tasks that have the potential to impact lives (yours or others). Ask yourself, “How can this task help someone now or in the future?”
- Visualize successful results for those tasks with impact potential. Can you imagine the beneficiary of your efforts smiling, rejoicing, or just being grateful for the end result of your efforts?
How It Looks in Real Life
For me, when I worked on advertising for my clients, I imagined them recounting to me and others about their good year.
I could hear them expressing gratitude to me not only for the leads they received but also how they could count on them every week.
I could see them bragging about me to others for what I had done for them.
I could hear them saying to me, “We are so grateful you have come into our lives. Without your labors, I am not sure where we would be today.”
This is not imagined fantasy. If you were to ask them to think about the situation, I am sure they would express gratitude, both for the results but also for the effort made on their behalf.
What to do next
Are there tasks on your weekly “have-to” list that could be transformed into a “get-to” task because your life, or the life of others will be better off in the future?
Put your thinking cap on. What “have to” tasks on your list could benefit from a bigger picture perspective?
Tell everyone in the comments section below one “have-to” you hope to transform into a “want-to.” Join the conversation!
Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.