Academia,  Lifestyle,  mental health,  study tips,  wellness

How to Force Yourself to Do Stuff You Don’t Want to Do

Are you tired of doing work? Do you procrastinate even the simplest of things? Are you behind in your schoolwork? Are you filled with a constant need to take a mf-ing nap? If you responded yes to any of these questions, then you may be entitled to compensation. And by compensation, I mean this blog post. Also, quick note: you should probably talk to your guidance counselor/therapist/doctor because you may be experiencing anxiety and/or depression. 

Life is tough, and as I am reminded every single day, you still have to do stuff you don’t want to do! And I hate it. The time between getting into college and actually going is what my English teacher, Ms. T, calls “liminal,” and she’s 100% correct. In this time when life feels unstable, and when I’m on the cusp of a very big change, the last thing on my mind is turning in an essay I don’t want to write. Here are some tricks I use to start doing the stuff I don’t want to do. 

Set a Daily Highlight

This is a productivity principle taken from Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. The idea is to have one goal for a day – one thing that you must get done – everything else is optional, a bonus. This is great because when you check that one item off your to-do list, you can say your day was “productive.” Here’s the trick though, your daily highlight shouldn’t be a massive undertaking, ideally something that will take less than 3 hours total. For example, it could be “take a practice exam,” “write outline for essay,” or “do a Peloton ride.” If your highlight is something like writing a rough draft, then you can add specifications on time, such as “work on rough draft for two hours.” 

Change Your Mindset

This is a life-changing trip I got from Ali Abdaal. At the end of the day, you can decide to be upset with yourself for not being productive enough or choosing to happy and satisfied with what you did accomplish. This is really important for habit change. If your desired habit is to be more productive, you want to associate working with positive feelings. If every time you do work, you feel bad about not getting more done, then you’ll associate working with negative emotions and thus not want to work. 

Dump Your Brain

Sometimes the reason we can’t start working is that we have too much on our minds. In this case, I encourage you to write down your feelings. I like to do this in my journal, but others like to type theirs. If writing isn’t your style, try recording voice memos. While you’re working, keep a notes doc open or pen and pen handy, so you can write down any thoughts as they come up. 

Make a to-do list

You need to know what’s expected of you. Having random thoughts and tasks floating around in your mind is hella stressful. I recommend just jotting down everything you need to do, highlighting the things that need to get done, and focusing on those after you’ve completed your daily highlight.

Center Yourself

This goes along with the previous point. Sometimes you just gotta remember who you are, why you started, and where you want to end up. I like to meditate using the Headspace App or take a walk to listen and my own thoughts. You can also try sitting in silence for a few minutes. 

Tell yourself it’s only for 20 minutes

When I really can’t be bothered to work, I tell myself to just work for 20 minutes and if it’s really that bad. Then I can take a break or quit for the day. 

Use the Pomodoro Technique

You can use this any interval you like. Some swear by the classic 25-minute work and 5 minute break time scheme. Cal Newport recommends working in 50-minute blocks. I recommend whatever suits you. Some days, 25 minutes of work is the best I can do. Other days, I prefer to work in 50-minute blocks. Some days, I don’t use a time scheme at all. If you’re trying to increase your work time, try increasing your work intervals by 10 minutes after every cycle. For example, for your first work session, you work for 20 minutes. Then in your second work session for 30. Then 40 and so on. This can be an excellent way to ramp up without overwhelming yourself. 

Phone a Friend

I like to sit on Facetime, Zoom, Skype – a video conferencing platform – and do my work in silent companionship with a friend. If your friends are busy or uninterested, there are study discords that always have a study with me video call happening. Another option is watching study with me videos on youtube. 


You probably already know this, but exercising releases endorphins. Exercising might just make you want to do your homework or at least give you the energy to do so. The important part here is to not go too hard. You want to still have some energy left over for your work. 

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