Need Motivation? Schedule It

Last Updated May 14, 2010 11:31 AM EDT

The secret to motivating yourself to do something you think will be unpleasant isn't about willpower. It's about timing. As management consultant Peter Bregman puts it:
"Never quit a diet while reading the dessert menu."
In his HBR.org post How (And When) to Motivate Yourself, Bregman says the best time to motivate yourself is not when your your motivation is low already or you are caught in the day-to-day grind. Instead, he argues, plan a time to make the decision -- decide to decide.
"Knowing you have a planned pause allows you to focus and concentrate without hesitation until the established time to second guess yourself. And if you do eventually decide to change your commitment, you'll know it's not from momentary weakness. It'll be a strategic, rational, intentional decision."
How do you motivate yourself to start on an unpleasant task?
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.