In the immortal words of Mary Poppins, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Sugar – or its psychic equivalent – doesn’t just work for medicine; it can help improve the “taste” of any nasty, scary, or unappealing task. Why do you think there are so many TV sets in gyms? No one actually wants to think about working out while they’re doing it!

If you find yourself bogged down in the pursuit of your goals, try this same principle. Figure out a way to pair up something you don’t want to do with something you love. Some ideas:
  • Take a class with a good friend. Not only will you feel obligated to show up for your sessions, the time will go faster when you’re distracted by entertaining conversation.
  • Listen to music or podcasts while you’re working out, cleaning out the garage, or decluttering the attic.
  • Cutting back to pay off your debts? Make it a game with your family and see who can spend the least, come up with creative ways to save, or unique plans for making a little extra cash. 
  • If your goal is to be on time, get yourself a Mickey Mouse watch so you can keep track of the minutes in style – and smile every time you look at your watch.
  • Can’t seem to get around to writing that book that you resolved to finish this year? Treat yourself to a cup of your favorite expense latte when (and only when!) you’re sitting down working.
  • If making follow-up sales calls is the bane of your existence, sweeten the experience by sitting out on the back deck in the sun, or having your partner massage your back while you’re on the phone.
The key to making this strategy work is to not cheat. That means you have to hold yourself to skipping your latte if you’re not working on your novel, or refusing the backrub if you’re not on the phone with sales prospects. The more you limit your treat to the time when you’re actually working toward your goal, the stronger the association between working towards your goal and pleasant feelings. If you cheat, you short-circuit that connection.
 
Of course, it still comes down to you doing what you said you'd do. But hopefully by aligning not-so-fun tasks with pleasant associations, you'll be more inclined to get it finished.
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