I am extremely fortunate to be self-employed and to love what I do. As a small business owner with no employees, I wear a lot of hats (just call me Bartholomew Cubbins…) and have to stay on top of lots of little jobs. Lots and lots. I find that I enjoy most of these job-ettes, but every so often some Dreaded Task rears its ugly head and the inevitable ensues: procrastination.

You know what I’m talking about. Somehow that item has taken up permanent residence on your to-do list—at the bottom. You pretend not to notice as it slowly becomes the albatross you carry around your neck. You find yourself perfecting avoidance techniques for countless hours on Twitter. Suddenly you have all the time in the world to chat with your neighbor, your mailman, your mother-in-law… You’re cleaning the house, for crying out loud, just to avoid that Dreaded Task. I feel your pain, and I can help stop the madness.

When I know I have to finish something I’m hesitant to even start, I find it helpful to use these three steps:

1. Schedule. We make it so much harder for ourselves when we let something settle in without a plan for doing it. Look at your calendar and choose a time (preferably within the next day or two, definitely within the week) that you can devote to completing it. Make the commitment. Let other people know you’ve committed to it so they’ll support your efforts.

2. Prepare. What do you need to complete this task? Special tools? A piece of information? An assistant? Line it all up so you have everything you need when you sit down to finish it. If you’re like me, you will be looking for ANY excuse to put this off just another day, so don’t give yourself an easy out.

3. Get psyched. Huh? I know, it sounds crazy, but this is the most important part of the whole thing. If I have something I hate to do (sales tax, anyone?) I pair it with something I like to do, like watching a movie. Or eating m&m’s and popcorn. Or both. Then the Dreaded Task becomes an Event. And I sorta look forward to it. (Kind of.)

Okay, so maybe I’m easy to bribe and eating m&m’s with popcorn wouldn’t motivate you. The point here is to psych yourself up about the task rather than torturing yourself with it. It’s a mind game, so be creative. I found a few weeks ago that I could clean the house without the same mind-numbing boredom if I listened to my iPod. In fact, getting excited about something may be as simple as changing the soundtrack you play—in your ears and BETWEEN your ears. Instead of saying, “Ugh, I can’t believe I have to do that on Thursday,” say, “I am so excited to have this finished on Thursday!” You may not believe yourself at first, but repeat it a few times and see if you don’t change your mind. Listening to good tunes, renting a new flick, ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant— whatever you choose, making it a treat will help you get that task off your list for good.

Schedule. Prepare. Get psyched. This is what I do when faced with something I don’t want to do. What techniques do you have for getting difficult things done? Do you need to play mind games with yourself like I do? Please share your tips!

(photo from istockphoto.com)