We’ve all been there – looking at your To-Do List in the morning, thinking everything could get done except for that one, single irritating thing that you just don’t want to think about. It’s not that you can’t do it. You’re smart and probably know how to get it done, but it’s just something you don’t want to do. And the longer you put it off, the more it stresses you out. So it keeps getting worse and worse and more difficult to tackle.

But if you step back for a bit and look at the bigger picture, then you know the faster you check off this really annoying thing off your To-Do List, the better. Once it’s gone, you can easily focus on everything else that needs to be done. It’s just about having the mental strength and a little bit of strategy to tackle the most difficult thing on your list. Here are four tips that’ll help you do the trick.

1. Do The Most Difficult Task When You’re At Your Productive Peak

Some people function best in the morning, other in the afternoon. Then there are the night owls who just don’t need that much sleep. Instead of wasting your most productive hour thinking about how difficult some tasks are, use that time to tackle them instead. You’d be amazed at how much you can get done when you’re at your peak.

If you’re not sure what your product hour is, check out these instructions from Fast Company – it’s got really great instructions which guide you on making a log of your focus, feelings and even asking other people on your productive hour. This isn’t one of those online questionnaires, it’s a proper guide.

2. Reward Yourself When You Get It Done And Penalize Yourself If You Don’t

I’m a very firm believer that only I have the power to control my productivity and because of this, rewards and punishments (assigned by myself to me) really work! So say there’s an awesome ice cream at home in the freezer that you bought for yourself. You only get to eat it if you finish this ‘dreadful’ task on time, and if you don’t then you never ever get it…ever. I know this may sound silly to some people but trust me it works.

It’s sort of like on mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed, I think about the best thing I have to look forward during that day. It really helps put some energy into me for getting out of bed and believing I’m going to have a good day. The same theory applies to difficult tasks. I focus on what I’ll treat myself with and work towards getting it.

3. Understand The Root Cause Of The Difficulty

There’s always a reason that tough tasks are so daunting. Usually when we write down a task in a list, we don’t take the time to list down all the sub-tasks that need to be done. For really difficult tasks, there are usually only one or two subtasks which are the hard parts. The rest is easy. By identifying the difficult parts of the tasks, you can start understanding how to solve them and thus work towards completing the whole thing.

I’m a big fan of diagrams and tools. I recently added a Organizational Health Decision Tree that helps companies identify their weak points. I think decision trees are a great way to analyze different options and breakdown complex problems. If you’ve never created one, MindTools provides a really good guideline that works for breaking down almost any problem.

4. Acknowledge What You Will Achieve By Completing The Task

Chances are that your really difficult task has pretty awesome deliverables for you. I’m not talking about what the company will achieve or why your boss wants you to do it. I’m talking about what you, as an individual who wants to succeed will achieve by completing this difficult task. Is it recognition? Is it going to effect your performance appraisal? Will it help you get to the next big thing?

It shouldn’t take you long to answer the question. And it doesn’t even matter if it’s a generic answer like “recognition.” Define what you’ll achieve and put it up on your white board, table, anywhere. Just one word that will remind you why you want to accomplish this difficult task. Every time you see it, it should drive you to pull out this thorn from your side.

Do you have any tips that you could share with other readers on checking off items on your to-do list?

[Photo Credit: So much to do in the back]