Blog Short #6: A quick solution to procrastination.
Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you . My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!
Let me just start by telling you that I’m a huge procrastinator!
I’ve analyzed this problem to death, read everything I can get my hands on about it, tried this, tried that, beat myself up over it, and even after all that, it still persists!
As a sidebar, I’m impressed with all the ways I’ve figured out how to procrastinate. If you could win an award for that, I’m pretty sure I’d be right up there at the top. I’ve got that down. Yay!
So back to the problem. I’m happy to report that I’ve figured out something that works. Not every time mind you, but at least 90% of the time which is a VAST IMPROVEMENT!!!!
In a nutshell, it’s a technique to bypass the mind. What I realized is that the thinking about what you have to do is what’s in the way.
Here’s what I mean.
When you need to do something, procrastination sneaks in as soon as you allow yourself to think about whether you want to do it or not.
There’s all kinds of ways this thought process gets going. Here’s some of my favorites:
- That’s going to take too much time and I don’t have it right now.
- It’s so hard! I don’t have the energy for that.
- I’m just not in the mood and I don’t think I can drag myself to do it.
- There’s other stuff I have to get done before I tackle this.
- I can put if off a few days. No worries.
- I’d better check my email first to make sure there’s nothing I need to attend to.
- I know, I’ll give myself 15 minutes to relax and then I’ll get going.
- I’ll just put it on my list so I won’t forget to do it later.
We could keep going, but lets get to the real problem, and it’s this:
Underneath all those thoughts about why you can’t do what you need to do is the original thought which is “I don’t want to do that!” That’s the whole thing. For whatever reason you come up with, it still boils down to . . .
I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT!!
I’ve found that the best way to get around procrastinating is to interrupt the thought process before that first thought takes hold.
Your mind is very tricky and loves to get the upper hand, but you can put a stop to that. It’s like the unruly child that tries every which way to argue his way out of something.
You have to be firm and not even entertain the arguments.
What I do instead is say this to myself:
NO THINKING! JUST DO IT NOW!
Ah, that sounds great, but that won’t work right? Well, actually it does if you keep doing it.
I started this with little things that aren’t a big deal. For example, I went to the grocery store which is close to the dry cleaners where I have clothes to pick up. I wanted to go straight home after grocery shopping because I was hungry and wanted to get a snack and relax, but instead, I just started driving to the dry cleaners without thinking about whether I wanted to do it or not, and I got there and parked and got out of my car. I got my clothes and went home.
The turning point was when I pulled into parking lot and got out of the car, because at that point I’d gotten past my resistance and I knew I was going to finish what I’d started. The hard part was driving in the direction of the dry cleaners instead of going straight home.
There was this sneaky thought trying to get through:
“You can do that tomorrow and go home right now and get something to eat.”
I drowned that voice out by just driving in the right direction even as my mind was trying to take over. I wouldn’t allow myself to entertain the thought of whether or not I wanted to do it. Of course I didn’t want to do it, but that doesn’t matter. You can’t let that be a factor.
After the dry cleaner experiment, I started to apply this technique to bigger things. I got to where I could say to myself, “In 10 minutes you’ll start writing and you’ll write for 30 minutes”. I would do it, even if what I wrote wasn’t that great, and even though I didn’t want to.
Now I’ve gotten used to following my own commands about what I’m going to do. I never allow myself to think about whether I want to do it or not. And because I’ve gotten used to this, my resistance has lowered a lot.
It’s become a habit. This is the key. I’m sure my brain is making some new neurons paths that are making things easier. Now it’s automatic and I can actually laugh at that voice that’s complaining.
Sometimes I reward myself when I’m done with whatever it was I set out to do. Isn’t that how you train your dog? Good girl!
Best of all, that voice that says “I don’t want to do that!” has weakened and is barely audible.
Practice mutes that voice and keeps it under your control.
I do best when I don’t even allow that voice to speak which means I substitute a thought that counteracts it such as “I’m doing it, it only takes 10 minutes, and then I’m free to do what I want.” Sometimes I just shout “GO!” and I start.
Try this out. It’s a lot simpler than trying to analyze why you procrastinate. That’s a side path that usually makes it worse, because that activity is a way to procrastinate in and of itself.
Don’t be fooled. Action is the only tool that works! Now it’s your turn. GO!
See you next week!
All my best,