Sep 19, 2022
So you're trying to get work done, but you keep getting sidetracked. You know you need to focus, but something keeps drawing your attention away from the task at hand. What's going on?
Well, it's possible that you're procrastinating. And before you roll your eyes and say "yeah, yeah, I know all about procrastination," hear me out. I'm not saying that you're lazy or that you don't want to do the work. I'm saying that there's a reason why you're avoiding it, and that reason has to do with your feeling or emotion, and not the task itself.
When you think about the task in front of you, it you may have a thought about it that leads to a feeling that is negative or uncomfortable. Maybe it's anxiety about failing, or guilt over not doing enough. Maybe it's frustration at having to deal with something unpleasant. Or maybe it's just boredom and overwhelm at the thought of having to start. Whatever the feeling is, it's strong enough to make you avoid doing the work.
And that's why we procrastinate. We're trying to avoid the way that working makes us feel. It's not because we're lazy, it's because we want to avoid a bad feeling (such as resentful, nervous, agitated, or annoyed).
But there are ways to overcome this obstacle. Here are a three tips:
- Start small: Don't wrestle directly with big resolutions like "I'll do all of my overdue tasks today!" Just promise yourself something small to start with. Complete this one activity and then congratulate yourself. I like to set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes and work through with no interruptions. I don’t check messages or deviate from the task at hand. I keep chugging along until the timer ends.
- Tolerate a result of your work that isn't perfect: It's okay if the finished product isn't perfect. In fact, it's probably inevitable. So rather than stressing out about it, accept that it might not be perfect and move on.
- Decide ahead of time: Plan your day by listing the 3 most important tasks. Decide on what is most important at the end of the previous day or in the morning. Your assignment to yourself is to work on those tasks, one at a time, until they are completed. You may find that you brain will tell you that you are confused, that you need additional information, or that something else is actually more important. Ignore those messages, and instead tell yourself that you trust your decision about the top 3 tasks. Do the work even if you have the negative emotions – they won’t hurt you. You will do yourself a disservice if you work on something only if “you feel like it.” You can feel annoyed and do the work anyway.
Right now, after you read this blog, start at step 1 - pick one task that you have been putting off and work on it for 15 minutes. You will thank me!
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