Have you ever noticed that the hardest part of getting things done is starting them in the first place?
It’s true. We’ve all felt the dread of that looming project, where, say, you’ve got to kick things off with a phone call but you just can’t get to dialing. Or how about when the house is a disaster and the kids (dogs?) need a bath. But instead of tackling those chores, you do something like drift away to visit a website that you just know is going to teach you how to manage your life more efficiently.
Sure, any attempt at self-improvement (even the ones that grow out of a need to procrastinate) is a step in the right direction. But if we’re learning and prepping 80% of the time, yet acting only 20% of the time… then we’re really just procrastinating the procrastination. It’s time to nip this problem in the bud. Ditch those beliefs and behaviors that just aren’t serving you anymore, and trade them for ones that bring you closer to your goals (and relief!).
Here are some tips on how you can become an eternal spring of self-motivation… without reading every self-help book in creation or resorting to having a personal trainer following you around supervising your every move!
1. Pay attention to how you feel once you DO manage to tackle a dreaded job or task.
Do you ever think to yourself, “Gee, this wasn’t so bad at all!” after taking an entire day (week? month? year?) to get started on something? Do you find that once your engine’s finally kicked on, you have trouble stopping what you’re doing? Doesn’t it feel great? Capture that feeling in your mind, and pull it out it the next time you find yourself playing the old avoidance game. Think of how much steam you’ll get once you’re moving around getting things done. Think of how much lighter you’ll feel once you’ve knocked the project off your to-do list. If caffeine is so addictive, can’t we get the same type of lift from our own accomplishments? I say yes… and it’s a high that comes with tangible benefits to boot!
2. Be mindful of the stress that goes along with delaying the inevitable.
Do you find yourself literally flying through your days, yet accomplishing very little? It’s possible you’ve stressed yourself past the point of healthy productivity. This happens when we run around fooling ourselves into feeling busy – when really all we’re doing is playing the avoidance game. How does it FEEL when it hits you that you’re nearly out of time, but the list is just as long as it was when you woke up that morning? Be mindful of the unpleasant quiver in your stomach, and the way your head gets slightly buzzy as you run through everything you’ve still got to work on today. Recognize that you can avoid having those feelings, simply by reprogramming your mental attitude toward work.
3. Start keeping physical lists on paper.
In many of my coaching articles, I talk a lot about the “neverending to do list” that we all deal with each day… but for many people, that list lives only in their minds. If you’re overwhelmed and low on motivation, then maybe you really do need a physical reminder of all that you should be attending to. Get yourself a good, thick legal pad and keep a list.
Not only will the list keep you on track when you veer off the proposed path, but seeing those checkmarks for some reason puts us into a cycle of momentum, and will push us onward until the entire sheet of paper is filled. Be sure to keep your list within easy viewing distance of whatever you’re doing – take it with you in your bag, bring it along in the car, stop at various points in the day to see how much headway you’ve made with your list. Whatever you do, don’t lose the list or stash it someplace where you’ll never see it. Tracking progress is a key factor in keeping motivation levels high.
4. Reward yourself with praise and treats.
We motivate our pets to perform by rewarding them with praise and treats. Why not give yourself some well-deserved praise and treats the next time you accomplish something important (or even not-so-important, but something that you’d be better off completing than not completing)? Just think of how good that plate of cheese and crackers will taste once you finally pay the bills, sort the laundry piles, take inventory of your office supplies, or do whatever it was that you couldn’t muster enthusiasm for.
Think about the activities that give you pleasure each day… let’s say it’s puttering in the garden, enjoying a cool glass of fresh lemonade on the front porch, or romping in the grass with the family pooch. Maybe it’s slipping out for an afternoon of window-shopping, or indulging in a hot cappucino with cinnamon sprinkled on top. Have all of your guilty pleasures ready in your mind, then divvy them up as a gift to yourself for every small feat you carry out.
5. Get an accountability partner to help you sort out, prioritize and manage your life better.
Let’s face it; when things are really in crisis, lists and rewards are just not going to cut it. When you feel like your life has completely veered off course and taken you with it, sometimes the only thing left to do is pick up the pieces and start over. Coaching can help you sift the wheat from the chaff and work out a new model for living that more accurately reflects your values and goals.
As a life coach, I help people get their lives under control. That starts with figuring out who you are and what you want. Once you do the heavy lifting up front, you can begin to devise a plan that won’t have you dreading the parts of life that are supposed to be fun and rewarding.
Labor Day and summer have past. Are you ready to clean out the closets of your life, lose the baggage and finally delight in all the possibilities that lay before you? Get more done… by getting more started!