Procrastination - What Are You Willing To Do?

Procrastinating? Try the "Willing" trick.

I discovered a great procrastination busting tip while reading

Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Beck (great book, by the way).

I'm giving you a slightly modified version of what she says to do but it's how I adapted it to work for me. 

Okay, let's get started. I'm sure you've heard the advice of break down a big project into smaller steps as procrastination can sometimes be caused by feeling overwhelmed. Some people even suggest breaking it down into micro steps which is the smallest possible action you could take on something.

Beck suggests doing this as well but in a slightly different way. I've never had a lot of luck with the micro task thing by the way so I wasn't expecting this to work but she adds one additional step to the process which does seem to do the trick.

So, what's the big secret?

Okay, here's how it works. When you think about the task you need to complete, pay attention to how you feel. If you don't want to do it, you'll notice a resistance to doing the task. Focus on this feeling and pay attention to your procrastination resistance.

Now, ask your resistance what would you be willing to do on the task? Make sure it's a small step and is easily doable. For example, if I need to write an article for my web site, I could ask my resistance,"What are you willing to do then? Would you be willing to just come up with a title for the article?"

What would you be willing to do?

Then wait and pay attention to how the resistance responds. If it agrees then you're good to go but if it's still resisting, come up with something else. For example, I could ask my resistance, "Would you be willing to do some research on the topic for 15 minutes? Or would you be willing to find some images for an article?" Just keep thinking of small tasks and keep asking your resistance if it would be willing to do it until you find something that it's willing to do.

Make sure that you think of little tasks to do. If you just say, "What are you willing to do?", you may find yourself blanking out and not being able to think of anything. So, make sure you think of some small task that could be done and ask that along with, "Would you be willing to..."

Also, make sure that the task is small enough. I know the temptation is to think we should be able to do something in big chunks or devote long periods of time to something. Think small. Instead of considering devoting 4 hours to a task, think 15 minutes. The trick is to find something that your resistance doesn't find overwhelming.

You'll know you've found the right task when your inner feelings dramatically change. From feeling sluggish and negative about the thought of doing the job, you'll find yourself suddenly feeling lighter and more optimistic about doing it.

Often you'll find that starting the task is the hardest part and once you've started you'll keep going even once you've completed the micro task. Even if you just finish the micro task, congratulate yourself for having taken some action on your goal. You can keep going with this process so that you continually make small progress. You might think that if you only take small steps then you'll never get it done but you'd be surprised at how effective doing micro tasks can be.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. Mark Twain

When you keep making small steps, you also don't have to deal with the guilt of knowing you should be working on something and being unable to get yourself going. This way, you are continually working on it, just in more manageable steps. Guilt is a draining and tiring emotion so to be able to avoid this will help tremendously. It won't be weighing on you all the time.

So, now you might be asking what happens if you can't find anything your resistance will agree to doing.

In Finding Your Own North Star Beck suggests using the reward system and she promises herself that she can have something if she completes the task. The example she gave was she could buy a book she really wanted. Or she could watch her favorite show. Or maybe even take a sick day. She keeps upping the reward until she finds something that makes her resistance agree to the deal.

Well, first make sure that you've tried breaking the task down to supremely small tasks. You may still be overwhelming your resistance with too big of a task.

After that, if you still can't find any action at all that your resistance is willing to take, you might want to look at the task again and consider whether it's worth doing or not. Maybe your resistance is telling you that this task is taking you in the wrong direction. Remind yourself why you have this goal in the first place. It's important to pay attention to this possibility as well. Your procrastination may actually be trying to tell you something valuable.

So, the next time you're procrastinating on something, take the time to ask your resistance, "What would you be willing to do?" It's such a great feeling when you find something it's willing to do and then you aren't fighting yourself to do the project. You'll want to do it and you'll get it done.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

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