The activities that we start with enthusiasm, committing to a schedule, can sometimes feel like a chore. The must-do that looms over our day or week. It may be going for a run, writing a blog, or weeding a flower bed. Resisting, finding excuses, and then feeling guilty, can sap our energy. The reality is, this procrastination and angst uses more energy than the activity itself.
As a full-time writer, a wonderful job – I know, I have three weekly commitments: this weekly blog, recording, editing and broadcasting Castaway Books, and hosting a weekly tweet-chat Friday Salon. Each of these activities brings me joy. They connect me to other inspiring creatives, and introduce me to potential readers. Despite all of these positives, showing up every week, no matter how I am feeling or what’s going on in my life, is sometimes a challenge. It would be easy to say not this week – to let myself off with excuses. But once we break a habit it is hard to get back into the groove.
This is what I do when I am struggling to find the motivation.
- Set myself an easier task
I tell myself I will just do a little. Instead of running 5k to the pier and back, I will run down to the beach and then turn off and run back. A twenty-minute run is less daunting than forty. So, I set off feeling better that I am. At least making an effort. Every single time I have tried this I ended up running the full 5k and loved every minute. It is the same with my blog. I may start out telling myself that this week it will be a shorter one, just a few paragraphs and I end up becoming completely absorbed writing a full length one.
2. Remind myself that nobody is making me do this
Maybe your situation is different and you have a boss making demands. I am my own boss but nobody could be tougher on me than I am. When I managed people, I am sure I was much kinder to them than I am to myself.
When I let go of the belief, I’ve got to do this I feel a weight lift. It’s not easy to let go because the voice in my head argues – you do have to do this or you’ll undo all that you’ve achieved. I answer back, What’s the worst thing that can happen? My mind eventually calms. Maybe I’ll go for a walk, or read a book. That’s when my perception changes. I don’t have to do the task. In fact, I have given myself permission not to, and now I want to. It’s like the trick parents do with a child who doesn’t want to walk with them. ‘Okay, I’ll go without you. I’ll leave you here.’ When I see the activity walking away, I chase after it!
3. Keep focused on the present
It is looking ahead at our day or week that can fill us with dread. When I worked full-time as a management consultant, I sometimes felt giddy when I reviewed my coming week with all of the meetings, presentations and deadlines. We have to plan ahead so that we can manage our time effectively but once the task is in our diary, and any preparation scheduled, then all we can do is the immediate task. In fact, by being fully present, focusing on the task in hand we are at your most effective.
When I apply this to my day, I don’t think about what is to come. The task has been scheduled in my diary and so I do not waste any time or energy worrying about it. Instead, I immerse myself in the now – walking by the sea, enjoying a meal with my family, or reading. When it is time to complete the task, I am rested and give it all of my attention. It is surprising how effortless the task now feels.
4. Positive reinforcement
I look at what I have achieved by showing up each day or week. The distance I can now run without too much effort, a beautiful garden, the wonderful people I have met through my blog etc. It may take time and effort but we reap the rewards. Reminding ourselves of what we have achieved can sometimes cheer us on. Be your own cheerleader.
5. Do it differently
Today, I wrote this blog on my laptop sitting in front of the TV with my husband, instead of sitting in my office using my desktop. I had my jab yesterday and it would have been easy to give myself permission to have a restful day. Instead, I tricked myself. I’ll just make a few notes while I sit here. Before I knew it, I had written a blog.
Change your running route, or routine. Play music whilst you do your accounts. Listen to an audio book whist you do your housework. Use novelty to distract yourself from what feels like a chore. I hate housework but with my Bluetooth headphones and an audiobook, or a podcast I don’t want to stop cleaning.
I hope that my tips help you to face those must-dos with renewed energy and enthusiasm. What have you found helps to motivate you and stop procrastination?