Ever find yourself in that spot where you want something done; but you just can’t seem to bring yourself to start it? You’re going to do it. You want it completed. You intend to work on it; but find yourself doing everything even anything else first. There’s those calls you want to make, those important client emails to answer, and that big project the boss wants on Friday; but you find yourself reorganizing your desk, sorting the inbox, and texting your friends instead. Frustrating isn’t it?
Would you like to know some good ways to clear this sabotaging, stress inducing behavior?
If your answer is yes—
So what causes this behavior and what tools can you keep in your pocket for those frustrating times when this happens to you?
First, let’s look at overwhelm.
Well, yes, feeling overwhelmed with seemingly too much to do, though oxymoronic, can trigger escapism behaviors while you just stop doing anything productive. Disliking the specific activities may trigger procrastination. Maybe it’s confusion about what you really want here that creates that overwhelming fatigue feeling that again stops you from starting that big project. Maybe that project seems too big to do in the amount of time available. Or maybe you feel like you “should, ought, must, or have to” do THIS….but the rest of that sentence is, “BUT I DON”T WANT TO! In any event, all those inner voices are in disarray and conflict about doing or not doing IT, never mind just getting started.
So when you notice this is happening, just stop. Take a breath. Ask yourself some of those wonderful questions.
In the case of feeling overwhelmed, for example, ask yourself:
Do I really have too much work?
Can someone else help?
Can I delegate this? To whom–friend, co-worker, family?
How much of this is just busy work and doesn’t really need to be done?
What’s important here?
What do I want here?
Why do I want this completed?
Another useful tool to winnow irrelevancies out of your workload as well as life in general is to categorize activities using these four quadrants.
Organize the whole lot of things to do into those four boxes and then spend most of your time working above the line, especially on items in box #2. And of course dump box #4 for sure.
Understand most of the time; items in box #1 get done. These are things like disarming the bomb, paying the light bill that was due last month, or fixing the brakes on the car, or comforting our sick child. The items that fall below the line are not important to US, so eliminating them does no harm. Items in Box #3 are things like the phone calls from solicitors or campaign volunteers. They urgently require out attention (phone is ringing) and often are important to someone else, but not to us. Because, if they are important to us; they go in a box above the line. Also, often we need to answer the phone, listen to the request, read the email, look at or analyze something to know enough to decide whether it really falls above or below the line for us. However, we generally spend a significant amount of our valuable moments, every day, living in box #3 or even box #4, procrastinating and otherwise stalling on items in box #2.
Some of those things in box #2, will eventually flow into box 1, becoming emergent; and so you eventually do them. The sad consequence of not working on items in box 2, though, are those things that never become urgent and so you never work on them—and they never get done. These are things like saving for your child’s college education, planning and saving for that around the world trip, writing that book, learning to scuba dive, planting a garden, developing that new business idea, or getting that next degree to earn a promotion.
Yes, Box Two. Now there is where we are meant to spend our time. This is raising your children, working in the career you love developing something new that only you can create, and loving your spouse. This is paying your bills on time. This is writing that book or learning that new skill. This is following your dreams and fulfilling your purpose. These things are not URGENT and so they don’t call to us with that incredible “urgency” tug. After all, we can do it just as easily next week or next year. But these things are the ones you will remember fondly with a great sense of accomplishment, peace and joy, in your golden years. If you can somehow create a useful sense of urgency for items in box 2, that will support you getting those things started and eventually done a bit more easily.
So, to reduce your sense of overwhelm, make sure your activities and brain time are spent working above the line, on important TO YOU things. The feelings of overwhelm disappear as you dump items in boxes 3 and 4. Just don’t spend your precious time down there.
Ok, so what if you dislike the activity itself? Well, do you want the results? Will something bad happen if you don’t do it? If no, then dump it. If yes, and you truly dislike the activity; then focus on the desired results and how you will feel when it is done. And then do it as early in the day as you can. “Eat that frog, first,” so to speak.
“Eat a live frog every morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” ~ Mark Twain
OK, then there is that issue of confusion. If you are confused about what you really want HERE and that has you stopped not starting anything, then it is time to ask yourself some of those lovely questions.
Why do I want this done?
What are the benefits of doing this?
How will I feel when it is done?
How does this further those things I want most in life?—Bigger paycheck? Happy spouse? Healthy kids? Dream comes true? Happy boss? Promotion?
What happens if I do it?
What’s the worst that could happen if I don’t do this?–Get fired? Lose family? Basement floods? Nothing at all?
These and other questions help you determine the consequences of doing or not doing the activity, which can bring clarity, inspiration, and choice about doing it or relief that you can just dump it without negative, undesirable, consequences. After all, we really cannot do EVERYTHING that comes across our path.
So, you’ve decided it is important to do. What if it feels too big to do in the time available? It is useful to consider that all large endeavors can easily be broken into smaller, doable bits. Whole books have been written, while writing only 20 minutes a day. Spend a bit of time organizing the project into small bits and then commit to doing it piecemeal. This one will surprise you with both, the results happening faster than you expected and that, unless your schedule truly isn’t flexible, you’ll work on the project longer than you intended most times.
A good share of what we choose to do or not do is driven by our emotions. These emotions are driven by our very own self talk. So, what about all those little inner voices telling you about how you, “should, ought, must, have to,” DO THIS? Well, my advice is always the same. If you “should, ought, must, have to” DO THIS—please don’t. Please don’t because the rest of that sentence is, “But I don’t want to!” I know. I know. I hear all the “Yes, buts….” going off in your head and, yes, I still mean exactly that. When you are doing anything with that should, ought, must, have to energy, you feel emotionally defensive and resistant, you drag your feet, you resent it, and you generally feel bad about it. Those feelings are not conducive to inspiring you to get going and just do it. And if that is how you are feeling while you actually manage to do anything, the process is harder, more difficult, frustrating and you probably will not be very pleased with the outcome. So, again, please don’t do anything with that “should, ought, must, have to,” energy.
Instead, if you want the results, if you eventually are going to do it anyway because……, then CHOOSE it. If you need and want the results, then it follows that you actually want the activity. If you don’t want the consequences of not doing it, then you actually want the activity completed and will eventually do it. Again, if you are going to do it anyway, CHOOSE it. Actually use the words, “I choose to……,” in your inner self-talk as well as when discussing this project with others. You will see a big difference in your energy about IT. Try that on something real right now. Doesn’t that feel more powerful? Remind yourself that you indeed CHOOSE to complete your intended project and see how that allows you to feel. Better, right? So then, armed with a sense of relief and lack of resistance, and possible inspiration—-
Just start. Often we put off our project because we don’t know how or where to start. We don’t know what to do first or just how to begin. Maybe we can’t find the inspiration or energy to dig in.
Energy for projects and activities is interesting. We get that energy from being inspired about the results we seek. We also can get a large influx of energy when a big project is completed. You know, that rush of relief, the joy of accomplishing of a job well done, that I’m free feeling that comes when you are DONE! You can use that energy to help you begin the next big project. I recommend thinking about and planning what you want to do next BEFORE finishing your current project, with the intention of beginning the next thing fairly immediately after completion of the current endeavor. You don’t have to do much, just begin it. Once begun, it is easier to keep going. And you’ll have all that “completion” energy to give you a jump-start, maybe even a big push. Yes, it is important to take a moment to celebrate what you finished, do that too.
And finally, there is something about just starting that gets things going. It doesn’t matter if it’s the right place or thing to start with, or if you like it, just start. Your mind will “come around” to help figure things out once you are doing something in that direction.
If you are writing a report and don’t know how to start, then begin by writing—yes, actually writing/typing on the page:
“I don’t know how to start this report, but it is about……” You’ll delete this during your first edit of course, but it got you writing.
If you want good health, have determined that daily exercise is important for that to happen; then the night before, just start by laying out your workout clothes and making a pact with yourself that you won’t allow yourself to decide not to go run until you are up, dressed, outside, actually on the sidewalk, ready to walk or run. And then, if you really still don’t want to, OK. But most of the time you’ll just keep going—after all you have JUST STARTED and may as well keep going. (I have used this and it works.)
If it’s a big project, then just start by making a list of what you think you’ll need, or who can help, or what are at least some of the aspects of things you may have to address. Use your good questions here. This can inspire you to do more; or at least remind yourself that this isn’t as hard as you thought it was.
If the thing is something you really want and you are eventually going to do it, don’t waste your precious life moments fighting with yourself. Find a way to just start. The rest of you will follow and do. So, JUST START!
“A year from now you will wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb…Making Things Happen