How many of us have an idea, get on the emotional motivational high but after few weeks we forget to follow through on our plans and start procrastinating. We have an amazing idea, start it, but once it gets tough and we face difficulties we quit.
I have gone through this process many times in my life. At the same time, I love the motivational high I get from having an idea or goal and can get a lot of stuff done on that high. The problem is that your running on emotions and we know for a fact that emotions are not reliable and running on them is not sustainable. They come and go. I’m not denying that generating the right emotional juice is great. And that defining your why’s (I wrote a blog about it) can be a great juicer. But we are humans. When things get tough, we tend to develop negative thoughts and we start to experience negative emotions. But let’s face it, unless you’re an enlightened monk there will be circumstances or events in your life that will cause you to stop pursuing what you want.
Let’s say earlier this year you decided to become flexible and more at peace. To follow up you decided to start practicing yoga 6 days a week. You plan to go every day except on Sunday. You are internally motivated because you have your ‘why’s’ clearly defined. The first weeks you feel great, the lessons are awesome and you are learning a lot. As a result, you experience great changes and feel a lot better. But then the following occurs:
For some strange reason, for a few days straight your sleep is a mess. Consequently, you feel underslept and on this day it rains like %$#! You know you are supposed to practice every day in order to get better but you’re underslept and think: Hell no, I’m not going! The next day your friend calls and asks if you want to go out for dinner, while you should be attending your yoga class – you decide to go for the dinner and skip the yoga class! As a result, you now have missed two yoga classes straight. It’s so easy to fall back and get into a negative (thought)pattern that is stopping you from reaching your goals.
However, if you’re internally motivated you probably will get back on track. But these slips are not helping. So how can we stop procrastinating and do things even though we are subject to negative emotions and lose our motivational high?
Make your big goals small
The idea comes from the Kaizen philosophy. One of the pillars of Kaizen is that big changes result from small changes over a period of time. We often make the goal or task we need to complete really big in our head. As a result of trying to tackle one big task, we get stressed and start procrastinating. A Kaizen based solution would be to break drown one big task into smaller tasks. Or to just start doing something for a limited amount of time (let’s say one minute).
One of the main principles of Kaizen is that big changes result from small changes over a period of time. The basic idea is that we often make the goal or task we need to complete really big in our mind and that makes us procrastinate (bad emotion/mental state).
So, if you need to write a paper/or article: just write for one minute.
And if you’re procrastinating on washing your dishes: just wash only 3 items.
No outcome, no result, just doing something for a limited amount of time.
What I’ve experienced when I started implementing this, is that I got in a flow state (a state where you are so caught up in the task, that you forget about time), and the only way to get in a flow is by starting. Go from ‘being in your head’ to ‘taking action’! By minimizing your criteria for success (1 minute of activity) you will likely generate bigger success (1 minute easily becomes 10 minutes and before you know it you have written a book).
The 5-second rule
I came across this rule last year when I watched this video. Mel Robbins came up with this rule and I have tried it many times. The basic idea is that if you need to take action but you don’t feel like it, count down from 5-1, and just do it! She explains that this helped her getting out of bed in the morning. And soon she started implementing it in other areas of her life. With success! She wrote a book about it and shares this simple concept with millions of people all over the world. I have tried it and it really works. Getting out of bed early is just one of the things you can apply this rule to. Other things are:
- Saying hi to some you want to talk to.
- Doing the call you have been putting off.
- Writing down the idea that just popped up in your head.
- Cleaning your room.
Focus on only a few things.
Some of us know from an early stage in life what they want to become and go for it. If you are like me, you will have tried many paths. Although I truly believe that experimenting and trying new things can give amazing growth and insights on what you truly want, I also know that you can’t do everything. By trying to pursue everything, you will be less focused and lose clarity, what eventually leads to procrastination. So focus on a few things at a time. It will also give a lot more clarity and peace of mind!
How to focus on the right things is something I will write another article about. But one of the best things you can do is having ‘the end in mind’. This is a habit from the book ‘the 7 habits of highly effective people. Stephen Covey explains that the best way to know what you want is to fast-forward to your funeral and ask yourself the question how do you want to be remembered? In your relationships? Career? etc. Another way is by imaging that you wake up and this is your last day. What would you do? What would drive you?
As you might have noticed, most of the above tips are focussed on the process instead of the result. In our society, we are often focussed on the outcome. Not only does this stop us from being happy with the work we put in regardless of the result. It also makes many of us quit if our results are lacking.
Personally, I’m still struggling with a lot of these things. I always set a high bar for myself and I see many people around me do the same. Setting a high bar is fine. But let’s be happy with the jumps we make towards the bar and make them part of the goal.