…you’re usually glad you did, after the fact.”
We all have that struggle from time to time. Maybe something work or school-related hangs over your head. Maybe you need to apologize for something you did, but are nervous to do so. Perhaps you need to exercise or diet, but you are just not motivated, are fighting hunger and lethargy.
How on earth do you get that figurative fire under your backside to push you forward?
I have a mental illness, and am prone to depression. With depression often comes lack of motivation. Sometimes with medications for mental illness comes sedation. Ugh! Pushing oneself to accomplish certain things is even more of a struggle under these conditions. Adding anxiety can sometimes figuratively place a wall between you and the action. But everyone, even those with mental illness, must do some things they put off or dislike. Doing so represents progress. When you do so you usually also feel extremely relieved.
So, I have addressed the question highlighted above with many psychologists over the years. I have also figured out some solutions myself. Here are 10 ideas that have worked for me:
- Put the task on a “To Do” list, according to its priority. Even put a time to start the task. Put the task on a calendar or phone that has a reminder (pop-up, vibrate, buzz, etc). When the reminder comes, just DO IT! Don’t think. Just move forward. No “snoozing” or “dismissing”. Once you’re walking, dialing, or writing (or whatever) the task has a tendency to just happen.
- Close your eyes and imagine yourself doing the task for a minute. Also imagine yourself finishing the task and being happy you did. Imagine yourself giving yourself a happy reward or break for its completion.
- Take at least a small step towards doing the task. For example, if handling all of the dishes seems intimidating, tell yourself you only need to do a portion (like unload the bottom of the dishwasher). Be happy when you finish. When you’re done, notice if doing a bit more (unloading the top of the dishwasher) seems less intimidating at that point. Maybe finishing the whole project (loading it too) won’t be so bad. This method works for various things, like telling yourself to walk just to the end of the block and back. You might find once you get there you go even a block further. Think Newton’s law of motion.
- Energize yourself to get going. Play some energizing music that might help push you along in your tasks. Maybe even dance or sing a bit while you’re doing them.
- No need to bite off more than you can chew. Pick only one or max a few things to start with and concentrate on one at a time. Cross each off a mental or physical list as you do them. If needed, call your spouse or close friend and report your accomplishment. Their congratulations can really make a difference. Tell them you need the congratulations.
- Ask for some cheerleading. Cheerleading is in itself like that fire under the butt. If you must ask for cheerleading, ask that it be positive encouragement and not “Can you please FINALLY do this?” or such.
- Be your own cheerleader. Post a sign in a relevant place with a big “You can do it!” or similar message.
- Try not to over blow the effort and pain of doing the task. Shut your eyes and ask “How long will it REALLY take?” The answer might be just five minutes, when before it felt like a multi-hour project.
- Set a reasonable deadline for avoiding the task, and stick to it. If you say “When the sun comes out I WILL do this/that”. Don’t allow yourself to change deadlines when the original deadline comes.
- Remind yourself of the list above (or other tactics that have worked) when you forget or fall back to procrastination.
Occasionally there is something that legitimately gets in the way of completing a dreaded task. If it is truly legitimate, don’t beat yourself up. But don’t let that prevent you from looking forward again.