The coming of the New Year is a fantastic opportunity for you to energize yourself toward achieving your goals. If you are a big procrastinator, you may be skeptical of resolutions; for you, resolutions might be just one more way to feel bad for getting stuck and unable to move forward — even toward goals that you really, truly want to achieve. So, this one year, all of you experts in procrastination get your own special No. 1 New Year’s resolution: Free yourself from the bonds of procrastination.
There are a variety of procrastination styles. Some of you may struggle with starting a project (task initiation). Some of you may have a hard time sticking with a project (focused attention). Some of you just can’t seem to finish a project (task completion). Some of you have trouble every step of the way.
Everyone does some procrastinating. People naturally put off and avoid doing things that cause them discomfort, distress, or trigger challenging emotions. Even if you are very much in favor of reaching a particular goal, there are often parts of the process of getting there that you just do not want to do.
Procrastinating becomes a problem when your internal battle between the part of you that knows you should do something (your inner ‘do it’), and the part of you that just DOES NOT WANT TO (your inner ‘I don’t want to’), drains your energy and causes problems in your home life, your relationships, your work, or your self-care.
This battle can be a war of aggression, with your inner ‘do it’ attempting to bully and threaten your inner ‘I don’t want to’ into submission, saying things like ‘what is WRONG with you, why aren’t you doing what YOU SAID you wanted to do? You are so lame, just do it, what is your PROBLEM? Other people finish home projects, what is wrong with YOU? WHY are you eating that brownie when you KNOW you want to lose weight?’
The battle can be a war of avoidance, as your inner ‘I don’t want to’ shuts out your inner ‘do it’ through busyness and distraction with other activities or by zoning out with food, alcohol, TV, or the Internet. The inner war can get so depleting that you end up curled on the couch, unable to do anything at all, or frantically expending adrenaline-charged energy to meet deadlines, and then crashing again with exhaustion.
7 Self-Talk Tips to Help You Stay on Track
So, if you find yourself stuck, rushed and tired, getting in trouble with your spouse or boss, or feeling like a failure for not honoring your self-care goals, then you may be interested in a trying a new way to motivate yourself. As you cower under the dark cloud of something you ‘should’ be doing, tune in and listen to that part of you that is saying ‘no, I don’t want to.’ What it is afraid of? What is it angry about?
Then, use these seven self-talk tips to speak nicely but firmly to that inner ‘I don’t want to:’
‘I know that you don’t want to sit down at the computer and work on your resume.’ ‘I know that your vision for this project isn’t turning into reality. I know you just hate having to accept that time has run out and you need to finish up and have an imperfect result.’ ‘I know that it causes you distress to face the truth of your finances and start budgeting.’ ‘I know that you’d prefer to avoid dealing with your body and starting an exercise plan.’ ‘I know you thought that finishing this project would happen much more quickly, and you are frustrated with how long it is taking.’ ‘I get it. It makes sense that you feel frustrated, worried and annoyed.’
2. Encouragement to explore different practical strategies for motivation.
‘Why don’t you start exploring the wide range of practical hints and strategies available from counselors, in books and online to help you get going and stay on track toward your goals? Just pick one and give it a try. Try scheduling your workout on your calendar, try using an alarm clock to keep yourself moving from task to task, try using inspirational quotes taped on your mirror. Just try it. If it doesn’t work for you, try another until you find one that does help.’
3. Encouragement to ask for help.
‘I know you think you should be able to do this on your own. I know that you think it’s silly that the hardest part of this task is formatting your resume. How about asking for help from your spouse with that one part?’ ‘I know you think that calling your insurance provider about that medical bill should be easy. But it’s just not easy for you. Why don’t you ask a friend to sit with you while you pick up the phone and dial the number?’
4. Permission to go one step at a time.
‘You don’t have to do this all at once. You get to go at a pace that is healthy for you. Just take one step at a time. Today can be the step of writing down a few notes about what you want to include in your resume. Use five minutes and take this one step.’
5. Insistence on starting TODAY, even amid uncertainty.
‘You don’t have to wait until you are completely sure of the whole process before you start it. You don’t have to know whether you want a new job before you start working on your resume.’ ‘You are not committing to anything by putting on your walking shoes. Just put them on. Now.’
6. Permission to change course if necessary.
‘You get to change course if the project or routine becomes too much for you, or turns out to not be a good fit for you. Everyone has his or her own ‘overwhelm threshold,’ and though you may wish your threshold were higher, it is what it is. You also do not always know in advance if something will be a good fit for you. It may be uncomfortable to have to reroute yourself, and you may feel disappointed in yourself and you may disappoint others. But if you try to force yourself forward with something that you fear may become too much for you or may turn out to be wrong for you, and imprison yourself with the idea that you have to follow through no matter what, then you are going to end up not taking any steps forward. So you have got to remember that you can change course if necessary.’
7. Reminders that you are human.
‘You, just like all humans, need help, have uncertainty, move slowly at times, move sideways, move backwards, try and fail, feel foolish, have regrets, and must adjust plans as new information becomes available. You, like all humans, have limitations and vulnerabilities. You, like all humans, get disappointed in yourself and disappoint other people sometimes. You, like all humans, sometimes struggle with the letdown of grand visions turning into imperfect realities. And yes, ‘all humans’ includes you.’
I know you wish you didn’t have this issue with procrastination, and could just magically become a person who is able to easily ‘just do it.’ But you are a human, and this is one of your issues, and it takes energy and time to make changes in your self. Just experiment with this new way of talking to yourself. Right now. Pick one thing you’ve been procrastinating about, choose one of these seven points and try it for five seconds. See if it helps. Just try.