Are there valid reasons why you can’t get things done? Absolutely. In fact, many times, external forces are working against you — think a sick child, flat tire, or global pandemic.
There are, however, times when it turns out that we’re our own biggest obstacle. We also call this self-sabotage. And, it can be brutal when it comes to productivity and our wellbeing.
The good news? You can conquer this by getting out of your way. And, it’s feasible by trying out the following 12 techniques.
1. Just do it.
“First steps are always the hardest, but until they are taken, the notion of progress remains only a notion and not an achievement.” — Aberjhani
We all have our own reasons for procrastinating. Controlling our impulses, lacking self-confidence, or being too ambitious are some of the most common justifications. But, sometimes, the most straightforward answer is just to get started.
I know what you’re thinking, “that’s easy for you to say.” However, it’s entirely possible if you:
- Put the effort in upfront and plan ahead. An example would be creating a meeting agenda weeks in advance so that you aren’t scrambling at the least minute.
- Use your calendar. Schedule your priorities so that you’ll commit to them.
- Get in the zone. You can encourage this by working at your prime time or practicing mindfulness. Also, remove distractions like turning off your phone and clearing the clutter from your workspace.
- Eat the elephant. In other words, breaking large tasks and projects into more manageable pieces.
- Set time limits. Give yourself a timeframe to knockout an item on your to-do-list.
- Forgive yourself. Don’t beat yourself if you’re dragging your feet. Researchers have found that this helps us “move past maladaptive behavior and focus” on what needs to get done.
- Don’t worry about being perfect. Remember, perfection is all in your mind. To get over this hump, set more realistic expectations, settling for “good enough,” and using “hypothesis testing.” That last point is when you let a small mistake slide to get yourself comfortable with imperfections.
Sure. It’s difficult to get the ball moving. Once it gets rolling, though, you’ll have the momentum to plow through anything.
2. Remember your why.
Instead of going through the motions and doing things for no reason, reconnect with your purpose. If you can’t connect the dots between the activity and the big picture, then stop doing it.
That doesn’t mean avoiding tasks that you don’t always enjoy. For example, as a new business owner, you might dread bookkeeping. However, it’s an essential responsibility if you want your business to thrive.
Remind yourself that maintaining your finances, sticking to a budget, and preparing your taxes can help you reach your business goals. And, as your business scales up, you can eventually hand this off to someone else.
3. Confront negative self-talk.
You’ve all had to silence that inner talk whose only purpose is to hold us back. You’ve heard this voice before. The one screaming that you’re not good enough or you’re going to fail.
It would be great if you good tell this negative self-talk to pound sand. Sometimes though, it takes more persuasion. For instance, flipping the narrative by using positive, positive self-talk.
“Write down some of the negative messages inside your mind that undermine your ability to overcome your depression,” recommends Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D. “Be specific, whenever possible, and include anyone you remember who contributed to that message.”
“Now, take a moment to intentionally counteract those negative messages with positive truths in your life,” adds Dr. Jantz. “Don’t give up if you don’t find them quickly.”
“For every negative message, there is a positive truth that will override the weight of despair,” he adds. “These truths always exist; keep looking until you find them.”
Just be aware that positive self-talk isn’t denying the truth. Instead, it’s acknowledging the challenges and feelings that you must overcome.
4. Become familiar with your inner world.
What does getting out of the way truly mean? Gail Brenner, Ph.D., says that it’s “becoming very familiar with your inner world.” When you do, you’ll “discover what you do that makes you suffer so you can choose peace instead.”
“Amazingly, you realize that you can press pause in any moment and step back from the momentum of old, recycled habits,” adds Dr. Brenner.
“When you do, you see what is actually happening: the pain of being stuck in an old resentment that has been dragging you down, the constricting effect of believing your thoughts, and the chaos that comes from letting your feelings rule.”
After your eyes have become open, “you are primed to live in ways that are intelligent, affirming, and aligned with your deepest desires.” And, that’s when “clarity arrives.”
How can we achieve this? Dr. Brenner recommends the following process:
- Ask yourself, “In this moment, what do I really want to feel?”
- Notice the thoughts and feelings that grab your attention.
- Befriend your experience by noting what is present, but know that it doesn’t have to control you.
- Experience the space that remains when you are no longer hooked by thoughts and feelings.
5. Acknowledge your strengths.
“A strength is an activity that strengthens you,” explains author and researcher Marcus Buckingham. It doesn’t have to be something that you excel at. Instead, it’s something that you look forward to and “leaves you feeling energized,” he adds.
“A strength is more appetite than ability, and it’s that appetite that drives us to want to do it again; practice more; refine it to perfection,” Buckingham elaborates. “The appetite leads to the practice, which leads to performance.”
“Leveraging your strengths and managing around your weaknesses isn’t just about making yourself feel better,” he says. “It’s about conditioning yourself to contribute the best of yourself every day. It’s about performance.”
6. Nothing compares to you — except you.
You bust your tail but aren’t as productive as a colleague. You see that a friend just bought a new car or are enjoying a luxurious vacation. And, that just leaves you feeling like a failure.
But, as Mark Twain once said, “comparison is the death of joy.”
Research backs that statement up. Comparing yourself to others leads to low self-confidence and depression. It can also make you green with envy, deplete motivation, and doesn’t bring you closer to your goals.
In short, if you measure yourself against others, you’re always going to come short. Instead, practice gratitude. And, better yet, compare yourself by tracking your progress and celebrating what you’ve accomplished.
7. Run with the right crowd.
Are you familiar with saying, “you are what you eat?” “Well, it’s also true when it comes to who you keep company with,” writes Marina Lenox over at Success.
You may not realize this. But, “the people you interact with on a daily basis directly influence who you are and what you do,” adds Lenox. “Make sure you surround yourself with people who encourage you and hold you accountable—people from who you can learn positive habits from.”
8. Don’t give yourself a pass.
It’s okay to forgive yourself for slip-ups. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold yourself accountable. Instead of making excuses, focus on what you can control so that you can make the right adjustments.
For example, you might be working from home because of COVID. You might not be able to work during your peak productivity horse because you’re homeschooling your kids. While understandable, don’t just complain that you can’t get anything done.
Instead, work around this new schedule. Maybe wake-up a little earlier or work when the kids to bed. If you’re fortunate enough, ask if a family member or neighbor can watch them occasionally. Also, set boundaries, like letting them know that they can’t disturb during your 30-minute Zoom call.
9. Remove unnecessary pressure.
Life is hectic enough. So, why make things worse by overcommitting or setting unrealistic expectations?
Be realistic about what you can actually accomplish. If you don’t have the availability or skillset, just say “no.” For example, if you’re calendar is already packed, decline time requests like unnecessary meetings or talking to a friend on the phone for two hours.
10. Engage in self-care.
Some might consider self-care as a selfish act. In reality, it’s making time for activities that leave you feeling calm and energized. These are vital in supporting your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.
Examples can include going for a walk, journaling, hobbies, meditating, or taking a shower. Since time might appear to be a concern, add self-care to your calendar. For instance, you could leave an hour blank from 1 pm to 2 pm to spend however you like.
11. Remove “can’t” from your vocabulary.
I’m not actually who should take credit for this. But, I dig the following saying, “If you think you can, you might. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Removing this small, although powerful word, is really just shifting your mindset. As opposed to saying “I can’t do this,” use the alternative, “I can do this.”
That may sound elementary. But, when you assure yourself that you’re capable of doing something, you become more confident. And, if you aren’t sure, you’ll come up with ways to overcome the challenge because you know that you’ll eventually figure it out.
12. Avoid ruminating.
Ruminating is a cycle of repeating thoughts that you just can’t shake. As a result, this can impair thinking and problem-solving. And, it can cause you to get stuck in your own head.
To break free of these swirling thoughts, distract yourself. Examples are doing chores, reading, or calling a friend. You can also question your beliefs, set more attainable goals, and take small action steps to solve problems.