Ever wanted to change a habit or make a new behaviour stick? Yet find yourself slipping after a week (or even a few days). Forming change in your life can feel all too hard and overwhelming. You know it will benefit you, but gahhhh, effort.
If you just can't get out of your own damn way, try these tricks. They won't be a quick fix, rather a slow and steady approach that will stick around for the long term. Small steps will seem a lot more achievable than a drastic change.
1) Set a timer.
Ever have that one thing that you keep thinking, god, I need to do that, but it never gets done? Yeah, me either, (text message from three days ago remains un-answered)…
Here is the thing, with so many distractions in our lives, a small task can seem monumental. We have gotten to the stage where we have two categories of things to do in life. 1) Must be done now, or my life/ job will cease to exist = cannot ignore. And 2) everything else in our lives that can wait and does wait. First, you have to have downtime, then check social media, then eat, sleep. It can all seem a little much.
What if this is holding you back? What if you really want to accomplish something, get on top of those emails, start rewriting your resume, do that hobby you have been thinking about. Reply to that text message (I will do it, I promise).
The solution set a timer. I mean it, get your phone out and set a timer. And set it for a short amount of time. This is key, 15 minutes. You can do anything for 15 minutes, right? I mean, I know you have gone down a rabbit hole of looking at cute animals for more than 15 minutes. It goes quick. Tell your self, I'll do this for 15 minutes. No more, take a breath and dive in.
Two things will happen, either you will get on a roll, and before you know it, you are in your jam. Or you will live through those 15 minutes, complete some tasks, then be free to go back to otters cuddling, knowing you have done something. Either way works.
2) Add a spoonful of sugar?
Mary Poppins may have been onto something with this thinking. I HATE doing the dishes; the concept of old food creeps me out, I don't like getting my hands wet, but I don't like gloves. You have to do it every day, no thanks. I used to build it up in my head when I had to do the dishes; I was so disgusted and angry that it seemed like the most dramatic part of my day. Those whole 5 minutes were death. One day I sat down and said to my self, you are a grown arse woman; stop acting like a three-year-old; if this is the worst part of your day, you live in some exceptionally privileged world.
Now I don't mind doing the dishes, don't get me wrong, I don't love them, but I don't need to. It no longer has the sting.
Think about people who talk about body neutrality. They don't want you to go from hating your body to loving it, simply thinking less of it in your day to day life. Feeling neutral about what you see. This is the exact same thought process.
We have a way of building up a small event into something colossal to the point that we dread doing a simple task. If you can reframe your thinking to a neutral standpoint, you will find the dread disappears.
Still not feeling it? A handy yet slightly horrific reminder I give myself sometimes when things seem all too much is; Do you know in other parts of the world people are struggling to live right now? Have no access to clean water, being bombed for no reason, having their children ripped away from them, being diagnosed with cancer, given 6 months to live…. Yeah, my 10 unanswered emails don't seem so bad compared to that.
Warned you it was slightly horrifying. Puts what you want to do in perspective, though, doesn't it?
3) Give in to the craving
There are times when we are dragging our feet trying to do the right thing by completing a task we should be doing. Yet, all we are thinking about is checking social media, eating those cookies, watching just one episode of our favourite TV. Yet we think, no focus, we NEED to do this. I have been putting this off for so long; just get through it.
I'm here to give you permission to give in to the craving. If your brain is already thinking about social media, you haven't focused anyway. If all you can do is salivate over the cookie, your brain is distracted.
You are more productive if you just leave the task for half an hour and reset. Give yourself time to ponder what needs to be done whilst eating that delicious snack. Then come back refreshed, ready to do the task. Its ok, your secret is safe with me, go frolic, be free. Then come back and do the work.
4) Give yourself a challenge
If you want to start doing something every day but are struggling, the best way to start can be to give yourself a challenge. Every day for just one week, I will do 15 minutes of yoga (Remember the timer). Set yourself a limit that feels achievable. If you think every day will be hard to stick with, choose three times a week.
The goal is to create something you will actually stick to. This is how people quit habits; it's a great trick for making them too.
They say it takes 6 weeks to form a habit, but that is no help if you can't even last a week. Challenge yourself for a short amount of time, a week, a fortnight, a month and see if you can last through it. Then add on a longer time limit.
To hold yourself accountable, tell someone about it too. This is why challenges like Dry July work; if there is money on the line, you are less likely to falter. If people are watching what you do, you will see it through. Create a bet with a loved one or simply share your challenge and get them to hold you accountable to your change.
Remember, it doesn't have to be big. The challenge could merely be clearing my inbox every day. Meditating three times a week. Taking a class once a week for a month. Reading daily, writing twice a week etc.
Whatever the task is that you have been putting off, set a goal and challenge yourself to keep it for a set time. Once you have achieved that goal, throw yourself a party, then stretch that goal further.
5) Get curious.
You know you want to make a change. In fact, you may even need to, but still, you feel uncomfortable, you procrastinate, you clean the house because suddenly it needs to be done. It just feels too hard.
Again we are stuck in that horrid mind area. If neutralising your thoughts doesn't work, another great trick is turning your feelings into curiosity.
I don't like social media, it feels fake, pointless, mind-numbing, but I also know I need it for work. I used to create beautiful posts then never post them. Always lingering yet never engaging as it just didn't feel right. I'm a face to face kind of girl; I want to connect with you over coffee, not online.
Yet this is the world we live in right now, especially with covid still running things. So instead of holding onto those old feels, I decided to approach it with curiosity. What if I wasn't fake on my social media? What if I connected with people authentically because I wanted to, not because I was trying to make money? What if I didn't play the game and did it my own way?
When I started to get curious about doing things differently, suddenly my frustrations were gone, and it seemed like fun! When you can ask questions about what you are doing, you will find you can make a game out of anything.
Tried replying to all your emails with the word Cat snuck into them all, just for fun?
Tried to see how flexible you can get in a month through your exercise?
Thought about all the new words you can discover if you read every day?
Challenged your self to speed typing out your writing?
Looked at redoing your resume, but through a template, how cool can you make it look?
Even your taxes can be fun, google "sneaky ways to make sure you get all your tax back" and see what bonus you can claim.
If you can create curiosity, the fun will follow. Suddenly a task becomes a joy without you even realising it.
Before you know it, a habit has formed, and you have gotten out of your own way. Life is meant to be a fun ride, so why not enjoy every task you need to do? And get the hell out of your own way.