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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Coping with self sabotage

All procrastination is a form of self sabotage. Most of the time, if you actually just do the things that you’re putting off, your life would be measurably improved, both from having the tangible end result achieved and the release of the stress and pressure you’ve accumulated from not doing the task. The ever-increasing stress of NOT doing your work can grow to totally dominate your life and be very debilitating if left unchecked. The thing is that no one actually sets out to sabotage their own lives - it’s just the accumulation of habits, decisions and micro-actions that cause you to leave things undone.

It’s especially difficult to force yourself to do something you don’t really want to be doing when there’s no one breathing down your neck. It’s a sunny day outside and you can’t really be bothered writing that boring report, and you’ve got one more day to do it, or you could do it tonight - so you put it off and go to the beach. All that time you’re at the beach, however, you can’t really seem to relax - because you know you’ve got work to do and that you don’t really have a firm plan for doing it.

Here are some strategies to help you both relax and get your stuff done in these kinds of situations:

1) Make a plan
Even if you do end up going to the beach (and you might have a good reason to), make a detailed, concrete plan of how you’re going to get the rest of your project done in the time you have - for example, by working on it tonight and the following day. Just whack out a reasonable plan, make sure you haven’t left anything out, then store it on top of your notes in your work area or stick it to the front of the fridge. The plan will be processing in the back of your mind throughout the day, so when you actually start working you’ll have a real head start. Knowing that you have a decent plan for getting everything done means you can relax at the beach and not consciously stress about it all day. Perhaps after you made your plan you will see that you actually have more work than you thought, and that you can’t actually afford to take the day off today - if this is the case, then good! Realism is your friend, and seeing that you have a tight deadline will help motivate you to get started right away. Sometimes you just have to do what you’ve got to do.

2) Pretend you have an external boss
Sometimes you sabotage yourself by not deciding on a concrete plan of action and you just meander around, flitting from task to task and never really getting anything substantial done. One way around this is to pretend that you have a boss. Not the kind of boss you hate, but a boss who is strict but fair, and who wants to get the job done but for everyone to be happy while they work. Ask yourself, what would the boss want me to do if I had one? A good manager would determine what the concrete desired end outcome is and create a fixed goal, and a set of requirements to determine when the goal is met, along with a deadline for achieving it. Then he’d break down the goal into step by step components along with deadlines and requirements for each step, and motivate the troops to get going. For the planning process, it’s useful to pretend that you are the boss and that you have to present a concrete plan to your superiors in the morning. This forces you create a realistic plan with concrete goals and deadlines - not just waffle that would only be half way to accomplishing the task at hand. Then when you come to actually work your plan, pretend you have this tough-but-fair boss telling you what needs to be done, and what your next task is. If you have a good plan, you can just get down to it and focus on that small component of the overall job, without thinking too much about the size or complexity of the plan as a whole.

1 comment:

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