This is the second blog in a series about how to stop procrastinating and actually get on with things. As with all these articles, please keep in mind that each of them is just ONE piece in a range of things that people can do.
The Need-To-Do List
Do you keep a list of what you need to do? Or have you ever? I know I did, years ago. There I would be, in the morning, getting out my list of things I needed to do, thinking about what I needed to do that day, maybe thinking about what I needed to do first.
It didn’t work very well, of course, and I didn’t realise that my list was actually a procrastination strategy. At the time I didn’t know it wasn’t working. I think I do now.
‘My List Is Getting Bigger’
One of the most depressing things about my list-of-things-I needed-to-do was that gradually, over time, it got longer, and I found myself spending more and more time each morning transferring what I hadn’t done from yesterday’s list to today’s new, fresh and usually slightly longer list. And this took a while as it was in the days before computers (yes, there were such times…).
Words That Don’t Help And Words That Can
Words can be tricky things and most of us don’t realise how much influence the things we say to ourselves have on our thinking, feeling and behaviour.
Try this experiment. Say to yourself the following.
‘I wish I could take next Monday off work.’ If you don’t work then find something equivalent. Notice what thoughts and feelings come to mind.
Now say to yourself…
‘I could take next Monday off work.’ Once again pause for a moment and notice what thoughts and feelings come to mind.
‘I would like to take next Monday off work’. Again, stop and notice what feelings and thought come to mind.
And now repeat this with the words should and might.
Now I am realistic enough to appreciate that a fair number of people reading this won’t actually bother to stop and think these things through in the manner I am suggesting. I know that I have read countless books with ‘exercises’ in them and have actually bothered to stop and actually do these exercises only rarely. There is a very funny forward in a book on meditation by the author Robert Anton Wilson where he goes on, page after page, either joking how important it is to do the exercises or being serious about how important it is to DO THE EXERCISES, to get true value from the book. He used capitals and bold type too. I think in that instance I actually did do them, well a few of them…
Anyway to get back to the point, you could consider the above italicised words to be ‘possibility’ words. Actually they are classed as ‘modal operators of possibility’ within the field of NLP, but I like to steer clear of jargon where possible.
The next class of words I would like you to consider are what may be called ‘necessity’ words, so please do feel free to actually do this. Just stop for a moment and say to yourself
‘I want to take next Monday off.’ Once again notice what thoughts come to mind.
‘I need to take next Monday off.’
And then repeat with the words have to, must, and got to.
Usually there are different feelings and thoughts associated with these different words as you consider doing the activity.
The Magic Words
You don’t actually need much. On one level all you need is oxygen, water, food, a reasonable temperature and perhaps shelter from the elements. On this level a person might also need medication to stay alive…
Here are the words that work much much better. Stop and say to yourself…
‘I am going to take next Monday off’ or ‘I will take next Monday off.’
This is much more powerful, it’s a kind of commitment, when you think about it.
When ‘I am going to’ simply isn’t enough…
It isn’t enough, you know, just to say you are going to do something. Sure, it’s much more powerful than saying you should do something, might do something or need to do something, but it isn’t enough.
There are many people on the planet that repeatedly say that they are going to do something, and then never actually getting around to it. Consider the example of the guy who is constantly saying that one day he will start his own company, to eventually glance down and realise he has just been given his retirement watch…
The list of things you are GOING to do
OK, let’s get back to this idea of a list. Even if you didn’t really notice that much difference when you went through the ‘exercises’ above (if you actually did them, I doubt I would have done…), I do suggest you experiment with this whether it is with an actual physical list of things or just a mental ‘list’. Change the title of your list from ‘Things I need to do’ to ‘Things I am going to do’, and, crucially, do the following…
Decide WHEN you will do things and have an idea of WHEN they will be complete
Now your list (real or mental) may have a number of different things on it ranging from ‘feed the cat’ to ‘write my novel’ or ‘get fit’. So some things can be done in a few moments and some things are done over time. You aren’t going to write a novel in one day, however motivated you feel. So decide, in advance, how much time you are going to devote to writing your novel today, and when you are going to do this, today. You don’t have to write an exact itinerary of your day, minute by minute, just get a good idea of when, such as ‘I am going to spend an hour writing my novel early this afternoon.’
This can make a big difference, believe me.
How to screw this up…
Ok, there is a way you can really screw this up. However well you are phrasing your plans in your mind, or on paper or on your computer or smartphone, if, when saying to yourself, in your mind or outloud, something like ‘I am going to go to the gym this morning’ you say it in a whiny, tiny internal voice, or a bored, depressed sounding inner voice, you will not light yourself up with joy and excitement…
Use really powerful inner tonality
It’s a bit unusual for us to go inside and ‘change’ the way we speak to ourselves but I invite you to do it as an experiment. Imagine the richest, most wonderful most resonant, most loving voice you can, speaking from every single cell of your body, as you think about what you are going to do – bathe yourself in the sound of the voice. It can take a bit of practice if you haven’t done anything like this before.
There it is then, decide what you are going to do, decide when you are going to do it and use the most wonderful, full, empowering inner voice you can imagine, when you think about it.
Of course I am assuming that what you have on your list is reasonable and achievable and ecologically sound, ‘well-formed’ as some in the field of NLP would say, but that is for another blog…
PS Credit to John La Valle – I have heard John talk about modal operators in this manner on several occasions.
Read my first blog on procrastination here – https://www.justbewell.com/info/index.php/stop-procrastinating-one-important-step/
Visit the page on the main site here – http://www.justbewell.com/procrastination.html
Do feel free to leave comments and observations.