There’s something you need to do. You know it will help you or your business, however …you’ve got 5 (or 5 million) other things you need to do BEFORE you start on that one. That one thing you really ought to work on.
It’s not that you can’t, or won’t. In fact, you will get to it …eventually.
It’s not that the other stuff you do isn’t important. They’re important, helpful, and good for you or your business too. But they don’t make the same difference. They don’t get you where you need to be.
Why do we do that? What is going on in our brains that stops us from doing work we need to do?
Before we ride the guilt roller coaster, let’s look at how our brains work. The reality is, we are wired to take shortcuts, find the easy wins, and feel accomplished in the now. It’s what kept us alive in the past and our brains are still wired that way. In fact, we are more likely to do something detrimental to our long-term outcome if there is even a tiny, short-term ‘win’ …ouch!
That also means we avoid tasks that require time, patience and focus for long term gain.
That focus on short-term-win resulting in long-term-loss means that proactively working on ourselves, or our business, is often not done until there is a precipitating factor – usually one that scares us or stops us from doing something! How many times have you heard about someone starting to fix a problem after things start breaking down, or worse, epically failed? This goes for our health, business, relationships, and dreams!
How can we get around that?
- The first step is to know that this is how your brain is designed to work.
- You cannot solve a problem if you don’t know it exists or recognize it.
- The agitation is normal! Our brains create chemicals/hormones that make us feel agitated when we need something, we need to focus on something, or we begin learning something new. This is normal and exactly the way our brains were made to work (long story and whole new discussion to go into that in more detail!)
- That agitation is the gateway we need to get through before we can focus or reach that state of ‘flow’ people talk about.
- Reduce the agitation and create motivation by slicing your work time into micro-milestones that send your brain signals you are making progress (the internal feeling of accomplishment chemically creates motivation and drive while reducing the agitation)
- Internal rewards are far more effective at keeping you motivated than external rewards. If you’re looking for external rewards, and who doesn’t, make them occasional and random. Acknowledge all your wins, only celebrate some of them.
- Make a ritual of preparing to work on that important, challenging, or avoided task.
- Take 5 min to get a healthy snack and drink, turn off distractions/let others know you are unavailable for x time, take a bio break, set your space for working. (try and involve all 5 senses if possible)
- Use the same process each time you prepare to work on this task (this will create the association in your brain)
- Remember that each time you begin work on this activity, you will likely feel agitation. (the ritual helps in a couple of ways: it’s a physical set of activities that will help your body absorb the agitating hormone, and it creates an association with the ensuing focus period when repeated over time)
- Eventually your ritual will evolve from ‘actively thinking through the actions before the focus period’ to ‘automated actions (your ritual) triggering focus your mode’
- Slow down the drive. Yes, too much drive and motivation will burn you out, reduce satisfaction, and eventually stop you from moving forward. Your brain requires a balance of motivation and a sense of accomplishment. You can do that by acknowledge your micro-achievements and appreciating what you have done to accomplish them. (your goals are your own, compete with yourself)
- A balance of drive and satisfaction with your accomplishments keeps us moving towards our goals
- As you accomplish more and acknowledge moving forward, you will find it easier to focus, keep going, and enjoy your work. You can create a sense of accomplishment with any work you do when you know it is making a difference to you and aligns with who you want to be.
- Agitation is normal (it might feel like frustration, excitement, boredom, or anticipation)
- Reduce the agitation by creating micro-milestones that show progress
- Create a ritual around focused work sessions
- Acknowledge your effort and accomplishments
- Celebrate wins with internal feelings of accomplishment – use external rewards only occasionally
- Balance drive and satisfaction
- Time and persistence will turn your periods of focus into automated periods of flow
…and remember, life is a complex system full of ebbs and flows. Use this same method to get yourself back on track when life inevitably happens