"In general I think New Year’s resolutions are dumb because nobody ever keeps them. But I do want to set some new goals for myself because my career/life is in a rut. Procrastination is a big problem for me. I have this huge list of things I feel I should be doing. But I feel so overwhelmed when I look at it that I just end up wasting time on Facebook or looking in the refrigerator or whatever instead of building my website, working on new monologues or going to the gym. When I look up, a bunch of time has gone by and I haven’t accomplished much of anything. Any suggestions?"
Well, here are a few ideas I find interesting.
Eat That Frog
Brian Tracy wrote a little book on procrastination called Eat That Frog based on the old saying, “If the first thing you do when you wake up is eat a live frog, nothing worse can happen to you for the rest of the day.” Your “frog” is the most difficult task on your to-do list—the one you are most likely to procrastinate about. If you look at your to-do list, circle the “frog” and “eat” it first, it will give you energy and confidence to power through whatever else you need to do for the rest of the day. But if you let it sit there looking at you all day while you do a hundred other less important things, it will slowly sap your energy, and at the end of the day the thing you most needed to do still isn’t done. I have found this image helpful. When I find myself butterflying between different tasks, circling around things and not really getting anything done, I just say, “Oh come on, Velina! Eat the frog!”
Automate, Delegate, Designate
Author of The Tao of Show Business, Dallas Travers offers this advice on how to deal with tedious tasks that have to be done. Look at your to-do list and see which ones can be automated. For example, automated bill paying for those bills that come around every month (PG&E, phone, etc.) saves time. If you hate to grocery shop, perhaps have groceries delivered. It costs a bit more, but if shopping really drains and annoys you, perhaps it’s worth it to pay more and save you energy for the things you enjoy that could help you earn more.
Next, look at what you can delegate to someone else. Maybe you and a friend both find self-promotion difficult but find it easy to champion each other. If you do each other’s mailings or marketing calls it would be less stressful. Or you cook and they do the grocery shopping.
Finally, for the things on your list that you can’t automate or delegate, designate a specific time each week or month to just go ahead and knock those tasks out.
Master Your Inner Game
Life coach Matthew Blom does fascinating work with clients on what he calls their “inner game.” He describes one’s inner game as one’s implicit beliefs, confidence and habits that affect the results one gets in the world. No matter how much we outwardly say we want to achieve something, we won’t consistently do the things to move us toward our goals unless our inner self agrees. He uses the analogy of a captain of a ship calling out orders up top: “Head east!” But if the crew below disagrees because the current direction feels familiar and safe, the ship will not head east, no matter how much the captain is screaming up above. Thus, if you find that you are struggling or feeling stuck in a rut, perhaps it’s related to a lack of congruence between your inner and outer games. This may be why, year after year, people passionately make resolutions to improve various areas of their lives, yet soon lose steam and find themselves on the exact same course as always. According to Blom, if your inner and outer games are brought into alignment, then you can finally feel like an empowered captain of your ship.
Rather than pushing against the resistance you are experiencing as you try to move out of your rut, ask yourself what you get out of staying in the rut. Be quiet and listen without judgment. The answers that come up are from your crew or inner game. When the crew’s concerns are addressed, you’ll start heading in a new direction.