What I Learned From a Week of Action
I am fed up with my procrastinistic ways (yes I made that word up). Last month I set out to blog about procrastination in general and ended up creating a challenge for me and whoever else wanted to throw their hat in the ring with me. For one week we were to take action, no procrastination allowed. I wanted to play with this and find a way that fit my style and was sustainable. For the first part of the week the action takers and I responded to whatever came up as it came up. No waiting. This brought up some unexpected benefits. For example, I have developed a bad habit of looking at my email compulsively when I’m at a stop light. With this challenge if I looked at an email that required a response, I was committed to taking action immediately. Therefore, no more looking at email at a stop light. Imagine that, sitting in my car listening to the radio or just observing what was happening outside, being present.
Responding to everything in the moment was a bit dizzying for me. But, honestly no more than walking around with a whirling vortex of appointments, projects, business ideas, what’s for dinner, who is picking the kids up (you get the idea) on a constant spin cycle in my head. I also confirmed during this approach that multi-tasking stinks. I am lucky enough to work from home. So, I decided to all the laundry on a day when I didn’t have any client calls and was just working on content. Remember every time I heard the washer or dryer stop I needed to respond immediately. That was great for getting the laundry done, not great for content creation. I needed focus.
The second part of the week we designated a time during the day to come back to the tasks or items that needed our attention. This approach required some discipline. There needed to be a reliable method to keep track of all the “stuff” for later. I really am a big fan of pen and paper. I kept two running to-do lists; one for personal tasks and one for business. That is my personal list above. I love the feeling of physically crossing items off the list. I also liked knowing there was a time I could get back to things. The end result of this part of the week for me really emphasized something I think I’ve already known. I need more structure and less interruption.
In the end neither approach on their own was quite the right fit. Going forward I am implementing a hybrid of both. I have sketched out an ideal schedule that includes multiple points in the day for attending to my list. In between those designated times I am working on not looking at email or social media which as we all know can suck you in for long periods of time.
In addition to taking action, I invited participants to look at the stories they were telling themselves when they decided to procrastinate. You may think you don’t choose to procrastinate, that it is just automatic, but the truth is everything we do is a choice. Think about the last time you procrastinated. Play it back like a movie in your mind. When you hit the point in the film right before you procrastinated, hit the pause button. Really put yourself back in that moment. What was the thought in your head? What were you telling yourself right then? For me it is usually “I don’t have enough time”. Once you’ve identified the thought, flip the thought on it’s head.
Exercise: Flip It on It’s Head*
Identify the thought
Flip it, find the opposite of the thought
Find evidence that proves the opposite thought is true
ID: I don’t have enough time
Flip: I do have enough time
Evidence: I spend time on social media and watching television.
If you want to make change in any area of your life, this is where to start. Change your thoughts. While the “official” week of action has come to a close, you can still take the challenge on your own time. Sign up here and I will send you the emails that went out to the challenge takers. http://www.jennifersherwood.com/#!take-action/bvjmf
The week of action worked for me, I am more aware, acting more regularly and feel better without all that head space being taken up by unfinished tasks rolling over and over in my head. If you want that too, give it a try. What have you got to lose?
*The Flip it exercise is quick way to shift thoughts. If you want to take thought dissolving to a deeper level, I strongly recommend the work of Byron Katie (www.thework.com)