In last week’s article we discovered the real culprit responsible for our procrastination - the ‘Instant Gratification Monkey’, a nasty inner demon who is hell bent on steering us off course when we really need to get things done.
Because this is such an important topic and one that so many of my clients struggle with, over the coming weeks I’m going to share with you some of my own personal tried and tested techniques for getting that nasty monkey off your back and greatly reducing the amount of unnecessary stress you might be experiencing as a result of procrastination.
We’re going to start with wrestling that monkey right off your back. When we have something to do – an important project to start or task we are procrastinating about, the first thing we procrastinators start doing is ‘should-ing’ all over ourselves.* We beat ourselves up with the thought that we really SHOULD be doing the task or getting on with the project – but while all this ‘should-ing’ is highly effective in making us feel miserable, it unfortunately is highly ineffective in making us take action.
You see, while we’re busy ‘should-ing’ all over ourselves, we get so caught up in this state we almost take a kind of perverse pleasure in wallowing in the self loathing it inspires. And all of this ego bashing and negative self talk is wonderfully preoccupying, so much so that it takes up all the time we need to get on and do the task or start the project, and the more time passes the worse we feel about not having done it, and off we go round the (not so merry) merry-go-round again.
Another funny thing about ‘shoulds’ (and there are many!) is that we store them up in our shoulders – a wonderfully clever observation made by Anne Naylor in her book “Superlife: The 7 steps that spell success” – which is why stressed out people tend to have neck muscles like clenched fists and shoulders up around their ears.
But there’s a great Ninja trick you can pull on that monkey, which instantly releases its grip on your shoulders and gets it running for the hills – and that is to turn your ‘shoulds’ into ‘coulds’. Just try it for a second. Think about that thing you’re putting off doing – that thing you are currently shoulding about, and instead of saying to yourself “I SHOULD be doing XYZ right now”, change the script to “I COULD be doing XYZ right now."
All of a sudden the sentence shifts from one laden with loathing and self judgement to a perfectly innocent and innocuous observation. Yes, actually, you COULD be doing that thing. That's a fact. But you're not, because you don't want to. So… why don’t you want to? Yikes, now we have to confront the real reason we’re not getting on with the task or project. And scary though that is, it’s the first step to breaking free from the monkey and curing yourself of procrastination once and for all.
In my next articles I’ll go into more detail about the most common reasons we don't want to do things we know we ought to do – in other words what you’re most likely to find when you first peel that 'should' monkey off your back and see what's really hiding underneath – and then, what to do about them.
In the meantime, try this experiment: over the next few days, start noticing whenever you use the word 'should' (either in conversation or to yourself). When you catch yourself using it, consicously replace it with the word 'could' and see what happens :-)
*A phrase coined by the wonderfully inspirational personal development guru, Anthony Robbins.
Are you should-ing all over yourself? Let us know in the comments below!