Becoming a Teensy Bit More Disciplined

Baby steps toward elusive attributes.

Bill G., Flickr, CC 2.0

Source: Bill G., Flickr, CC 2.0

Few people reading this post will ever become super-disciplined, but if you’re willing to settle for a teensy gain, it may help.

You see, some perfectly good people just aren’t perfectly driven. No matter how much I tell them that the life well-lived is about productivity, they think, “Yeah, yeah,” and get back to doing something more fun than their tasks.

Might any of these help even a teensy bit?

Junk the hard tasks? Maybe, just maybe, you don’t really need to do that hard task? Could you outsource it, as do lean-and-mean corporations? Pay someone to clean your place? Organize your workspace? Write your Tinder profile?

Or just maybe, the darn task can go undone – like file your income tax return. (Yes, I’m kidding.) But maybe that yucky or ill-suited part of your job? Your entire job? Even that career you’re in that has just too much in it that make you procrastinate? What career might be more fun and still not consign you to a diet of ramen and cat food?

Picture the fun?  Build in a reward if you work for, say, two minutes for, for example, 10 minutes of your favorite screen activity? Or maybe just imagine that you’ll feel good checking off that item on your to-do list?

Make it fun? Put pump-you-up music on? Set a timer for a minute and see how much of that crap you can get done? Or is there a more fun way to do the task? For example, instead of your marketing report being a bunch of Excel sheets, interview a few customers?

Start with the easy? Maybe that’ll get you going and once in motion, suddenly, you’re tackling the hard part — or maybe not. But at least you’ll have gotten the easy part done, which is more than you did before.

Start with the hard? See, there are no rules when it comes to people. Electrons may all act the same way, but people don’t. Mark Twain said to start your day by eating a live frog. That guarantees that the rest of your day will be easier.  Okay, so maybe that’s a bit much, but perhaps while you’re fresh, you might put in a few minutes on that toad of a task?

End with the hard? Especially if you’re a night person, perhaps, like Emily Dickinson, you’re more likely to get something done when everyone else is asleep, no distractions.

Ritualize? Should you pair the reviled task with something you’d never procrastinate on, for example, eating dinner? So, let’s say you hate doing exercise. Or having to send your boss a daily accountability report. Or cleaning the cat box?  Want to get in the habit of doing the dreaded task right before dinner?

Do a crappy job? Sometimes, good or even fair is good enough, certainly better than not doing it or doing it shoddily at the last minute. Are you being too perfectionist? The perfect is the enemy of the good. So at least for some tasks, should you do it crappily? (This does not apply, I repeat, does not apply, if you’re a brain surgeon.)article continues after advertisement

Pair up? Sometimes, it’s easier to work if a compatriot is there to make you feel guilty. Then again, maybe s/he’ll distract you. Either way, you win.

Invoke peer pressure? Tell your goal to your social-media or real friends. If you actually meet your goal, think how impressed (and shocked) they’ll be.

Make someone proud of you? I’ve seen super-slackers get going when they fell in love: They wanted their partner to be proud of them. Or when they had a child. Or just because they were tired of their parent’s nagging.

Embrace failure? Shrinks insist that procrastination usually comes from fear of failure. Should you face that possibility head-on: “So, I fail. Worst case, I’m homeless and have to live on the aforementioned ramen and cat food.”  Or maybe it’s not quite that dire—like you fell off the wagon, got rip-roaring drunk or stoned. No biggie: You get a fresh start tomorrow.

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