How to get things (that we don’t want to do) done

Day 46 - PaperworkKaspa writes: I’m not writing this from the position of someone who is perfect at getting things done. Rather from the position of the person who has indulged in (and still does) a great deal of procrastination over the years and has got to know the tricks that my mind uses to keep me from getting things done, and a couple of tricks to help me get them done.

I’ve learnt that I have two main reasons for avoiding doing things:

The first reason is boredom – I have some idea of what I like to do, and filling in the tax form isn’t it. It’s also true that I have seen myself become attracted to high-pressure situations, addicted to the ‘buzz’ of working right up to a deadline. When I’m in that mode I get used to working with a high, edgy kind of energy and I can’t engage with anything that needs me to come down from that.

The second reason for avoiding something is a fear that it will change or challenge me in some way. For me this often manifests in social situations. I can remember at parties I would avoid going into rooms where the brightest conversations were happening for a fear of not being able to interact well… and avoid going into rooms where the deepest conversations were happening in case anyone asked me to reveal something about myself.

The tricks I’ve learnt:

Just do it
This really works for me, especially when faced when a task that I think is boring. Just take the first step, and then just take the second step. I have faith that if I really give my attention to what I am doing, one step at a time, the job will get done. Often my attention wanders. Facebook is a tempting distraction. But I remember what I’m supposed to be doing and get back to it.

Often once I get over the initial hump of irritation or boredom I can really get into the flow of what I’m doing.

If I’m still struggling to stay focused I…

Remember why the job needs to be done 
It really is important to fill out the tax forms if I don’t want to get charged too much, or pay a fine! Or I think about the people who it will effect if I get this job done, or if I don’t. There are usually real people that will be affected if I don’t do what I’m supposed to.

Feel the fear and do it anyway
I’d heard of Susan Jeffers a long time ago, but I’ve not read her famous book. I found the same advice in the work of Japanese therapist Dr Morita. He did a lot of work with agoraphobic people, and people suffering from anxiety disorders – real extreme cases of people being paralysed by fear – and some of his advice has really helped me.

Feelings come and go. I can’t control what feelings I have, they are the product of all sorts of things, from my family history to the way my brain is wired. But I can watch my feelings and notice that as fear comes up, fear will pass. I remember the first time I cooked for a large group of people. I was terrified. But I knew that people were relying on me to feed them. The meal was a great success, and I learnt that it was possible to achieve something whilst being afraid.

I also remember the time I dropped and smashed a large stoneware dish full of vegetable bake. The dish and that part of dinner were ruined. Everyone was very graceful and even if they hadn’t been it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. I learnt that it’s okay when things do go wrong. And it often gives you a good story to tell.

Trust that it is better to act than not to – follow you heart

If in your heart you know that there is something to be done – trust that it better to do it, than not to do it. This is the main lesson that I have learnt. My heart knows what is best for it. If I ask myself, ‘what am I avoiding?’ or, ‘what should I be doing?’ then my heart usually knows the answer.

Each time I do trust my heart and do what needs to be done, I learn that doing what needs to be done is the best way, regardless of whether I fail, or succeed. And more often than not, when I follow my heart, good things happen.

If you struggle with procrastination, or with engaging with the world, I’m run an online coursecalled Eastern Therapeutic Writing that might be helpful. The second module is based on the work or Dr. Morita, who I mentioned earlier. We’ll also explore how the Japanese contemplation Naikan can help us in relationships, how writing poetry can help us engage with the world, and we’ll work on our own personal koan. I ran this a couple of months ago and it made a tangible difference to people’s lives.

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