(Right after you read this one article, that is.)
For those times when you know what you want to do, and you just can’t seem to get off your ass (or onto it) to get The Thing done: a compendium of techniques that actually work.
Note: I’m assuming that you have time and the capacity to actually do this thing, and are simply struggling with follow-through, for whatever reason. If your thing is not getting done because you have no time or space in your life for it, that’s a different issue entirely.
1. Remember WHY you want to do it.
Write that down, or speak it aloud. What will it do for you (or for others)? What goal will you be closer to when it’s done? What practice will you be cultivating? How will you feel in your body when it’s underway, nearly done, finished? Remember all this and feel your commitment renew itself.
2. Set a realistic deadline and tell someone about it.
Stop feeling stupid that you need an accountability buddy; according to my entirely unscientific research, approximately 99% of people do better when we feel like we made a promise to someone. We don’t like letting each other down. Go post your deadline on Facebook, or text a friend, and then celebrate with them when it’s done.
3. Design carrots and/or sticks.
I’ve come to believe that some people are Carrot People: they are motivated by rewards. And the rest of us are Stick People: we’re more motivated by fear of punishment. Whatever your driver, sit yourself down and make yourself a promise. When you finish The Thing, you will reward yourself with… fill in the blank: an afternoon spent on your favourite activity, a date with your favourite person, a delicious treat of your choice, et cetera.
Or, for the Stick People among us (hiiiiiiiii!), if you don’t finish by your self-assigned deadline, you will do An Onerous Thing. Some examples of Onerous Things that have worked for me and folks I know:
- Making a painfully large donation to a cause you do NOT support.
- Sacrificing or postponing something you’ve been looking forward to: e.g. a vacation, the new season of your favourite show, etc.
- Giving up a favourite activity for a set period of time (e.g. “If I don’t get this done on time, I’ll go a month without chocolate” sounds painful enough that it would motivate me).
4. Play a theme song.
5. Floss one tooth.
My friend Sarah Bray has an excellent method for unsticking yourself, if you’re someone with multiple projects on the go, which is to spend just 15 minutes a day on each of your projects. You’re allowed to go over 15 minutes, if you like, but the idea is to make the commitment small enough that you feel silly blowing it off. I think of this as the creative person’s version of Leo Babauta’s habit-building method (hence, flossing one tooth).
- Articulate your why.
- Be accountable to someone.
- Promise yourself a carrot — or a stick, whichever works better for you.
- Music helps.
- Try just 15 minutes.
And then, let me know how it goes.