In this lesson, I talk about the stories that we tell ourselves about difficult tasks … it’s an inner narrative about what we’re going through that we’re telling ourselves all the time. And it makes a huge difference when it comes to focus and procrastination.
Let’s talk about what a story is first:
- There’s the basic situation from an objective perspective: you’re sitting in front of your computer, you have a task to do.
- Then there’s the story you tell yourself about the situation: this is hard, I’m tired, I don’t want to do it, I deserve a break.
- We’re telling ourselves a story about things all the time â€” often it’s not even verbalized, but just felt.
- The story affects what we do: if we tell a story about deserving a break, we’ll put off the task and take a break.
In fact, our story controls us all the time. We’re not usually aware of it, but it’s always happening, and we act on it.
So the simple truth is, we need to become aware of our story in order to counteract it, in order to not be controlled by it. If we don’t notice the story, there’s nothing we can do. And we’ll keep procrastinating.
Awareness of Story
So it can be difficult to hear your own story. It’s happening in the back of your mind, and you don’t usually acknowledge that you’re even seeing things this way.
In your Unprocrastination Sessions, pause when you are about to switch tasks or quit. Ask yourself why … what is your reasoning for wanting to switch?
Some possibilities (among many):
- You are tired and want a break.
- Check email real quick/watching one more video won’t hurt.
- It won’t hurt to do it in a little while.
- This is hard, it sucks, let’s do something more fun.
- You’ve worked hard, you should get a treat.
- If you don’t check email/social media you might miss something important!
- Ooh, maybe you’ll learn something new or get a cool update if you go check on ___!
Of course, these are just some examples. I’ve used these many times myself. Even as I wrote this article. :)
So pay attention when you’re about to switch or quit, and ask yourself why, and what rationalization you’re giving yourself.
You can do this not only in your daily Unprocrastination Session, but during the rest of the day.
This doesn’t take long … it’s not the easiest thing to see your own stories, but I promise you, this is an incredible skill to develop it. Work on it!
What You Can Do
Once you’re aware of your story, you can actually change your story. The cool thing about the story is that it’s changeable. It’s plastic, fluid, malleable.
For example, instead of saying, “Just one more video won’t hurt,” you could say, “Actually, it hurt me the last few times, so that’s not true … how about, just one minute of doing this difficult task won’t hurt?”
Or instead of saying, “I deserve a break right now,” you could tell yourself, “I’m going to give myself 5 more minutes of hard work, then I’ll really deserve that break!”
As you can see, the second story is more helpful than the first. The first story actually causes you to hurt yourself by procrastinating. The second story helps you to help yourself.
Spend the next week paying attention to your stories and rationalizations during your Unprocrastination Sessions and the rest of the day if possible.
Try changing your story once a day.
Share what stories you tell yourself in Slack.