(By J. Maureen Handerson)
“The one thing rule is exactly what it sounds like – commit to doing one productive thing a day related to work, health and self-care. That could be as simple as meeting with your accountant, eating a salad and reading a chapter of the new Stephen King in the bathtub. You can and will likely do more than one thing, but the trick is that your measure of success or achievement for the day is just the one, which is a very manageable benchmark to meet, especially if you combine it with an accountability trigger.“
January is a tough month. Not only does it contain the so-called most depressing day of the year, it’s also when holiday spirit dissipates while holiday bills rolls in and when enthusiasm for resolutions starts to decline precipitously as we trudge toward February. In other words, January specifically and winter in general is fertile ground for procrastination to flourish. It’s difficult – but not impossible – to keep up motivation and momentum in the eye of the polar vortex. Here are three tips for how not to put off until April what you should be doing in January:
Find your accountability trigger
Attach consequences that matter to you to inaction and you’re more likely to follow through. Do you blanch at the thought of wasting money? Well, realize that skipping out on yoga classes you’ve pre-paid for is liking burning a stack of bills. Maybe you’re loathe to let others down? Commit to daily check-ins with a buddy about your progress on a writing project and ask them to follow up with you if you go silent. If you’re someone who thrives on support and cheerleading, realize that going on a solo weight loss journey is not setting yourself up for success and hightail it to a program like Weight Watchers instead. Figure out the type of accountability to which you respond best and build it into your goals.
Follow the one thing rule
You don’t have to do everything, but you do have to do something, anything. That’s my personal daily mantra when it comes to being a work-at-home solo entrepreneur. The one thing rule is exactly what it sounds like – commit to doing one productive thing a day related to work, health and self-care. That could be as simple as meeting with your accountant, eating a salad and reading a chapter of the new Stephen King in the bathtub. You can and will likely do more than one thing, but the trick is that your measure of success or achievement for the day is just the one, which is a very manageable benchmark to meet, especially if you combine it with an accountability trigger.
Realize when you’re burning out your brain
An associate of mine has a running joke that is a list of back-up manual labor occupations he’d consider should he fail to break into the academic job market after completing his PhD. While some of the entries are purely in jest, the thought process behind it is rock-solid. It’s easier to give your full energy to your creative pursuits if the rest of your time is spent on activities that don’t tax the same mental reserves – you only have so many hours in the day and so much mental energy to devote to your bill-paying gig and your passion projects. If you have a number of the latter gathering dust on the shelf, it might be time to consider that your problem isn’t procrastination as much as it is good old-fashioned burnout. If you code all day for a living, how enthused are you to come home to work on your own mobile app until the wee hours? If your 9 – 5 involves writing killer marketing copy, how much energy do you have left in the tank for blogging in your off-hours? If you find that you’re putting off tasks that have too much in common with how you already spend your working (and waking) hours, it might be time to switch out those side gigs for ones that work a different part of your brain or body. Instead of beating yourself up about not getting enough done on your novel, shelve it for a month and teach yourself to knit from YouTube videos instead.
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