I am about 5 months into starting my own business and self-employment, and there is a new challenger that seeks to block me from my goals. It arises in my brain when I try and ‘work’ from home. This is what happens: I will usually be on the couch after eating breakfast and have made the decision to get up, start the day and get stuff done. But another part of my brain just does not want to move because it knows I don’t have to, I’m my own boss, I can do anything, I can just keep browsing random news articles or flicking through my phone. That goes on for longer than I’m happy with until I start trying to make deals with myself, negotiating and coercing the side of my brain that doesn’t want to do anything it doesn’t have to. It ends up in a tug of war, where the other side is an anchor, until I finally break through using sheer force of will. All of this rages on in my head while any external observer would just see me lazily sitting on the couch at 9:24am.
This happens multiple times a day to varying degrees, and I find it as fascinating as I do frustrating.
I just won a battle against this laziness that I like to call the Urge To Do Nothing and now I am writing and finishing another blog post (this one) from a coffee shop. Thankfully I am able to win the battle against the UTDN every single time, however sometimes it takes me longer than I’m happy with. I would like to think that I get stronger and stronger every time I win a battle against the UTDN. Like a veteran on the battlefield, I now know what to expect when I face down this beast. I know the enemy a little better each time we spar on the fields of my living room couch.
I know this war isn’t unique to me so here are some strategies that I employ in my battles against the dream eater known as the Urge To Do Nothing.
Pause all internal dialogue. Take a deep breath. Count down from 5. Then get off your butt and do it, no thinking allowed.
This is the most effective, but also the hardest to do. You need to be able to turn off your brain, and just start doing it. You need to power through the primitive part of your brain that doesn’t understand why you would change, move, spend energy, when you are ‘perfectly fine’ (as in not threatened, distressed, hungry, hurting, and have all your survival needs met). It loves the couch, the chair, the bed and doesn’t understand why you would leave survival heaven. This move pulls the rug under the ‘Urge To Do Nothing’ but takes discipline to pull off. However if you can do this, keep it up and it’ll get easier each time and is extremely effective.
Start doing it in slow motion.
This will sound and possibly look ridiculous but it works. For example: really slowly start to sit up, stand, get to your workstation in slow motion, move your mouse slowly and open up the thing you’re working on, type just one word, then two, then you’re off to the races and you’re no longer ‘Doing Nothing’. This move sneaks around that primitive part of your brain where the ‘Urge To Do Nothing’ seeps from, before it even realizes anything’s changed, you’ve already defeated it.
Move to a new location outside the building you are currently in, then do it.
Changing your environment is extremely effective in putting you in a different state of mind. You get out of your house, your office, find another place to go that looks and feels very different and then ride that mindset change to set yourself on the ‘getting things done’ track instead of the ‘doing nothing’ track. Over time your brain will associate ‘getting things done’ in one location and ‘do nothing’ in another location.
These strategies all have one thing in common: they break the momentum of ‘Doing Nothing’. Your brain would rather keep doing what it’s doing rather than change and do something else. If you’re on the couch, it wants to keep being on the couch. If you are working on something, it’s going to want to keep working on the that thing (unless you get distracted and break the momentum). All you need to do is break out of the ‘doing nothing’ state and set it in the ‘doing something’ state and ride that brain momentum until you finish what you need to do.
Negotiating with the enemy.
I will tell myself: “I can take the afternoon off if I can ‘SuperFocus’ and get XYZ done in the morning”. However this is just appeasing that laziness and it never works for me. I can promise myself the world but still be laying on my couch, or be stuck on the couch later.
Beating myself up about ‘Why I am so lazy/unproductive??’
Not surprisingly, all this does is make myself feel bad and I end up less likely to do what I need to do.
Giving myself just 5, 10, 15 more minutes.
Currently in my war against the UTDN, I have surrendered on the battlefield of my house. I can no longer get myself to do good work at home for some reason. This was not a problem when I first started working from home, because I was able to focus for hours working from my dining room table. I must have lost some key battles during the past 2 months and my brain has unconsciously decided that home is no longer a place where it wants to work anymore. However on the flip side, I have won massively outside of my house, and every time I get out and sit at a coffee shop, library, mall, anywhere, I get so much done, so fast and efficiently.
Banner photo is of a wallaby I met at the Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney, Austraila back in October 2018.