Do you find that you are frequently setting goals, but getting distracted and off-task? Do you tend to get caught up in spending too much time on the internet, FB, TV and are not getting your goals accomplished? Do you then become hard on yourself and put yourself down? If so, you are not alone. In our attention-starved world, it is easier than ever to get derailed from our goals. However, I actually think that starting and stopping with any goal is normal and that there is actually nothing wrong with us for doing this. This IS the normal process for growth and change. The key is just to get back on track as soon as possible. This can apply to a diet, a paper for school, exercise, your novel, or whatever goal you set. Here are some strategies I like based upon the research data I have read.
1. Spend 10 minutes a day and 30 minutes or so a week to get organized; use this time to make and review a list of top priorities for the day/week. Review your list before you start your day or as soon as possible during the day, so you do not waste too much time on the less important priorities.
2. Procrastination or avoidance of certain tasks is usually about perfectionism. We avoid tasks that make us feel anxious and that we worry about not doing well, so we allow ourselves to get distracted by e-mail, phone calls, etc, because in the moment it makes us feel better. Of course, in the long run, we feel worse because we have not made the progress that we wanted. Try to identify hidden fears or anxieties that may lead you do avoid getting your work done. For example, if you are afraid of failure, not completing a task can be a way to avoid failing (because you haven’t tried really).
3. Practice mindfulness and bringing your awareness back to the moment. This means noticing your distracted thoughts (the phone call you just had from your daughter or the work crisis). Notice that you have gotten off task and gently bring your attention back to task at hand. Remind yourself that you can return to thinking about the other issue later.
4. View getting off task as normal. People often think that being off task means that they are screwing up or not committed. I believe that starting and stopping (any habit or behavior) is normal. We need to learn how to get back on track whenever we find that we are distracted, rather than engage in self-blame and self-criticism, which just derails us from achieving our goals. Another thing that derails people is negative thoughts such as, “I’ll never get this done” because of having gotten caught up in something else. Use mindfulness with no judgment of yourself for having gotten distracted.
5. Make the work-reward cycle a habit. Set work up increments and allow checking e-mail, Facebook or returning the phone call to be a pleasant break after getting a chunk of work accomplished. Practice this regularly. Do a small amount of work and take a 10-minute break to do something you like; this teaches you that you can get work done. You won’t feel guilty when spending the 10 minutes rewarding yourself (reading an article in a magazine for example) and it makes it easier to get back to work for longer chunks of time because you know you can count on having more breaks. Most of the stuff that happens on the break are things you will do anyway. This work-reward cycle makes it possible to not feel guilty when you are off task!
Good luck on accomplishing your goals. Shoot for more in your life!
I would love to hear how it goes.