Backsliding? Sometimes you just have to make a list

by Brad Isaac on July 30, 2006


It sure would be nice of thoughts could be automatically compartmentallized into neat little packages.  If they were, we would succeed much more easily than we do.  You could just say "I want to get back in shape.  Then you could come up with a mental list, proceed at your own pace and before you know it, you’d have it. 

Unfortunately the mind doesn’t work that way.  One big compartment can become cluttered with items from another.  A work task list can easily spill over into family life.  Hey, how did my son’s baseball cap end up in my desk drawer.

We can start going in a good direction such as going to the gym every other day for a 30 minute workout.  The first week is easy.  It’s fun to do something new.  It’s exciting.  Just think about all the possibilities.  By the second week the  excitement has worn off, gym time is seeming more like work time.  Thoughts become cluttered with other tasks that seem easier than all the trouble it takes to go to the gym. 

"Well, while I’m here at home, I might as well wash the dishes"  Before you know it it becomes "I can’t go to the gym, look at all these dishes I have to do!"  The problem with this type of backsliding is eventually an easier task than washing the dishes will eventually arise.  ‘I can’t wash all those dishes, I have all those emails piling up I need to answer."

Before you know it, the differing pressures come to bear on you all at one time. 

I should go to the gym, but I haven’t done dishes in a week, and I’ve got an inbox full of emails

So how do you get rid of the clutter and get back on track?

First, write out everything that is bothering you.  Just write down the general projects you have been avoiding.  Then rank each one from one to ten on how much each is bothering you 1 being the lowest.  10 being the highest. 

Going to gym                9
Washing Dishes 7
Answering e-mails 6

Take the project that is bothering you the most.  Choose that project and only that project.  It’s giving you fits for a reason.  You know on some level it is your highest priority goal and you’ve been neglecting it.  Your conscious will get to you if you are neglecting your top goal so you might as well resign yourself to doing something about it.  But not yet.

Since you have identified the critical block in your progress and set aside the other projects aside for now, make an ultra simple, almost ridiculously detailed list of everything you need to do to make progress on your project today..and only today..

Break down the tasks into simple steps anyone could do with ease. 

Go to Gym

1. Change from work shirt to tee shirt
2.  Change into shorts
3.  Put on exercise shoes
4.  Drive to gym
5.  Do a warm up on treadmill at half my normal speed
(In fact, you may choose to do your whole workout at half intensity)

The key to this is to make it as easy as possible to get back on the horse.   
If you can only do 3/4 intensity or even 1/2 intensity, do it. My philosophy is half of something is better than all of nothing. 

Naturally, once you get your momentum going, you’ll start to feel better.  You may check off the first and second task, but them have so much momentum you forget to check off the rest – you’ll be too busy doing to ok at it. 

Another benefit is the other undone projects such as dishes and email have a higher likelihood of taking care of themselves. 

But we aren’t quite done yet.  Since you’ve been slacking off on your goal, the next day is still suspect.  So the first task of the following day is to do the same thing again if you feel can’t get motivated.

Do whatever it takes to get momentum going and keep it going.

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{ 1 comment }

anna February 20, 2007 at 3:14 am

What a great idea! I really need this.. I’m a list maker… I love makign lists of things… but i never use the lists… not really anyway!

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