What creates the gap between goal setting and goal getting? Why do we still enthusiastically set new year’s goals, even though for most of us our track record stinks? What about the dreams you’re afraid to tell others because you fear they might laugh?
“I’ll start tomorrow”
“I don’t feel like it now.”
“Good enough is good enough, I’m getting by.”
“This article about Philip Pullman’s latest book is incredible, I better order it on Amazon now, I’m going to write a novel, I haven’t even read The Golden Compass, I better order that too.”
Resistance is the enemy of resolutions – that sense of “not feeling like it.” This is the barrier between you and everything you want for yourself. In order to get results, you have to practice hacking your brain. The good news is that with practice, brain hacks will turn into habits over time. My recent book Brain Hacks: Life-Changing Strategies to Improve Executive Functioning will help you work smarter, stay focused and achieve your goals.
Below are four brain hacks that with practice can make you the boss of your brain.
1. Initiating a Task – Flipping off Resistance
When you find yourself having a difficult time just getting started, simply label that feeling as resistance, and start working anyway. Since the first step can be the hardest, you need to plan for it so you’re not derailed by the unexpected difficulty of task initiation. Especially if the task has a negative emotional association such as perfectionism (fear of not doing everything just right), getting a job started can actually be a big hurdle. Feel the resistance and do it anyway, think how good you will feel when you have it over with.
2. Start Really Small
Whether it’s applying for business schools or preparing a presentation for your biggest client, the hardest part can be getting started. Particularly if it’s a big task with lots of moving parts, finding the momentum to get going can be tough. One secret to getting moving is to start small by breaking the task down into smaller components or making a short time commitment just to get the ball rolling.
When I say small, I really mean small: Think in the range of one to five minutes. You will likely feel that you can do almost anything for two minutes, so why not start there? If two minutes pass and you’re still working, re-up for another two minutes. Before you know it, the task will develop its own momentum, and you’ll be on your way.
3. Confront Your “Tiger” – Your Personal Procrastination Habits
Imagine you had a tiger living in your backyard. Your chief concern would probably be figuring out how to go about your business while minimizing your chances of getting attacked. You’d probably study your tiger closely so you’d know when she took a nap, when she’d want to be fed, and when it was best to stay out of your backyard altogether.
So, too, with procrastination. Think of it as a beast that lives inside you, which you must learn how to tame it to keep from making a mess of your daily life. When you take the time to study your procrastination and learn its habits, you’ll be better able to avoid a dangerous run-in with your “tiger.”
Take out your Notes app or journal and answer these questions based on a treatment called Motivational Enhancement developed by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick.
- What important task have you been putting off?
- What are the benefits of procrastination?
- What are the costs of procrastination?
- What’s at stake if you don’t get this done?
- What are the benefits of completing this task?
4. Get an Accountability Partner
An accountability partner is someone you can call when you are having trouble getting something underway. Turn to this person when you feel resistance and start procrastinating. You can offer to be their accountability partner, too, so it feels like a fair exchange. You each can offer words of encouragement, give reminders of what’s at stake if something doesn’t get done, check in on progress, offer ideas and strategies, exchange information, help solve problems, or just sit with the other.
Lara Honos-Webb, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist licensed in California. She is author of Brain Hacks, The Gift of ADHD, The Gift of ADHD Activity Book, The Gift of Adult ADD, The ADHD Workbook for Teens, and Listening to Depression. Her work has been featured in USA Today, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, and more. Honos-Webb completed a two-year postdoctoral research fellowship at University of California, San Francisco, and has been an assistant professor for graduate students. She has published more than 25 scholarly articles. Visit her website at www.addisagift.com. You can also connect with Dr. Lara Honos-Webb on Instagram and Facebook.