Tips to vanquish three supervillains.
From heroes to antiheroes, it’s been quite a year for forces of good and evil, in film — and the real world. And we need superheroes, because supervillains have taken a new form. These evil forces that can ruin our productivity, performance, happiness and fulfillment on a daily basis are Overwhelm, Procrastination and Doing Too Much.
I believe we are the superheroes that we’ve all been waiting for. We can supercharge two of our most valuable assets, which are our brain and body, to be able to achieve superhuman results. Here are some ways that I fight all three villains, and so can you.
From information overload to digital distraction, there are a number of forces that add up to one big one: overwhelm. And when we get overwhelmed, we often stop taking care of ourselves. We don’t eat well, we don’t make time to read to our kids, we don’t go to the gym because we’re just too stressed out — even though we know these things can help us de-stress and find more energy.
- Schedule the time. It’s the one tried-and-true weapon against this supervillain. Make an appointment with yourself for 30 minutes, or more, and keep that appointment. Give it the same respect that you have for dates with other people.
It happens to everyone. Even if you have a vision for what you should be doing to reach a goal or complete a project, you put it off (and then beat yourself up for putting it off). One or more of these techniques can help you head off procrastination — and get back on track.
- Put it off. Yes, the best way to overcome procrastination is to put off procrastinating. Delay your procrastination for another day!
- Break it down. Break your project or goal down into bite-size pieces. You can even do this with your workout: instead of anticipating the entire workout, tell yourself you’re just putting on your running shoes and just getting yourself to the gym. The foremost expert in this area is B.J. Fogg. He created the concept of “tiny habits.” If you want to get in the habit of flossing your teeth, then he says just floss one tooth. He promises you’ll do the second one, and the third one and the fourth. When I teach people to start reading every single day, I ask them to just pick a book and read one sentence. Before you know it, I promise you’ll read a second sentence — and then a third, and so on.
- Be light. It might surprise you, but being light with yourself is another great way to stop procrastinating. A lot of us beat ourselves up if we miss something that’s good for us. Research in the field of self-compassion tells us if you’re kind with yourself, you’re more likely to be able to commit and follow through. Don’t give yourself a lot of grief about not being able to make it to the gym today. Tell yourself, “I’m human. This happens to the best of us, and I’m going to go tomorrow,” and make a plan for making it more likely that you’ll get it done — for example, by going before work instead of afterward.
- Come up with your “why.” One of my favorite books is a book called “Start With Why,” by Simon Sinek. He says that your purpose is what’s going to drive you and give you energy. When you have a project or goal and you can’t seem to get yourself to do what you know you need to do, try to imagine and visualize — vividly — the results that you want. Tap into your reasons for action and you’ll be able to get past procrastination.
Doing too much
Everybody has a to-do list, and those to-do lists get long. It’s easy to forget that when you say “yes” to something, you’re also creating conditions that might lead you to have to say “no” to something even better.
- Focus on your magic six. When I wake up in the morning, I start on my magic six for the day: three things that I need to get done for my work, and three things I need to do for my personal life, so that both thrive. As long as I get those things done, I feel really good.
- Create a not-to-do list. I have a not-to-do list that’s got hundreds of things on it. My not-to-do list includes checking email and social media first thing in the morning. I don’t check email or social media first thing, because it puts me in reactive mode and demands energy that I really need for important work and decisions that I need to make later in the day.
A good filter for your magic six and your not-to-do list is to ask whether something touches your heart. If I feel really passionate about it I’ll say “yes” but if I don’t feel that juice I’ll say “no.” That way, you save energy for the things that really matter the most.