There are two types of days where I am at great risk of self-sabotaging: (1) days where I have a million and one things to do or (2) days where I don’t have much to do, but the tasks are boring/tedious/”meh” (i.e. school stuff). I figure there are two ways in which these days can unfold, and I’d like to help you prevent or minimize any self-sabotaging on your part.
Your alarm(s) goes off, and you (slowly) begin to wake up. No matter how different our mornings are, one thing is for sure: sometimes, we have no motivation whatsoever and a dire need to run away from our responsibilities.
Whether it’s a beautiful or gloomy day, we can find many reasons not to work or study. It’s very easy for us to turn on the “avoidance” button (if such a thing were to exist), and start cleaning the house instead of studying or reading a book instead of cleaning the house… I find it amusing how our brains function sometimes. As soon as you put something as a task or responsibility, it loses all (or most) appeal.
Here, you wake up dreading the day ahead. You know what you have to do, and yet none of it, except eating and taking breaks, is appealing to you. You create this cloud of negativity and, perhaps unconsciously, prime your mind to avoidant behaviour, associate tasks with anxiety, dullness, or any other negative feeling. Point is, it’s not a winning attitude.
You slowly enter this vicious cycle of dreading the work, and so when thinking about doing the work, your anxiety rises, and because it rises, you avoid doing the work… so on and so forth.
Your day ends with:
- transferring today’s tasks to tomorrow’s to-do list
- feeling helpless and sorry for yourself
- failure (although it is just a set back, you can recover from it!!)
In this version of your day, you wake up unmotivated and reluctant to face the day ahead. You start thinking things like: “I don’t want to do this”, “I don’t want to make that”, “I just want to lay in bed in my PJs and watch [insert name of movies or shows] all day long”. Well, that’s okay. As long as you quit sulking and get your s*** together at some point. It’s normal to have slow mornings even if you have a million things to do. What’s important here is for you to catch yourself in time and realize that you will probably be much better off completing at least one thing from your list than nothing at all.
Because trust me, there is nothing worse -relatively speaking of course- than wasting your time doing nothing. We tend to thrive in periods of learning and personal growth, and the feeling of accomplishment has a lot of perks for our overall happiness. Although we do not realize it right away, the gratification of completing (most) of your to-do list will inevitably give you a boost of happiness, not to mention a guilt-free Netflix* viewing session.
Basically, you want to smack yourself in the face and get real (metaphorically speaking of course, please do not hit yourself). Now the solution is not clear-cut nor tailored to everyone. So find what works for you.
- A 10-15 minute walk
- Shower and getting dressed all nice (even if you are staying home all day)
- Moving your workspace to another area of the house
- Working outside the house
Find what will give your brain a 180 turn to a positive and helpful mindset.
When you have too much to do
When you have a big day ahead, it’s important to set realistic goals.
- Tidy the work area (I am a true believer in “clear space; clear mind”
- Have water and snacks ready so you don’t keep getting up every 30 minutes (unless they are scheduled in with your breaks)
- Use the 20-minute rule to get started
- Break it down: huge, daunting tasks are often less scary when you do them bit by bit, and know what you have to do. Remember, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one small step
- Make a to-do list and schedule tasks by the hour, including breaks and free time