How to Beat Procrastination and Get Your Mojo Back
Why Can't I Get my *&$% Together?
Last week was a rough one. I had a clear plan for what I wanted to accomplish. I'd made a significant decision about my business and was feeling good about it. I was ready to focus and write this blog post and an inspiring and motivating email to my list of followers and then...nothing. My goal is to be consistent about delivering my blog and emails, and it doesn't seem like it should be that hard, but it is.
I sat there, staring at the screen, ready to write a simple email that I already had a topic for, and nothing would come out. I just couldn't muster the thoughts, the energy, or the motivation to write that email. What the heck was going on?
How Can I Know Exactly What To Do and Still Not Do It?
I thought I had done everything right. I had a plan, I knew what work to do that day, I even knew what to write about, but nothing would come out. I'm a big believer in having a plan, so the fact that I had one and couldn't do it felt horrible.
So, instead, I had wine for lunch and took a nap on the couch.
Ha! No, that's not really what happened (maybe next time).
What happened is I went down the procrastination rabbit hole. I sat at my desk (under the guise of working) and checked in on social media, read some email (not doing anything with them, just scrolling through them), and had some snacks in case I just needed more fuel. (For the record, lack of food has never proven to increase my motivation, but I keep trying!)
Then, the little coach in my head spoke up and said, "Hey, what would you tell your client to do if they were stuck like you?" And, while it's not always a pleasant thought (I do rudely roll my eyes at my inner coach), it does work. And it has the bonus of helping me understand how it feels to my clients when I coach them through challenges like this. (And, for those of you future clients out there, my apologies in advance.)
When we lack motivation, or we procrastinate, we tend to blame ourselves and assume there must be something wrong with us. But this is neither true nor helpful. When you procrastinate, it's a signal or indicator that something is off and needs your attention, but it's not you that's broken. Separating "something's off" from the thought that you're bad, lazy, or wrong is essential. Because whatever's happening is just happening. It's a data point. If it were all about you, then nobody else would have this problem. But literally, everyone has this problem! So, use this data to work your way through. Here's what the little coach in my head told me to do.
How to Get Your Mojo Back
1. Define what it means to get your mojo back with kindness.
What does it mean to be "back on track" and making progress but in a sustainable way? For me, getting my mojo back is about just one thing – making daily progress on what matters.
Notice that I didn't say "big progress," size does not matter here. I simply want to be consistently making small moves toward my goals. Which takes me to the other half of that statement, "on what matters." Getting my mojo back is also not about being super busy getting lots of stuff done. It's all about working on the right things, the things that matter, and that move me closer to my goals. And, sometimes, making progress means taking a break to renew my energy for the work ahead.
2. Check-in with yourself and look for the source.
When that moment arrives and you're in the downward procrastination spiral and getting ready for that nap on the couch, check-in with yourself and try to understand what's causing your lack of motivation.
- Are you overwhelmed and can't figure out what to do next?
- Are you feeling incompetent about the next task, so you're trying to avoid it?
- Do you need time to think or be creative so you can process an idea before you do the work?
- Are you anticipating a negative outcome or experience?
- Do you simply need to take a break because you've been pushing yourself too hard?
These aren't all the possible reasons, but they're some of the big ones.
3. Take action (make it small but make it matter).
Once you understand what's happening, you can take the appropriate action. Here are the top three ways I move through procrastination:
- Reduce my expectations for what I'm about to create (break free from perfectionism).
- Improve my plan to clarify what's essential and what's not (reduce the burden and create clarity).
- Just walk away and either process ideas or renew my energy (and often these go together as I process while renewing.)
Last week I did the first one and wrote a pretty lousy email and sent it to my list of followers who have signed up to get inspiration and action steps from me. That email had neither of those things, but I sent it anyhow. And that crummy, demotivating email felt great!
Make a Choice and Move Through
The one thing you should know about these steps is that it's not always clear why you lack motivation. You may not be able to pinpoint the source at the moment. In this case, make your best guess and take action, any action. Because taking action is far better than just sitting and hoping it will pass.
If that means you choose to take a break and have that nap on the couch, then go all in! But make it a conscious choice, one with a purpose to move you through and not let the lack of motivation or procrastination win. And, who knows, that nap may be just the thing you needed, but you'll never know until you try. Make a choice to move through rather than give in.
Equally as important is that you don't try to fight it. If you do, it's likely to come back later with a vengeance. And, if you decide to ignore it, well, good luck with that! You may end up procrastinating but calling it "important work".
So, watch yourself closely and when you feel yourself sliding down that rabbit hole stop and get curious. Try to discover what's causing your lack of motivation. Then move through instead of fighting it. Stepping away from your work isn't a bad thing. Just make it a choice, and don't let a lack of motivation and procrastination get the best of you.