Avoiding Energy Sapping Thoughts
July 14, 2008 11:17 AM   Subscribe

I've discovered one of the mechanisms of my laziness. When it comes time to do something, I start thinking about how boring or tedious it will be to do it. Thinking this very effectively zaps all my energy and will to do this thing. The interesting thing is, if my mind is occupied with something else, say a book or conversation I've recently had, then those negative thoughts don't pop into my head, and I can work away like a happy little smurf. How do I avoid these negative thoughts, so I can "Just Do It"?
posted by parallax7d to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Use the CBT techniques in Thoughts & Feelings to argue with those thoughts.
posted by callmejay at 11:23 AM on July 14, 2008

Sleep deprivation, and I'm being totally serious. Probably not the healthiest way though.
posted by jwells at 11:28 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: you can't avoid the thoughts--there will probably be another version that comes up. so you don't feel like it? so you'd rather clean the bathroom toilets? so suddenly you come to think it's absolutely mandatory that you go grocery shopping right this minute instead?

Do It Anyway.

i struggle with this as a writer, and i find that buddhist practice a la Natalie Goldberg helps a lot--when sitting zazen you will often be bombarded with a multitude of thoughts: my knees hurt, i'm not sitting up straight, what is that sound? i have an itch on my nose. i must scratch that itch. i must must must scratch that itch. what will i be having for dinner later? this is a waste of time. is it hot in here? am i sweating? do i stink? this is stupid.

but you sit through it. you Do It Anyway. same goes for writing or any other task. you have all those thoughts, you note them, and you move on. we are humans. we always have thoughts that we take as a dissuasion to doing what we want. or not. Do It Anyway.
posted by RedEmma at 11:35 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'll second CBT techniques. David Burns' Feeling Good can help. Write down the thoughts, find a label for the type of irrational thought, then write a reasonable response.
posted by tcv at 11:47 AM on July 14, 2008

Start imagining yourself doing the activity. Instead of thinking about how boring or tedious it will be, think about how you'll resolve the problems involved in the activity, or how quickly you can do it, or how well you can do it. You'll so find yourself in the mood for the activity.
posted by orange swan at 11:48 AM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

What helps me the FlyLady's mantra - "You can do anything for 15 minutes". Set a timer (don't just look at the clock - really set a timer - it helps) and then just do it, reminding yourself that even if it is boring, you can do anything for 15 minutes. When the timer rings, you have the option of either cleaning up and stopping or you may find that you are enough into the activity that you just keep going.
posted by metahawk at 12:19 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Thirding CBT and another vote for David Burns' Feeling Good in particular. Too long to explain here, but he has several strategies for coping with exactly what you describe - (When it comes time to do something, I start thinking about how boring or tedious it will be to do it. Thinking this very effectively zaps all my energy and will to do this thing.)
posted by fire&wings at 12:25 PM on July 14, 2008

Just to elaborate, I have and love Feeling Good, but I found Thoughts & Feelings more helpful for procrastination in particular. (FG is probably better for depression & anxiety.)
posted by callmejay at 12:40 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

It helps me to vividly imagine how great I'll feel when the task is done. I'm also a fan of the 15-minute approach.

To get started, I also do a sort of empty-brain trick during the initial steps of the task, as in "Here I am opening the log for the client. Now I'm opening the file. Now I'm finding where I left off last time." I ignore all other thoughts and emotions. I work like a robot until I get sucked into the task.
posted by PatoPata at 12:49 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

I find talk radio shows are great to occupy my mind while I go through the drudgery of miserable tasks that must be done. These days, mostly I listen to politics, but that's starting to get tiresome (how much Obama-bashing can one listen to, from a left-wing host?). Otherwise, I look for science shows.
posted by Goofyy at 5:37 AM on July 15, 2008

this is all good advice, and i'd add keeping in mind that you can start a task and then decide to come back to it. i.e. deciding to clean doesn't mean you have to clean THE WHOLE HOUSE IN ONE SHOT.
posted by softlord at 6:44 AM on July 15, 2008

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