Why You Don’t Have To Feel Good To Do Good
“If only I could just FEEL better, THEN I could [insert important action here]…”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this from my clients and friends over the years:
- I would go work out, but I ‘m just not feeling it right now…
- As soon as I feel better, I’ll reach out to potential new clients for a meeting.
- I don’t really feel like writing. Maybe I should just cancel my newsletter.
And so it begins, our love affair with our emotions. Isn’t that a pain? The whole notion that we can’t do something unless we feel good has crushed more dreams than th Cleveland Browns.
The problem with feelings and emotions is that they can be sneaky little liars. You see most of the time they are helping us see what is right and wrong. We rely on our feelings to motivate us and keep us on track. Most of the time our feelings help us make better, faster and/or more fulfilling decisions. This intuition or “gut feeling” can be really helpful. But sometimes, especially when the level of difficulty or importance is increased for a particular task or project, our feelings can short-circuit our ability to make progress toward our goals.
Our brains are constantly seeking the paths of least resistance…that is; they are always seeking pleasure over pain. This is why we avoid the hard things. By very definition the hard things are HARD, which means painful. We avoid pain whenever we can as a matter of course. But more often than not it’s the PAIN that leads to progress and completion. It doesn’t FEEL GOOD to lift weights, but we can’t get stronger without lifting those weights. It doesn’t FEEL GOOD to make sales calls and get rejected over and over again, but we can’t sell our products without making the calls. It doesn’t FEEL GOOD to stay up late to work on our business, but it’s not going to work on itself.
One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned over the years, and that I’ve helped my clients understand, is that we don’t have to FEEL GOOD to do the things that we need to do…we just need to DO THEM. Removing the requirement of feeling good from my ability to complete tasks frees up so much space for me to make real progress.
So, how do you do this?
1. Plan Ahead – It is nearly impossible to predict our moods, but by planning ahead and scheduling time blocks for productive work you can set the right frame of mind. Unscheduled time is a killer for me. As much as I love looking at an empty schedule, and despite my intention to use that empty time to complete important tasks and projects, I know that without a plan I am more likely to goof off during that time. So here’s what I do. Each day before I settle in for the night, I “close the day” by opening my calendar and logging how I spent my time that day. This gives me a sense of satisfaction (and sometimes a kick in the pants that I wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be that day). Then I look at the next day and I schedule my blocks of projects and tasks that I don't feel like doing into my calendar. I make them TIME CERTAIN so that I literally know ahead of time what I’m going to be doing each hour of the day. Now when I get to the next day and look at my schedule I already know what I’m supposed to be doing. I have removed choice from the equation.
2. Worst Thing First – We have a natural tendency to put off the “big things”. We do the little things first believing that once they are out of the way that we will have more energy to do the big thing. This sounds great until we realize that both big things and little things rely heavily on willpower for their completion, and willpower is finite. We only have so much of it and if we use it up on the little things we have less to use for the big things. So that’s why we need to do the worst things first. We capitalize on our available willpower and build momentum throughout the day.
3. Eliminate Distractions – I speak and write about this so much that most people probably just roll their eyes and skip past the section when I write it, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of minimizing distractions when you’re trying to complete the things that you don’t want to do. Our brains are constantly looking for new stimuli to entertain us. These stimuli become even MORE attractive when they distract us from something that we don’t want to do. To avoid this, we need to literally turn off everything that we’re doing except the task at hand. For instance, when I write I close ALL of the applications on my computer except for my word processing application. Mail is off. Messenger is off. Facebook is off. I also put my phone in airplane mode or turn it off altogether. I put on music that doesn’t have words and sit down to do the work.
4. Use The Pomodoro Technique – The Pomodoro technique is a productivity hack created in the early 90s by a guy named Francesco Cirillo. It’s a pretty simple methodology. When you’ve got a large task to complete, break the work down into a series of short, timed intervals (Pomodoros) that are spaced out by short breaks. It looks a little like this:
a. Get a timer. Any one will do.
b. Choose a task to be accomplished.
c. Set the timer to 25 minutes
d. Work on the task until the timer rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
e. Take a short break – 3-5 minutes.
f. Every 4 Pomodoros (checks) take a longer break – 15 minutes.
That’s it. This method takes the pressure off the task, and discourages multitasking. The goal is to pace yourself through the task, while still maintaining progress. The method enables you to concentrate without distractions, and encourages deep thinking, and gives you an opportunity for rest when you need it.
5. Just Do It – When all else fails we sometimes just need to get back to the basics. Put your damn head down and do the work. You’ll be glad you did...