It’s easy to get side-tracked. Very easy. Life interrupts, other things interrupt, we procrastinate, we worry, we fall behind. When these things happen, it’s easy to feel discouraged, hopeless, or deflated. So what are some common pitfalls?
The obvious first obstacle is life itself. When big things happen in our lives, sometimes our goals have to wait. It’s that simple. The trick here is to remind yourself that if you can’t work on your goal right now, you can likely pick it up at another time. Putting it down because of life circumstances does not mean you can’t reach your goal. It may mean you might have to wait a little longer or revise your goal and/or your planning. It’s important to keep in mind that the obstacle does not have to mean you can’t reach goals. Life happens. We can’t always predict or control what comes our way, and we can’t always stick to the schedule or task list we planned. Staying flexible and being gentle with yourself is incredibly important when things go off the rails.
What about procrastination? That’s a tough one. It’s easy to fall victim to this. One big factor in procrastination can be anxiety – if we are worried we can’t reach our goal, we may put off working on it. Or maybe we struggle with perfectionism; this often keeps us from working because we don’t like producing something that’s not perfect. Another factor might be overconfidence. If we feel the goal is too easy, or that we won’t have to put much effort into it, then it is really easy to put off the work. Both of these situations can (and do) come back to bite us. And then there is distraction…
This one could be tricky – it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and get distracted by all the cool little tangents and distractions that catch my attention. So, as an adjunct to the planning, I really need to be time-limited here because I could otherwise spend most of my time down the rabbit hole. You will need to identify what your “rabbit hole” looks like – it’s going to be different for everyone.
One of the best strategies I have come across for avoiding the rabbit hole is to schedule “rabbit hole time.” The idea here, as contrary as it sounds, is to schedule a fixed amount of time for distraction. Remember the rewards I mentioned in the last post? Going down the rabbit hole for a little bit can be a reward. The trick is to respect the time commitment you made. No, “I can just do it for 5 more minutes,” or “a little extra time won’t get in the way.” The reality is those extra 5 minutes or “little extra time” DO get in the way.
My motto: Keep your eyes on the prize, meaning keep your goal in mind. If you’re aiming for a spot on the volleyball team, getting a promotion, or a part in a play, maybe going out for coffee or a soda with friends is a “rabbit hole” for you. For others, social media can be a huge rabbit hole – we get pulled in rapidly and before we know it, hours have passed. Plan out a time after you’ve worked on your tasks, or limit your socializing to an hour or so. And then, stick to it. Sometimes having an “accountability buddy” helps – someone who can remind you or keep you on track so you are able to stick to your commitment. (See above – this works for tasks and rabbit holes as well as for overall goals!)
Coming up next: Evaluating your goal and/or getting feedback.
Disclaimer: The information and content of this blog are not meant to constitute therapy or therapeutic advice. If you are in need of help or think you’d like to talk to a counselor or psychologist, there are many available. If you are in a crisis, emergency or life-threatening situation, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. You’re not alone, and there are people who care and want to help. Calling 911 or going to your emergency is not weakness; it’s a true sign of strength.
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All information and content on this blog is ©2016 by Dr. Laura Burlingame-Lee, Ph.D., dba “The Power of Each Other.” For inquiries regarding reproduction or use for any purpose, please contact her at (970) 776-6043.