Fact: You are talking to yourself… all the time.
During these silent, internal conversations you tell yourself to do something, ask yourself why you did something, or ask hypothetical questions like: “Did that cheesy commercial have anything to do with insurance?”
Question: Does what you are saying to yourself matter?
According to a section in “The Now Habit at Work” by Neil Fiore, Ph.D. what you say and how you say it matters very much. The book includes an interesting look at inner dialogue and how it can very easily lead to procrastination.
How? – By causing either a “stress” or “depress” response toward the idea of working any given task or project.
Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. – William James
Procrastination Begins by ‘Depressing Motivation’
Using “I should“ to begin a self-statement is an attempt to motivate yourself to do something to make your situation better. Instead, it actually just establishes that your current situation is not OK because you ‘should’ be doing something else. Processing a lack of well-being has a tendency to depress motivation.
Using “should do” infers a lack of self-confidence or a lack of necessity. It can also imply that the statement is optional. (E.G. ‘We should all be nice to other people.’ – And we all know this is completely unrealistic and becomes mute after a bad day in nightmare traffic when that idiot in the stinky car cuts you off!)
Statements beginning with “I will…” or “I plan to…” or “I will enjoy the benefits of doing…” support confidence and do not hinder your current state of well-being.
To change habitual, inner dialogue:
Try choosing alternative statements with what comes most naturally and committing to practice as often as you can remember to or write them down.
Procrastination Begins By ‘Activating Stress’ From Self Talk
Using “I have to” as the precursor for a self-statement attempts to motivate with pressure, but really just successfully activates a stress response.
As a human being it is natural for us to want to avoid stress. In this modern society, we have pressure coming at us from all directions. Thus it is an act of self-preservation to use an escape key like procrastination to avoid tasks that have already been associated with stress. Unfortunately, procrastination is no real escape at all is it.
I admit, I start thoughts with this stress activating forerunner all the time…
- I have to remember to…!
- I have to figure out a faster way to do this…next time!
- I have to do better on…!
Dr. Fiore recommends replacing “I have to” with “I choose to”. Saying: “I choose to work on…” does not sound natural to myself, but it may to you. I would transition easily to use “I am going to” or even “I like to”. I would acclimate better saying something like, “I like to be as efficient as possible with my email responses to spent minimal time on non-income producing tasks.”
Like I said before, we have pressure coming at us from all directions and learning how we can learn to treat ourselves regardless of the outside influence is crucial for a balanced life. It is healthy to accept human limits and more fulfilling work with success rather than forever working toward it.