What can you do if you know exactly what to do and how to do it, but you’re still unable to do it?
Perhaps you get easily distracted by interesting or low-hanging tasks that are stealing attention from what the ‘rational you’ want to work with. Sure, you could totally Google “Why isn’t my code working,” but first, let’s check what’s going on over on Reddit.
Maybe you’ve been procrastinating, feeling stuck because you haven’t started writing that proposal due a few days ago. You’re aware it’s important, and you frequently remind yourself you should send it throughout the day.
Procrastination is not necessarily bad. It can be a tool to identify what you enjoy and what you don’t. However, if you can’t manage to do what needs to be done, you can end up feeling like a failure because you can’t motivate yourself to do the things that are necessary to progress.
There’s one thing that separates someone successfully earning online on their terms from someone struggling to make ends meet: They embrace discomfort.
A lot of times, productivity challenges can be emotional management issues in disguise. You need to accept that being your own boss requires effort. And effort often does not feel good. The key is to accept this as a fact.
I can do hard shit if I want to. My friends are often amazed at my consistency in going to the gym. They say “I can only go if I hire a Personal Trainer. Otherwise, I won’t do anything.“
For the past 5 years, I’ve been working out consistently. I go to the gym at least three times per week.
However, when it comes to work, it’s an entirely different story.
When I worked in an office, I had my boss and deadlines to keep me on track, despite disliking certain tasks.
As a freelancer, no one is there to push me. I must motivate myself, especially for the tedious tasks. I knew this would happen, but living it was different.
People advised, “Do the hardest and most important task first” and “Do what needs to be done, even if it’s boring.” But no one explained HOW to handle the boring stuff.
I wondered: Is this normal? Am I just lazy? Will this phase pass?
I eventually realized it is normal, but it won’t just pass. I learned to accept that tasks often feel unpleasant.
If you struggle to stay on task, it might be because you haven’t learned how to sit with your uncomfortable feelings.
So, what’s the first step to come to terms with feeling uncomfortable? You have to stop and pause.
Often the moment when we most need to pause is exactly when it feels most intolerable to do so.
Start by identifying a task you’re avoiding. Visualize or begin the task, noting each step: ‘OK I’ll first sit at my desk and I’ll open my browser, then I’ll log in to the tasks management platform and I’ll check the requirements’. The more realistic the picture you paint in your head, the more easily you can access the thoughts and feelings throughout your body.
As you do this, you’ll start to feel uncomfortable. Take a deep breath and focus your attention on your body. Where do you feel the discomfort most intensely? It could be a tightness in your chest or a slight tension in your neck. How uncomfortable is this feeling? Are there any thoughts that come to mind? What about this situation triggers these strong sensations?
It’s crucial not to run away from these feelings or judge them. Simply observe them. Trying to push them away might result in a more overwhelming wave of discomfort. Once you notice them, just watch them. Eventually, they will go.
Also, don’t try to force positive thoughts or motivate yourself to tackle the dreaded task. I know it’s challenging. But when you catch yourself judging and thinking things like “I should just get back to work,” just acknowledge those thoughts by saying, “I’m judging this,” and return to observing your emotions.
I recommend dedicating at least one week to this exercise, spending 10-15 minutes per day. You’ll start to notice patterns and become more aware of when you engage in activities you prefer over what you know you need to do. Many times, we distract ourselves to avoid confronting uncomfortable feelings.
By doing this exercise, you’ll be more in control of your life and less on autopilot. You’ll begin to recognize how these uncomfortable feelings inside you often drive your actions. You may even become aware of beliefs like “I can’t handle this; I don’t know where to start, and I’m afraid of failing” or thoughts like “I’m not good enough.” It’s okay. You can challenge these beliefs later. The first step is becoming conscious of what’s happening within you.
The Power of the Pause
The next time you catch yourself opening Reddit or TikTok instead of tackling that tedious task, consider it a signal to pause. When you pause, you give yourself the opportunity to understand what’s truly happening inside you. Maybe you thought you were avoiding your tax paperwork because it’s boring, but in reality, you might be afraid of facing your financial reality.
The pause empowers you to regain control over your actions. You’ll be able to do what you genuinely want to do, not just what feels good in the moment.
The awareness you’ll gain will set you apart. It will enable you to deliver on your promises, stay ahead of the competition, and ultimately, live life on your own terms.