After we’d cleared out some major blocks, “Sam” told me his energy levels were back to where they were seven years ago when he started his business, and he could power through all sorts of projects fast. He was feeling really motivated to go out and get those new clients he’d been talking about for the last couple of years. The one thing standing in the way of his moving forward on the next growth phase of his business were the piles of “stuff” on his desk.
“Stuff?” I asked. “Oh, billing and other paperwork. The stuff I have to do. But I don’t like it. I know I’ve gotta do it to keep my business running, but I would rather do anything else. It’s so boring.” We talked about a few different time management tricks he could use to make time for the stuff and just get it done, but it quickly became clear that this wasn’t a simple question of fitting it into an already busy schedule. Just the thought of working on the “stuff” was turning Sam into a rebellious teen, shaking his head and saying “You can’t make me.”
Now that kind of reaction to other people telling you what to do is often part of what drives someone to become an entrepreneur and create a company. You want to be the master of your own time. So that drive to avoid authority has its benefits. But when it gets in the way of doing what your business needs, you have to root it out. I’ll let you in on two of the easier ways to get around this kind of stumbling bloc
Delegate When You Can
The easiest way is to delegate the “stuff.” If boring bookkeeping makes you dig in your heels and say “No way no how,” give the work to someone who does like to get into the details. A partner, spouse, part-time employee, project-based contractor, or virtual assistant might fit the bill.
But what if you can’t delegate. Maybe your partner doesn’t have the chops to do it. Or your spouse is too busy with her own work. Or your company isn’t generating enough yet to pay someone else to do the job. What do you do when it really has to be you doing the work? If that’s the case, you can try one of my all-time favorite tips. Just change your language.
Choose To Do Your Stuff. Or Not.
Yep, sometimes all you need to do to get around a touch of rebellion is to change how you talk about a task. Think about it. You know that pile of papers next to your computer? I bet you’ve been telling yourself you have to get to it. You really should take care of it. You need to get it done. Whenever you use words like “have to,” “got to,” “need to,” and “should,” you are doing what therapists call “shoulding” on yourself.
When you are shoulding on yourself you are setting yourself up as the authority, telling yourself to get to work. Remember how you felt at 15 years old when your Dad told you you had to mow the lawn, or Mom said you needed to finish your homework before you could go out with your friends? That’s the same feeling you are generating in yourself now when you use those words to talk about your stuff. And you are setting yourself up to react to your stuff like a 15-year-old.
Here’s where it gets remarkably simple. Just stop what you’re saying and replace it with “I choose to . . . “ So instead of “I really should get the filing done” you’ll say “I choose to get the filing done.” Or you’ll replace “I need to get that billing out” with “I choose not to do the billing right now.”
Oh yes, this will work even if you choose not to do that thing you absolutely have to do. Here’s why. First, remember that telling yourself to buckle down and just do it hasn’t been working. You’re still avoiding it. Changing the wording but forcing yourself to “choose” to do the thing you are avoiding is not changing anything. And we’ve all heard that doing the same thing and expecting different results is one definition of insanity. (Thank you, Albert Einstein.) So you have to change what you are doing to get different results.
Second, the truth is there is nothing on this green earth that you have to do — not even pay taxes. Of course, there are consequences for your actions and inactions (like going to jail for not paying taxes), but you still do not have to do anything. The teenager in you is right. No one can make you. So allow yourself the option of choosing not to do something. The only thing I want you to do when you choose not to do something is to add the words “right now.” That way you remind yourself that you aren’t locked into any of your choices forever. Right now may not be the time to do the billing, but maybe in an hour or a day it will be.
Finally, when you know that you can, and sometimes do, choose not to do that boring task, you are far more likely to just do it and be done with it. Because no one — not even you — is making you do it. There’s no one to rebel against. It becomes just a simple decision of “Is now the right time for me to do this or not.”
Many clients have come back to me a week after implementing the “I choose to . . .” wording astonished at how much of the stuff they’ve been avoiding they finished. And it didn’t hurt at all. Once they removed the rebellion aspect, it became much easier to make a rational, logical decision about whether to take certain actions or not. And, rationally speaking, it became much easier to get a task done than to leave it lying on their desk where it would remind them over and over that it was still on their To Do list.
Choose To Out Loud
One final point about using “I choose to . . . “ when you find yourself rebelling against any part of your business. This works far better when you say your choice out loud. I know, I know, you’ll feel like a fruitloop talking to yourself this way. Do it anyway. When you say your choice out loud, it feels much more powerful. Since you’ve been rebelling at authority (those in power who are making you do what you don’t want to do), saying what you choose to do out loud reminds you that you have the power. Furthermore, when you say “I choose to . . . “ out loud, you don’t fall back into your old habit of thinking “Yeah, yeah, but I really should do this” which will completely defeat the point of saying “I choose to . . .” in the first place.
So every time you catch yourself thinking you should, or have to, or need to, or gotta, do anything, stop, take a deep breath, and say out loud “I choose to” or “I choose not to.” Then fill in what it is you choose to do or not to do. For three months.
What?! Three months?!! Yes, three months. That’s about how long it takes to change a bad habit. And shoulding on yourself is a bad habit. Eventually you will establish the new habit of automatically saying “I choose to” do something instead of “I should” do it. Then I give you my permission to just think “I choose to” to yourself. But if you catch yourself avoiding those tasks again, go back to saying “I choose to” out loud. You may sound like a nutjob to those within earshot, but you’ll be a more efficient, successful nutjob!