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Back to school. Sigh.
I love my teaching job. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a slight tinge of disappointment as I prepared for the start of the school year. I sluggishly assembled my syllabi and lesson plans, with lots of grinding starts and stops. Of course, it would’ve been a whole lot easier if I’d simply tackled these tasks in one fluid go.
So why do we drag our feet when we know we’re just making things harder?
Let’s start by addressing the “why”. Then we’ll go over how to stop dragging your feet.
Why Do You Drag Your Feet?
1) You aren’t ready to move on
In the summer program where I teach, the kids get a ten-minute break in the middle of class. The instant the break starts, they whip out their phones and start playing their games. As soon as I announce that break is over, they immediately cry out in protest, shouting, “No, no, I’m just about to win!” Occasionally, I’ll have to forcibly snatch the phones out of their hands. The looks they give me are akin to one a dieter on her cheat day might give if you ate the last donut before she got a chance to have one.
For me, I dread the end of summer break because once again, the lofty summer goals that I set for myself are still unfinished. I have not launched my natural health blog as I had envisioned, and my current blog is nowhere near where I want it to be in terms of traffic or design or…the list goes on.
2) Transitions suck
Switching gears is never comfortable. Though I still taught a little over the summer, my schedule was greatly reduced compared to the school year. Most days I’d be glued to my computer from the moment I woke to the moment I went to sleep, working furiously on writing or writing-related tasks.
I was in my flow.
And no one likes to be interrupted from their flow.
In fact, no one likes to be interrupted, period!
That’s why it can be so hard to motivate yourself to exercise. You’re lounging on the couch, basking in the AC, and then you have to get up, put on your workout clothes, and start huffing, puffing, and sweating.
3) You know the tasks ahead will be tedious
Like I said, I love teaching. I love being in the classroom and interacting with the students. But as every teacher knows, much of a teaching job takes place outside the classroom.
I’m sure most English teachers would agree that grading essays is one of the least desirable aspects of the job. Don’t get me wrong, some of my students’ essays are truly excellent. But it’s the sheer repetitive action of having to read essay after essay on the same prompt, mark all the errors with my trusty red pen (and witness multiple students mistaking “loose” and “lose”), and be a good role model by using more descriptive words than “good” and “nice” in my essay comments that gets tedious after a while. And don’t even get me started on deciphering handwriting for in-class essays!
Additionally, in nearly every teaching job I’ve had, reports have been required. As if planning the lesson and teaching the lessons aren’t enough! Man, are those reports the bane of my existence.
How to Stop Dragging Your Feet
1) Let go of resistance
What makes certain things so difficult is your resistance. It’s like jumping off a high dive. The jump itself isn’t so bad. Rather, it’s all the anxiety surrounding it. If you’re gonna do it, just take a deep breath and go for it!
In the case of approaching a task that you’re reluctant about, don’t moan and groan. That just makes it worse. Instead, roll up your sleeves, put on some music if that’s an option, and get to it!
For me, once I start grading essays or writing those reports, it’s never as bad as I’d anticipated. Once I get into the flow, it’s actually enjoyable.
This is a great video on how to address those situations you’ve been dreading and accomplish them with ease.
2) Surrender to the ebbs and flows of time
Realize that nothing truly has a beginning and end. My students can return to their video games after class is over. I’ll still be able to work on my writing as the school year progresses. You can go right back to that couch once you’ve finished your workout — and now it will feel even better!
In fact, it is these transitions that make us appreciate the in-between time even more. Yeah, it’s a bummer working a 9-to-5 when all you want to do is create, but doesn’t having a regular job make you appreciate the precious time you have to create even more?
These transitions also give your life shape and form. Ever notice how if you have a day where nothing is scheduled, the time collapses into a blob? And you’re wondering how in three hours all you managed to do was check your email and pay your power pill?
Any unwelcome interruption that diverts you from what you’re currently engrossed in gives your brain a much-needed breath of air. Besides, when you’re engrossed in something, you’re not really enjoying it. You’re in a trance.
If given the choice, I’d probably spend the entire day in front of my computer. Besides the fact that staring at a screen all day is unhealthy, after a few hours, it doesn’t even feel satisfying. If I was forced to get up to do some housework, sure, it might be a pain at first. But the break would rejuvenate me. When I’d return to the computer, my favorite activities, writing and reading, would be enjoyable again.
3) Show gratitude for every situation
If you dread going to work each day, be grateful that you have a job. Then find the little things about your job that you find enjoyable. Maybe you have a nice view from your office window, or a receptionist who always offers a friendly smile.
For me, having a steady paycheck along with multiple other sources of income is definitely preferable to the full-on freelancer days when I’d wake up each morning having no idea where the next check was coming from. When I’d spend hours each day surfing Craigslist. When I’d take on all sorts of odd jobs, like writing the same ad for a work-from-home telemarketing company 75 times, but each time slightly altering the tone and wording of the ad. I kid you not. I can look back on those times and laugh now, but when they were actually taking place, it was pretty stressful.
Besides having a reliable job, I am grateful to teach in a small, nurturing environment where principals care about and support you, students actually want to learn (for the most part), and I get to teach about subjects I love.
Plus, this job keeps me on my toes. Teaching students how to be more effective writers helps me stay at the top of my game. I also appreciate that I’m forced to read challenging literature. When left to my own devices, I’d likely limit myself to my email inbox and social media feeds while all the books on my shelf went unread.
4) Soak in each moment for all it’s worth
Why don’t you go into this situation with the mindset that you’re not only going to tolerate it, but that you’re going to enjoy every second of it?
In his article You Have More Time Than You Think To Make A Difference?, Dene Ward makes the radical suggestion that rather than treating our current moment as “a means to an end,” we instead savor the moment itself as much as possible.
I thought about this as I was cooking dinner the other night. As much as I enjoy cooking for myself, it can be a hassle. No matter how hard I try to be more efficient, the whole process from prep to cleanup always takes an hour. Naturally, I spend a lot of the hour fretting about other ways I could be spending my time.
But now, I use that time to meditate, listen to interviews, or visualize my goals. If worries about the future come up, which happens from time to time, I use it as an opportunity to release.
This mindset can be applied to bigger items as well…like your job. So let’s circle back to where we started: going back to school.
As I mentioned, I was dragging my feet. But as I started creating my reading lists, and attending the teacher orientation, excitement filled my veins. Excitement to see my students and colleagues, and just to be yanked out of my hermit-tood. Writing can be very solitary. I’m an introvert by nature, but having that human contact reminds me how much my soul needs and craves it.
5) Consider the long term benefits
So the next time you find yourself resisting an upcoming situation, remember that it might not necessarily be what you want at the time, but it could be exactly what you need. If you approach it with the right attitude, who knows? Maybe as an extra bonus, you’ll have fun doing it!
As Brian Tracy says, “Look for the good in every person and every situation. You’ll almost always find it.”
In Tracy’s program The Miracle of Self Discipline, he teaches you how to overcome procrastination and tackle every item on your to-do list confidently and efficiently, even those you’ve been putting off for weeks. You can get it here.
What’s a situation you’ve been dragging your feet about? What will you do to change your attitude?