by Kelly Beischel PhD, RN, CNE, CAPP

A client and friend texted me today “whining” that she didn’t want to do her homework. (Whining was her word, not mine.)

Let’s face it. We all have days when the thought of working on our project is equivalent to taking a needle to the eye. That project can be homework or a research proposal. It can be practicing questions for an upcoming exam. Or creating a syllabus for the fall. 

Sometimes it’s because it’s summer and our brains are screaming like six-year-olds who want to run in the sprinkler. Whereas, other times it can be because the project doesn’t bring us joy or we have difficulty seeing the value in it. Still other times, we are in overwhelm, unsure of the next step we need to take, so we fail to take any step.

Or fear blocks us. Fear that we aren’t enough or that we don’t have enough. And this fear paralyzes our ability to take action, despite all indicators showing us that we, in fact, have what it takes to bring the project to fruition.

The whole trick is to get your butt in the chair. It sounds so simple, yet, it can be the most difficult part. If you don’t think this is true, just ask me.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about because you never experience fear and accomplish everything on your desire list without a moment’s hesitation, then I’m willing to bet you aren’t dreaming big enough.

Pushing the boundaries is a stimulus for growth. Unfortunately, pushing the boundaries for growth is also when our protective ego shows up dressed to the nines. If you pay attention you can see her giving a big hair flip, prepping for her important work of protecting you from embarrassment, shame, or disappointment. Because she knows that if you put your work out into the world, people may not like it or you may not be successful.

No wonder it’s so difficult to get your butt in the chair!

Tips and Tricks to Getting Your Butt in the Chair to Work

  1. Determine if your goal is supported by your values. If not, your goal will never see the light of day. This is similar to finding your why and working from there.
  2. Use a morning routine that tells your brain it’s time to get to work. For instance, I have found working out followed by meditating and writing morning pages primes my brain for work.
  3. Give yourself a reward when you finish your priority work. When I was habituating my meditation routine, I rewarded myself for working out and meditating with reading stimulating material like my life coaching textbook. Yes, I’m a nerd that way.
  4. Give your brain contextual cues called primers. Primers tell our brain that it’s time to work. Involving your senses is helpful with this. Drinking a certain beverage when you work. Working at a certain table or desk. Using a diffuser with essential oils can train your brain that it’s time to work. Again, when I wanted to develop a consistent meditation routine, I turned on my diffuser before I left to work out. When I came home, the smell reminded me to get my ass into the den to meditate.
  5. Commit to a minimal amount of time to work on your project, like 10 minutes. It’s often an issue about getting your butt in the chair to work. Tell yourself you only need to sit and work for 10 minutes. No kidding. Try it. You’ll discover the power of 10 minutes. Some days that’s all you will work on your project, other days you will suddenly look up to discover three hours have passed. It’s the consistency that’s important.
  6. Seek out a third space. A place where you can be energized and productive. Changing up where you work can boost your energy to help you do the work. Your third space can be anywhere that energizes you – a co-working space, a local cafe or coffee shop, and yes, even the lake. 
  7. Find an accountability partner. I have two. (Yep. That’s how many people I need to keep me in line:)) I’m in the midst of creating a box of cards (Mindsets, MOJO and Magic: Using the Science of Happiness to Live a Kick-Ass Life) to inspire and challenge readers to think differently, to help them live their best life. The demons show up on a nearly daily basis, shooting down my ideas, telling me I don’t have time, no one is going to purchase these cards, the list goes on. Thus, I found an accountability partner who is using positive psychology to support working moms. We have weekly check-ins. And when things get rough, we challenge one another to check in every few days to keep us on track. It works. Find your person(s).
  8. And if your protective ego (lizard brain, gremlin, mean girl) is trying to hold you back from potential pain, encouraging you to procrastinate or to strive for perfection. Tell her,  “Thank you for showing up”. Assure her you are safe. And begin working on that project.

Most people when faced with a project, especially when that project will be judged by others, have difficulty with getting their butt in the chair.

Find a strategy or two that work for you. And go do that.

Even if your strategy involves turning in circles and clicking your heels three times before sitting down.

The world needs your work.

We don’t care how you got to the chair to do it.