6 strategies for dealing with self-sabotage

Do you identify with this question?

Who else deals with Self-Sabotage on a daily basis? My mind is frequently focusing on things that don’t serve me. I’m sure some of you know the feeling of saying “Why am I doing this? I know I should be doing that!” I waste so much time, focus, and willpower forcing myself to do the right things. I do make progress daily but I don’t understand why my mind won’t accept the things I’m working on will improve my health, life, and family future. Shouldn’t it just go along for the ride?

You aren’t alone. To me this is the battle between the urgent and the important and the weakness we all have with delayed gratification. I suffered from this a bit when I was an employee, but it exploded when I started my own business. All my procrastination and self-sabotaging demons came out at full force. I can tell you the things I have done to help. You can take on those that help you.

1. This is absolutely normal.

It also seems to strike intelligent and creative people the most. Please take refuge in knowing that you are not special. That most of the people you respect are going through the same thing. Steven Pressfield wrote ‘The War of Art’ about it. I would recommend that book too, both good and a short easy read. It is in three parts and you only need to read the first two.

2. Be compassionate to yourself.

This is something you suffer from and you need to learn to cope. You aren’t a failure, you just need to work on the coping techniques. Even after spending a lot of time working on the coping and mitigation techniques I still have the odd bad day. I go to bed a bit depressed, but I always tell myself ‘tomorrow is another day’. I seek to learn from the bad day, not beat myself up about it.

3. Journalling as reflection.

I signed up to 750words.com and every day I write 750 words, preferably first thing in the morning. I get so much out of this that the 30 minutes it takes is well worth it. This is where I write about my struggles in being productive and reflect and analyse them. Every time I have done this I have I have not only forgiven myself, but I have come up with plans for improving my productivity and effectiveness.

Aside: I am writing this as part of today’s 750 words.

4. Getting into the creative mindset.

Facebook, YouTube, TV, general web browsing: all these things put me into the consumption mindset, which I find very hard to break out of, and generally rob me of energy. Therefore I avoid them absolutely during my working day. There are things that give me energy and put me in the creative mindset. Writing my 750 words does this, as does exercise and for me, 10 minutes of piano practice. When I feel the negative urges happening when I am sitting at my desk I often don’t try to fight them, I just stand up, walk around and maybe do one of my energising activities.

5. The pomodoro technique.

Google it. At its simplest, when you have something important to do set a timer for 25 minutes and do nothing other than that thing for those 25 minutes. You can do anything for only 25 minutes. Often it is the getting started that is hard, not the doing. Don’t forget to take a break at the end of the 25 minutes, that involves standing up and not using your computer or phone. That is an important part of it.

6. If it is important, do it in the morning.

Or put another way: understand your energy levels throughout the day. For most people you have the most energy, and self control, not long after getting up. Then it slowly diminishes throughout the day. By the evening you will need superhuman powers of self-control to be productive. If that is how you are then just live with it and plan around it. Personally I’m trying to do a day job and start a business. I’m therefore trying to go to bed at 9 PM each night and get up at 5 AM to work on my business before going into work. I have had astounding levels of productivity in the morning doing this. I also now know I will be dead to productivity when I get home from work, so I don’t even try to fight it. I just enjoy my time with the kids and go bed at the same time as them.

So in summary please don’t hate yourself, try to learn about yourself. Be self-compassionate and learn techniques that work for you.


Postscript: The initial question and my response to it came from a forum for entrepreneurs.