1989 saw the fall of the Berlin Wall. We had go so used to it , it seemed a permanent fixture. It was an insurmountable obstacle, a boundary between West and East. It was a man made Everest of a feature, freezing people out, with barbed wire instead of peace flags and the promise of a dream come true.
Whatever we feel about our barriers, however insurmountable we think they are. They become such a habit of thought sometimes that we find comfort in them and can't imagine them gone. The barriers become boundaries protecting us. We can work hard to overcome them but most people spend more time in the base camp of Everest than they ever do on the summit. And luck does play a part. Everest expeditions are planned for the best weather but storms come in and clouds clear without the weather man always knowing. We prefer to read the books and watch the documentaries in the safety of our own living rooms. We will read the 'How to' guides to everything and not necessarily ever use them. Like this post. I can write it and you can read it but whether we ever do anything more than that remains to be seen. It's not life and death. Why bother? How do we ever get stuff done ever?
10 Barriers to Getting Stuff Done:
- I can't do it
- I don't need to do it
- I don't want to do it
- I am too tired to do it
- I don't have time to do it
- I don't like doing it
- I don't have to do it
- I don't have the tools to do it
- I think that if I wait long enough someone else will do it or it won't need to be done
- I do it sometimes but not as much as it needs to be done
- I can't do it. Either I don't know how to do it or I am afraid of getting it wrong. Here the barrier can be perceived or real and mean not just having to complete a task but having to learn how to do the task itself. Like a funding application. If its not your forte, you have to read all the criteria and research the language and format and find that before you can put fingers to keyboard you have a whole range of activities on your To Do list that are all under the heading of Funding Application and that's without even thinking of all the information you need to gather from financial details to aims, objectives and benefits. Don't even get me started on appliance manuals or flat-pack instructions.
- I don't need to do it. This is the kind of barrier to tasks that are 'taken for granted' or 'common sense'. Why write a plan or programme or risk assessment when its all in your head and you have been doing it for years. Yes it does mean that if you get sick nobody can run the show without you but that gives you a sense of control while meaning you can never leave your job because you have no systems in place for other people to take over. You are your own reference guide, instruction leaflet or manual. No wonder you don't have time for anything else.
- I don't want to do it. This one is for the 'cleaning the toilet' tasks...we all want them done but just not by us. It's also for the 'If I feel like I'm being made to do it – I will obstinately not want to do it!' This is the 5 year old in you who won't eat your sprouts. This is a hard feeling to shake, nobody likes not feeling in control or being dictated to. And in reality this is the barrier of all barriers because at the end of the day, if we want to do anything we will do it. It is the only real barrier – all the rest are just a version of it for different reasons.
- I'm too tired to do it. This one is the task that really, we again just don't want to do because if we did we would, because we are not too tired to watch the TV or do that shopping or go for that coffee. We hide it under the 'I'm too tired to do it' excuse. Although the effort of constantly thinking of all the things on the To Do List (because they are constant – when they are not getting done) is pretty much why it feels like you're too tired to do to it, or in fact anything on the To Do List.
- I don't have time to do it. Or also known as the I can't be bothered doing it. It's not a priority. I have other more important things to do. Like avoiding doing the other 72 things on my To Do List, the epic proportions of which have so stunted my progress, that there is no point in ever starting because I will never see the end. Also see 3& 4
- I don't like doing it. Back to the sprouts and toilet cleaning. Whatever the reason whether its unpalatable or seems hard or scary or because it's tedious or boring. All are overcome if you actually wanted to do it – the 5 year old in you strikes again. (See 1, 3 & 4)
- I don't have to do it. Yes there are things that are not your responsibility but if you put it on your To Do list, you know you should be doing it. And even if you don't, if you know it should be done and no ones doing it, the letter of the law might state that you don't have to do it but the spirit of the law say you do. And you know the difference.
- I don't have the tools to do it. We are not just talking power tools here but it might be the laptop's not charged or you don't have the book you need. Of course the solution of using a pen instead of a keyboard or using the internet instead of a book is completely impossible when you just don't want to do it. (See 3)
- I think that if I wait long enough that someone else will do it or it won't need to be done. Unfortunately and fortunately, this happens. Its true and that's why its a huge barrier. If you leave it long enough then if someone wants coffee they will change the coffee filter or the Christmas decorations will be taken down or car oil will be changed. Then it doesn't need to be done (at least until next time). Of course there are those times when you put off cancelling an appointment for weeks only to find the other person cancels at the last minute. Or when you put off writing a proposal only to find out that criteria has been changed and negates anything you might have done before. Or you put off buying that present or doing that essay and the day either are due you happen to get the most perfect inspiration. And if the 5 year old in you, waits quietly long enough maybe Mum and Dad won't notice you are there and you won't have to go to bed early or it will be too late to have your bath and brush your teeth or if you fall asleep on the sofa you can avoid it all.
- I do it sometimes but not as much as it needs to be done. Seems unfair that when you are motivated to do something that you don't want to do that you have to find the motivation to do it all over again. 'It's just not fair' – says the 5 year old! (see 3, 7 & 9).
10 Ways to 'Berlin Wall' Barriers to Getting Stuff Done:
- Realise your Motivation. That the only barrier is not wanting to do something. Because as soon as you want to do something barriers melt away. You are motivated.
- Do it anyway. When you realise that you don't want to do something. Do it anyway in defiance. In denial. You are trying to prove to your self that it was not that you didn't want to do it. That it was because of time or lack of tools. I'll show you! And when you realise the ridiculousness of this you will just be left with the pleasure of what you have accomplished in light of the adversity of a lack of motivation which seemed an insurmountable barrier which you overcame.
- Exercise Your Freedom. You have free will. You allow people to control you. You decide what you are going to do. You have a choice. If you are told to do something and don't want to do it. You don't have to do it. You can choose. As long as you consider consequences, you can say 'no'. But if you say you are going to do something – do it. Or don't say you will.
- Make your Peace with Procrastination. If you put it off, you put it off. As long as its done, before any deadline, its done...doesn't matter if its last minute. That's your style, not a barrier.
- Do something. Not necessarily all of it...just start. Tell yourself you don't have to do it all. As soon as you feel you have a choice – you have a choice. The old saying 'A journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step' makes sense but most of your tasks are not going to be a 1000 miles big however much you think they are.
- Be accountable. Think of all the things as a child you did not want to do, from going to bed early to homework to brushing your teeth. You were accountable to someone. Make yourself accountable.
- Purge the Perfect. Get out of the vicious circle of perfectionism. It will stop you doing anything because the effort to accomplish anything 'perfect' is so enormous that just thinking about it is tiring. Don't and just do stuff. Sometimes it will work and other times it won't and you will learn with practise and get better...actually nearer perfection than if you didn't do anything, but that's beside the point.
- Eat the Elephant. One bite at a time. Just do 5 or 10 minutes doing something you don't want to do and swap to something you like better. Who knows you might get caught up in it. Either way the Elephant might take a little longer to eat but at least you are taking some chunks out of it.
- Make a Habit of it. Do things you don't want to do regularly to form a habit. When you form a habit you don't have the same feelings about the tasks because you tend not to think about them at all because they are a habit. Yes tying your shoe laces was a pain until you learned and now ...well its a habit and you don't think about it.
- Remember your Motivation. That the only barrier is not wanting to do something. Because as soon as you want to do something barriers melt away. You are motivated. (yes that was pretty much a repetition of No. 1 – reinforcement is key to creating good habits – that's how the 5 year old learns!)