Are you a procrastinator? Do you keep putting things on your to-do list off because they seem to be too overwhelming, too time-consuming, or you simply don’t feel like doing them? I’m right there with you. I’m a master procrastinator when it comes to certain areas of my life and I really don’t like this about me. That’s why I’ve been spending a good amount of my time trying to find ways how I can overcome this habit and be more productive.
One technique I found to be very helpful for me is the so-called “TIC – TOC – Technique”. This technique is also used in cognitive psychology as a way to get depressed patients to be more active.
When we procrastinate we basically do it because of the thoughts we have about a specific task that needs to be done. The task itself might actually not be that horrible but since we think it’s going to be, we don’t even try and keep pushing it away in hopes it will resolve itself (which it usually never does).
The TIC – TOC – Technique is a very simple yet effective way to become aware of our thoughts in regards to certain tasks and helps us replace these thoughts with more positive thoughts that will help us taking action and actually get sh*t done.
The TIC in “TIC – TOC – Technique” stands for Task Interfering Cognitions and the TOC for Task Oriented Cognitions. I want you to think about a task you’ve been delaying for a while and that still lingers around in your brain because you know you will have to do it at one point.
Now I want you to take a sheet of paper, divide it into two columns, and write down your TIC, your task interfering cognitions on the left side. What do you think about this task? Why do you keep avoiding it? Once you actually have it on paper these thoughts already lose a lot of their power. In many cases, we already realize that those thoughts are just made up excuses with no relation to reality whatsoever.
While writing those thoughts down is already a very important step in the right direction, let’s take it a little further. By now you should have your entire TICs on the left side of your sheet of paper. Now go ahead and find a TOC, a task oriented cognition for every TIC you’ve written down.
Let me give you an example: Let’s say you want to lose some weight but struggle to get up and go to the gym. One of your task interfering thoughts might be “It will take forever to lose all these pounds. Why even bother?” A task oriented response to this thought could be “Well, it took me a while to gain all these pounds, so naturally it will take a while to get rid of them again. But if I start today, I will look and feel much better in three months than I would if I kept overeating and avoiding the gym.”
Or here’s another one: TIC “I don’t want to go to the gym. People will stare at me. It makes me uncomfortable and insecure.” TOC “I won’t be the only one at the gym who is a little bit overweight. I’m not the only one who has this problem. And even if somebody looks at me, I still don’t know what they are thinking. They might actually admire me for having the courage to come to the gym and change my life!”
You might think now that this is all BS. This technique seems to be way too simple to have any effect. But try it! You will be surprised how good it works!
PS: If you want to learn more techniques like this, I highly recommend Dr. David Burns book Feeling Good – The New Mood Therapy. It’s a little older but a lot of the techniques he recommends are still being used in modern psychology.