Have to vs. want to

Sometimes I think life is a constant struggle between what we have to do and what we want to do. Or is it just me?

I have to go to work (this used to be one of the biggest ones until recently), I have to tidy up, I have to do the dishes, I have to see that friend of mine who I said no to twice and now I have to even if there is no time in my schedule.

Recently, I have committed to doing more of what I want in my life by taking responsibility for it and committing to experiencing it every day. It all comes down to making conscious choices. Having gone through some small and big changes (leaving my day job and deciding to move into a new home), I began to feel happy and free. But the oh so familiar voice telling me “you have to…” managed to find its way back into my head and took over, erasing all the good work I have done. I told myself: I am moving home, this is different, it’s ok to feel a lot of pressure and do what I don’t want to do, be stressed, overwhelmed and unhappy. But that didn’t feel right.

I don’t know how about you, but whenever I tell myself I have to do something I don’t feel excited about, my first response is procrastination. I usually procrastinate with tasks I dread until there is enough time pressure to send me into an adrenalin rush doing mode. Then I stress, get things done and feel exhausted after. And the cycle continues…

Procrastination can take many forms: from finding something else (equally important to do),  to getting unwell (our bodies’ natural response to pressure), to simply doing nothing. I experienced all three last week when instead of packing, selling furniture and arranging my move, I was in bed with fever, taking care of other less time sensitive issues and feeling so overwhelmed that doing nothing seemed like the only way forward. Have you been there?

This time, however, I caught myself just in time before going into a stress-fuelled adrenalin rush, which endangers our health and well-being, and allowed myself to take a break and then deal with my tasks in a way that is enjoyable to me. I cannot take credit for this entirely though. A weekend in magical Venice (where I went last weekend) has the power to transform anyone from struggle mode to pleasure mode.

In full pleasure mode in Venice
In full pleasure mode in Venice

How to stop procrastinating and enjoy doing what you want to do:

1. Recognise that in most cases you don’t have to do that thing you dread, you actually choose to do it

Let’s take my example. At a first glance it looks like I have to pack all my belonging in less than two weeks and move them into the new flat. I don’t actually have to do this. I could ask all my friends to come and help or hire a moving company to pack for me or pay my cleaner a day rate and get her to do it for me. The truth is I actually want to pack my clothes and books and other personal belongings by myself. I enjoy going through my clothes, trying them on while listening to music or flicking though my books before deciding what to keep and what to leave behind. For things I don’t feel as excited about when it comes to packing, I will bring in help.

What do you feel you have to do that you don’t like? Maybe it’s going to the gym. There are other ways to feel good and stay fit. Maybe it’s going to work every morning instead of having the day to yourself. Well, you could quit, start your own company, find a job where you can work from home, find an alternative way to make a living. Allow yourself to see other solutions. Then make a choice. In some cases you will notice that what you felt you have to do is your choice. This change of perception will empower you.

2.  Set daily intentions

To have, do, experience what you want, it is important to know what it is first. Decide what you want to experience each day by setting daily intentions. It’s not only about goals and what you want to accomplish. We get so focused on goals and achievements in our culture that we forget to experience life daily. This is in fact one of the main reasons why people procrastinate even with what they like doing – too much pressure coming from achieving vs. failing. Think about what you want to enjoy and how you want to feel. You can set intentions about specific tasks, but remember to focus on what you want to experience. Tara Marino, a well-known coach, a fashion designer and a very inspiring woman, has an excellent video about how to set intentions and focus on the experience.

Writing my daily intentions is part of my routine
Writing intentions is part of my daily routine

3. Delegate

We are so used to relying on ourselves that we forget it is possible to delegate some of our activities. Is there something you dread doing that you could delegate? 

4. Be creative and find new fun ways to deal with tasks

If you don’t like doing something but there isn’t anyone to delegate it to or it simply needs to get done, think if there is a way of doing it that would be enjoyable. It is easy to get bored and begin to procrastinate with routine tasks. For example, I travel a lot, but I really don’t like packing. Looking stylish is a must so I dread the process. Last time I travelled, instead of just picking up random clothes and putting them into a suitcase around midnight (time pressure is key here), I wrote a vision for my trip where I imagine what I will be doing, how I will be feeling and what I will be wearing. I got so inspired that I managed to pack in 30 minutes (my personal record).

Going back to my move, one of the things I wanted to do was de-cluttert my wardrobe and get rid of other belongings to feel lighter in my new home and sell what I don’t wear (or have never worn). I was procrastinating listing on eBay because this did not excite me. Last week I realised that the most exciting way for me to do this would be to organise a stylish wardrobe sale party. If you are in London and are interested in attending, contact me for details.

Excited about our wardrobe sale party
Excited about our wardrobe sale party

What can you change in your routine tasks that will make them more fun? I would love to hear your thoughts.


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