One Awesome Tip for Getting Things Done

by Henrik Edberg


Image by jurvetson (license).



“The resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering.”
Ram Dass

How do you get things done?

As you may have noticed there are a lot of tips about that floating around online.

One of my favourite productivity tips that have enabled me to get more done is to adopt a habit of acceptance.

This is a very helpful thing to cultivate. Here are two reasons why:

  • Less suffering. Pain is unavoidable in life. Suffering is however optional. The funny thing about a problem is that the negative feelings you may feel because of it do to a large extent not come from the problem itself. It comes from your resistance to the problem. You can choose to accept things as they are at this moment. When you accept you stop creating suffering within your own mind.
  • Less mental fatigue. You may sometimes be more tired because you get more done. But I have found that I feel less fatigued mentally and in better shape internally when working in an accepting mode. There is much less overthinking and negative emotions when you are in an accepting frame of mind so I guess that makes sense.

As you can see, acceptance is useful beyond just the area of productivity and is something you can incorporate into any part of your life.
Now, how does acceptance help you to get things done?

A short answer would be: as you accept you stop feeding so much energy into your own inner resistance. You stop sustaining and strengthening it. It dissipates. Now you can use your mind, energy, creativity and focus fully to get things done instead.

Procrastination is an inner resistance to something. Acceptance is a solution.

How to develop a habit of acceptance

Now it would be nice if I had a few snazzy and easy tricks to share here that would quickly help you to create a consistent habit of acceptance. I don’t. I have a few tips though.

  1. Be patient. Acceptance is like a mental muscle. The more you use it the stronger it becomes. And the procrastination tends to become less and less severe overall. Your mind has to get used to accepting as a habit that replaces resisting. So you just work at it. And gradually acceptance becomes more and more of a natural choice in your everyday life.
  2. Appreciate the upsides of acceptance. When you don’t feel like accepting then appreciate how much easier and enjoyable life becomes whenever you accept things as they are and work from there. This will turn your mood around for the moment and over time makes it easier for your mind to replace the habit of resistance with the habit of acceptance.
  3. Surrender and accept the emotion. Talking about acceptance can become a little abstract. You may feel like “well, I know I should accept X or Y, but how do I that practically?”. Here is one way that’s been helpful for me: When you feel a negative feeling then accept that feeling. Don’t try to fight it or to keep it out (like many of us have learned throughout life). Say yes to it. Surrender and let it in. Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labelling or judging it. If you let it in – for me the feeling then often seems to physically locate itself to the middle of my chest – and just observe it for maybe a minute or two something wonderful happens. The feeling just vanishes. And your mind stops putting in new energy into the problem.

Is acceptance a magic solution that will make everything awesome?

Not really. You will have to do something you find boring. Acceptance may not make it the most fun thing in the world. But it can make it easier to get the thing done. And quite often you can – with the help of acceptance – become enthusiastic and really get into something you resisted and didn’t think highly of at first.

As you step in the mental state of acceptance you just flow with what you choose to do. Your day becomes lighter. There is little or no resistance arising within. Just being in that state feels pretty great. And as a bonus, you can get much done too.

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{ 33 comments }

Katie Mack August 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Procrastination is such a powerful thing! I will definitely try acceptance the next time procrastination starts creeping in. You are right, I think a lot of people “suffer” through procrastination and it isn’t fun!

Kheiron Quayle August 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Great post! Thanks for the reminder. :)

Katie Marsh August 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm

How awesome is the Universe that this came as I sit here procrastinating, resisting several very important phone calls that could sabotage my life. I think you are very wise, and I appreciate the energy you send out to the world. I am reading “The Shadow Self” and it is transforming how I judge my behavior, to free it, and this validates my experience. Thank you and God bless!
http://buddhathepig@wordpress.com

Barrie Davenport August 26, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Henrik,
This is a lovely and encouraging post. It is so much easier to go with the flow and to stay open to all possibilities, even if circumstances seem negative at the moment. I find that my mind often has a mind of its own, and wants to stir things up and start spinning with negative thoughts. I have to do something physical to interrupt that cycle. Like speaking the word “Stop” out loud or wearing a rubberband and snapping it when I get in a negative thinking cycle.
Acceptance doesn’t mean giving in to circumstances that you can change. It means detaching from the emotion of the circumstances, allowing you more energy to make decisions or focus on the task at hand.

Xina August 26, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Lovely insights here. Thanks for sharing them!

Roman Soluk August 26, 2010 at 6:15 pm

You told about patience, it’s truly very important. Nice post. I’ve enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing, Henrik, this awesome stuff!

Jacob Woods August 26, 2010 at 9:39 pm

That is great advice. Maybe I will actually gt something done now haha.

a August 27, 2010 at 12:07 am

I will accept your advice.

Joshua Noerr August 27, 2010 at 12:11 am

There certainly is a power in accepting things. It is often the internal fight that we have with ourselves that makes getting necessary, but less desirable things done at all.

Great post once again my friend

Jarrod - Cultivating Heroes August 27, 2010 at 12:43 am

I have been working with something similar to acceptance recently. When working on a task whenever a thought or emotion pops up that would want to take me away from the task I effectively say ‘is that so?’ And move onto the next action. Consistently bypassing the fear and distraction it slowly loses power over me.

Henry August 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Henrik you created an epiphany! What if while you’re accepting to find something boring you also accept that you have the ability to see the brighter side? Since you believe you have to do the thing, maybe you can believe that you are doing it to make something better.

You always have good things to say. Thanks for sharing your positivity.

Nacho Jordi August 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Interesting. Your idea of “surrender and accept the emotion” reminds me of the Buddhist concept of detachment: seeing thoughts and emotions come and go “like clouds crossing through the sky”. Sadly, it is easier said than done! Thanks for the post.

Incanur August 29, 2010 at 1:46 am

Resistance to unpleasantness appears for reason. While useful in the short term, acceptance is essentially anti-revolutionary and dooms us all to enduring the present miserable state of affairs forever.

Henrik Edberg August 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Thank you all for adding your own insights and comments! :)

Sherri Frost @ Self Hypnosis August 30, 2010 at 2:46 am

The idea of acceptance as a solution to getting things done is a refreshing twist. I have practiced the ‘surrender and accept the emotion’ exercise with regard to unwanted feelings but never as a way to get things done. Thumbs up in StumbleUpon!!

Merly August 30, 2010 at 3:52 am

Great article…..

Mamta August 30, 2010 at 7:38 am

Excellent inputs Henrik.
“Pain is unavoidable in life. Suffering is however optional. ” This is a very thoughtful concept!…Life becomes what we wish to make it… A Pleasure or A Pain. :)

Sherise August 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Very true. I’ve never thought about it that way. And here I’ve been sitting in all this ‘pain’ that could be avoided. I think I’ll definitely try it. Some things are just so hard to accept… but then again whether I accept it or not, it pretty much stays there… accepting it would just ease the pain and help me think more clearly and be less exhausted… that would put a new light on the problem… which in turn may very well lead to the solution… and all without any pain. Definitely worth doing.

Thank you for brightening my day.

Clinton Skakun August 30, 2010 at 5:50 pm

This is a great answer. I drain a lot of energy trying to resist things I don’t want to do but kind of have to do anyways.

This is pretty profound: “Pain is unavoidable in life. Suffering is however optional. ”

Kim August 31, 2010 at 7:51 am

I liked your post because its like a helpful dose to all your readers.By accepting the negative situation , suffering does become less painful . I particularly like this part where you said ‘ pain is inevitable in life but suffering is optional’ !
Here’s a test you and your readers may find useful .
Are You Able to Control Your Emotions? – The test finds out how well you control your emotions
http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/selfreg/selfreg_instructions.asp

Karl Staib - Work Happy Now August 31, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I’ve been working on surrendering and accepting my emotions. This has been a huge boom to my happiness. When I first started this practice I didn’t think it would actually work, but I was so wrong.

I’m much more relaxed throughout my day, but the best part is I’m enjoying even the tough times. On Sunday I was tired from a rough nights sleep, but I didn’t try to force myself to feel a certain way. I just went with it. After a few hours I was feeling good and so happy that I had this skill.

Nea | Self Improvement Saga September 1, 2010 at 1:50 am

There is indeed a certain peace of mind that comes along with acceptance for what is. It is not easy, but it is possible with practice. Great post!

Pauline James September 1, 2010 at 3:52 am

great information!

acceptance is the key to everything. yes, we can’t avoid problems to come in our lives, just learn to accept it and find solutions to our problems.

thanks for that wonderful and informative post.

Blake Alexander Hammerton September 1, 2010 at 5:02 pm

This is so paramount, Henrik. You nailed it on the head. So many people push through life trying to ‘figure it all out’ and have some kind of control or influence. They push as hard as they can to resist this, and resist that – when life can turn everything around and show them abundance if they simply stopped pushing and started flowing.

I love that you made sure to mention that acceptance isn’t about everything being peachy – that you might have to do things you don’t enjoy BUT your outlook on it won’t be so worked up. That’s the key. Acceptance is about pulling your reaction out of your environment, and simply responding to it.

Very well said, my friend.

Blake

dennis September 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm

It’s a very good post. I believe it this would be a solution against procrastination. When you place your feet in the ground, you will realize that life is not always smooth sailing. We should also accept the fact the things go wrong and we should face by first accepting it so we will approach the problems the way it should be dealth with.

I myself would like to master this.
Thank you Henrik for such a nice reminder.

Edge of David September 2, 2010 at 8:25 pm

I think it boils down to discipline over passion. Yes accept emotions for what they are, you have no control over emotions, but you have control over your actions and if you care guided by discipline, that is how you get things done even if you do not feel like it.

Sietse | HowToLiveWow.com September 3, 2010 at 2:36 am

A friend of mine once said: “If it can’t be solved, it’s not a problem!” When you have to do something inevitably, no matter what, this is such a ‘problem’ that cannot be solved, and thus not a problem. Stop treating it like a problem in that case! For example; paying tax isn’t fun, but unavoidable. Rather than being upset about it, you can feel gratitude when you pay tax, because you got a lot in return from it.

There is just one thing in your post that you could work out at a later stage. Rather than “accepting the emotion”, you can also learn to control your emotion and simply change it once you have it under control. All emotion comes from within, and is therefor under our very own control!

Great post Henrik! I make way too little time to check out your site *shame* ;-)

Kathy September 3, 2010 at 3:41 am

I know exactly what you mean about acceptance. I have learned this also from my own personal experiences. I used to hang onto things that would bother me for years. There were things that I literally procrastinated on for that long. Then one day I decided to accept it as it was. The anxiety melted away. For some strange reason that led me to actually begin the very thing I had been putting off for so long. It was the anxiety of getting started that somehow kept me from taking the smallest step forward.

Gabriel September 8, 2010 at 4:11 pm

This is a really powerful thing of just going with the flow. Remember in “The Secret” the more you resist the more you will get…because you are after all still focus on the negativity by resisting the negativity. Seems to me like this ties in with self-acceptance with gratitude. Accept it going with the flow and be thankful for what do you have.

Val September 9, 2010 at 1:00 am

I think acceptance is a huge part of happiness and getting things done. Letting go of resistance shifts your energy and feels better. Realizing that all I do is a choice helps even if it’s not my top choice.

mypleasure September 13, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Good Posts thanks

Tiago Costa September 13, 2010 at 11:33 pm

This post remembered me of the movie: “Yes man”.
I found saying yes to most of things very good to improve my life…

Ernesto S. Toca September 18, 2010 at 10:17 pm

The following is based on my understanding of the teachings of Eckhart Tolle (whose teachings, in turn, are based on many other spiritual teachings). My apologies for the length of this message, but I hope it helps someone out there.
Procrastination: often occurs when your anxiety and fear of failure—regarding the outcome of your performance of a task—creates thoughts telling you to do something other than the task, so that you don’t have to deal with the fear and anxiety directly. Why do you feel this fear and anxiety? Because you have identified yourself, i.e. your self-worth, on the basis of how well or poorly you perform this task. You have attached your identity to the result the performance of this task produces. More specifically, how you judge your performance of this task. The is all identification with form, with content; this is the ego. This consists of multiple layers of egoic identification with form; the “objective” judgment of how well you performed the task and the subjective judgment. The “objective” judgment consists of how others (people or institutions, such as universities) judge your task, and then you have your subjective judgment of the others’ “objective” judgment, in addition to your own subjective judgment of how you performed the task. This can be an interplay of egoic self-destruction (which feeds the pain-body), followed by egoic self-repair, all in the name of egoic preservation. “I failed” at the task, which then leads to “I am a failure”; my identity is one of someone who has failed. How have I failed? Well, either I subjectively determine that I have “failed” or others tell me (i.e. “objectively”) that I have failed, and/or a combination of both my self-evaluation, along with the opinion of others, followed by my interpretation and judgment of their opinion. Then comes egoic self-repair; either in the form of thoughts telling you that the failure was not that bad after all, or that it was caused by others. This is the classic “I picked myself up, and dusted myself off”. What self? The ego of course. All of this is rationalization, which is the playground of the ego. When faced with the prospect of this roller-coaster of egoic mind activity and the swirling emotions that accompany it, it’s no wonder that you experience fear and anxiety when faced with the prospect of performing the task. So the fear and anxiety leads to thoughts which tell you to do something else so that you do not have to face the fear of failure directly. So you end up doing other things that you do not identify with. Usually these are menial tasks or activities that are “safe” so you do not identify yourself on the basis of how well you perform them, or they are tasks that you can easily succeed at, such as cleaning or housework in general, and so you can use your performance of those tasks as an ego-booster: “I succeeded in doing the laundry or cleaning my desk, office etc. rather than studying for the exam that I fear I will fail” So how do we break the cycle and avoid procrastination? Know that your identity has nothing to do with the “outcome” of the task. Knowing this means that there can no longer be a fear of failing at this task. Therefore, you simply have a task that must be performed. Do it and enjoy doing it. If there is no fear of failure there can only be the joy of doing. But if you indulge in thinking about the enjoyment of “successfully” completing the task, this will inevitably lead to thoughts of “but what if I fail?” and then it’s back to fear and anxiety. You can experience fear and anxiety at the prospect of failure just like you can experience desire for the joy of “success” in terms of the outcome. However, if you do not attach self-worth to the outcome of the task, if you do not identify with it, then what’s left? Only joy or enjoyment during the performance of the task itself. You cannot truly fear the performance of the task while you are doing it, because the very performance of the task is success. You can only fear the outcome. You can certainly experience fear and anxiety while you are performing the task, but it is the fear of failure in terms of the outcome of the task. This fear is future-based and therefore illusory. But If I am performing a task, then I am succeeding at the act of performing the task, i.e. I am doing it, regardless of the ultimate outcome. So you cannot be fearful of the very act of doing it, because by doing it you are succeeding at doing it. You can only experience the joy of doing the task while you are doing it. So just do the task, and enjoy doing it. Study for the exam without identifying yourself on the basis of how well you do on the exam. Simply enjoy the act of studying. Enjoy the act of practicing for the “big game” without identifying yourself on the basis of whether you win or lose. Enjoy the act of swinging the bat without identifying yourself on the basis of whether or not you hit the ball. Enjoy the act of performing the work-related task without identifyinf yourself on the basis of how your boss evaluates the outcome. You, i.e. Consciousness, do not have to believe the thoughts that tell you that if you fail you will be a lesser person. The ego—which tells you the story of the “little me” as Eckhart Tolle describes it—creates these thoughts of failure and this leads to the arising of the emotions of fear and anxiety. Allow the thoughts to be (because they are i.e. they have arisen), feel the emotions, but do so as the observer. You have a choice. You can believe these egoic thoughts and get drawn into the negative emotions, but then you are unconscious and you’re in that downward spiral of negative thoughts feeding negative emotions which in turn create more negative thoughts, and so on and so forth. Or, you can allow these thoughts and emotions to arise (and they inevitably will) and watch these thoughts, watch the fear, but be aware that these thoughts and emotions are not your identity and remind yourself that the outcome of the task has nothing to do with your true identity. All beings are Consciousness inside a physiological body. Tasks are tasks, whether it be running, hitting a baseball, writing an exam, performing tasks at work, writing a book, etc. Our physiological bodies allow us to perform some of these tasks better than others. All physiological bodies deteriorate and eventually turn into dust, but Universal Consciousness remains. So how can your ability to perform tasks using your physiological body—which includes your brain—have anything to do with your true identity if your true identity is Consciousness? So enjoy in the act of performing a task. “Success” is performing any given task without identifying yourself with the outcome. If you are performing a task in this state, there can be no fear or anxiety. If there is, that’s o.k. because it is just your ego, and we all have an ego, it’s all part of the human condition (dysfunctional though it may be) as Eckhart Tolle describes so eloquently. So it is okay if the negative egoic thoughts arise and are accompanied by fear and anxiety. Just stay Present and observe these thoughts and emotions as they arise, but you can choose to believe them and get drawn into the downward spiral; or, you can simply allow them to be, and choose not believe or identify with these thoughts and emotions. You, as Consciousness that transcends all forms (including thoughts and emotions) have that choice. To be aware is to know your identity as Consciousness, and to know that thoughts and emotions (as well as physical forms and your sense perceptions of them) are not your identity. They are simply things that arise in the Now and are witnessed by you as Consciousness. So, you fail at the task i.e. you fail an exam, you are not able to complete writing a book or the book is judges by others as poor; or you get fired because the outcome of the tasks you performed at work is judged as poor by your employer. How can that possibly define you if your true identity is Consciousness? So enjoy performing the task that is before you, and you have already succeeded. The interesting thing is that if you perform a task with enjoyment i.e. without believing the egoic thoughts that may tell you that you are a failure if you fail the task, then chances are that the outcome will “objectively” (if there truly is such a thing) be successful as well. You will pass the exam, you will finish the book etc. If you are Present and enjoying the act of performing the task (without fear or anxiety i.e. without self-identification with the outcome) all of your energy will be channeled towards the performance of the task. As Eckhart Tolle puts it, “When you act out of present moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love—even the most simple action”. When you identify with the outcome, the fear and anxiety will drain you of energy that would be better used towards the act of performing the task and enjoying it. Furthermore, if you perform the task with enjoyment (without identifying with any negative thoughts or emotions about the outcome), and you also happen to have physiological talent for that task, then the outcome, in terms of your performance of the task, will tend to be viewed “objectively” as good or even excellent i.e. you got an “A” on the exam, you wrote a book that others found to be of high quality, you get a promotion at work because your employer judges the outcome of your performance of work tasks as positive or beneficial, or you hit a home run. But, of course, that does not make you a better person unless you believe in the egoic thoughts that tell you that, followed by feelings of pride. The problem with positive self identification with the outcome is, once again, that you have forgotten that your true identity is not based on how well you perform a task; your true identity is Consciousness. Furthermore, if you believe in the egoic thought of “I won, I did a great job, so I am a special or (relative to others) a better person etc.”, the next time you face an “important” task this will inevitably lead to thoughts of “You better win or do a great job again because if you lose you will be a failure” and if you believe that then you’re back at fear and anxiety. Keep it simple because life is simple, and life is meant to be enjoyed. So enjoy in the performance of the task. How? Once again, just perform the task (study for the exam, write your book, perform the work-related task). By performing the task, without identifying with the outcome, you are succeeding in the act of doing. If you are succeeding in the act of doing (and “doing” means simply using your physiological body—which includes your brain once again—in the performance of a task) then there is enjoyment, but only if you do not believe or identify with any negative (or positive) egoic thoughts and emotions that may arise regarding the outcome. Finally, if you do not identify with any fear and anxiety that may arise over the outcome, then there will be no reason to believe any thoughts that tell you to do something other than the task you are required to perform. If you are consciously enjoying the performance of the task, there will be no reason for those procrastination-inducing thoughts—which tell you to do something else in order to avoid the fear and anxiety—to even arise. Or, if they do arise, there is no reason for you, i.e. Consciousness, to believe them. If you cannot truly enjoy the performance of the task, then ask yourself whether this is truly a required task. If you are studying to be a…(whatever) but you cannot truly enjoy the act of studying, then perhaps it’s time to study something else. The same applies for work etc. Just don’t fool yourself into pure laziness by dismissing the performance of any task on the basis that you cannot enjoy it. You, i.e. Consciousness, are born inside a physiological body and your purpose is to, among other things, perform tasks but to do so with enjoyment (or, at minimum, acceptance) by not identifying with the outcome. Take a deep breath (or two…), relax, and just perform the task, oh and enjoy it!

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