Massage therapists who procrastinate often pay a big price in their businesses and health: lost income, insomnia and anxiety are just a few of the negative effects of putting things off.
This insidious habit of delay usually continues for as long as the payoff for delaying exceeds the high price it creates.
Newton on Procrastination
Procrastination can be explained in part by Isaac Newton’s Law of Inertia: An object at rest remains at rest, or if in motion, remains in motion unless acted on by an external force.
While this applies to physical systems, it applies analogously to human systems: namely to you.
If you’re busy accomplishing things such as marketing your massage business, you’ll continue growing your business.
If you have habits of delay, however, and no outside force acts upon you, you’ll remain at rest. The day you market and communicate will always be tomorrow.
But when you find a way to introduce something into the system (your system being your consciousness, speech and behavior) your body at rest moves into motion. Inspiration is one outside element, as are motivationand play.
Had to Do Outcalls Only
A massage therapist in New York was too ashamed to let anyone see her intensely cluttered spare bedroom, where she had intended to offer massage. Consequently, she had to do outcalls because she couldn’t afford office space.
By procrastinating on de-cluttering, she instead struggled with traffic and hauling her table in and out of her car. Winter driving on snow and icy roads made many of her trips to clients dangerous; often she had to cancel appointments and lost income.
In one coaching session with me, she finally decided that the pleasure she received by not cleaning her space was outweighed by her struggles and lost money.
She decided to get rid of old boxes and bring in new clients. She let go of struggle, and her business took off.
Your Adult & Inner Child
The irony if you’re a procrastinator is that you wind up paying more for your delaying tactics than you get in return as benefits. Often, the only advantage to procrastinating is delaying the inevitable.
Suppose, for example, it’s time for a dental cleaning, and you’ve been putting it off for a month or two. Your thinking might go something like this: If I go in for a cleaning, the dentist will discover that the tooth on my left side, which hurts when I drink or eat anything cold, has a cavity.
So you put the dental notice on the bottom of your pile. The days advance as does the tooth pain and your worries about it. When you finally see the dentist, the cavity needs a root canal.
The dental work will hurt much more, take much longer than simple filling would, and, because you’ve probably also procrastinated getting dental insurance, the pain in your wallet will rival the pain in your mouth.
As intelligent adults, procrastinators realize that putting things off doesn’t make sense. So why do they do it?
If procrastination doesn’t reflect adult thinking, perhaps we should look to the irrational child within for the source of the problem—and its solution.
It’s not your wise inner child who keeps putting off for tomorrow what you can do today; it’s the unhappy inner child who chooses to act out. Children like to have fun. If yours is frustrated and acts out, you can direct his attention to fun, and his acting out ceases.
That’s how the win/win reward game that I developed for procrastinating massage therapists works. I’ve seen it succeed repeatedly with excellent results in the lives of many of the 300 coaching clients I’ve worked with.
It’s all about changing the context of something that you procrastinate from something that’s a burden into something that’s fun.
As Mary Poppins sang in “A Spoonful of Sugar”:
“In ev’ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
you find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game”
–“A Spoonful of Sugar,” Mary Poppins, written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Here’s how this playful solution works.
Let’s study the case of one of my clients in Maryland. She procrastinated by weeks and sometimes even months writing her SOAP notes. I asked if she’d be willing to change this pattern of delay if somehow it could become fun.
She didn’t see how such note-taking for insurance companies could be anything resembling fun. I told her to let me take care of that part.
She said she was up for whatever game I might have in mind. Her readiness was all that was needed for the game to work, as you’ll soon see.
She was willing to play my reward game because consciously she disapproved of her habit of delay as it was causing her all kinds of financial problems—to say nothing of marital problems, because her husband was furious for the slow cash flow that her procrastinating created.
My client wisely recognized that, on an unconscious level, she derived pleasure out of being “bad,” or rebellious, and struggling.
The reward game I proposed introduced a higher form of pleasure than she was getting by procrastinating. I asked her to select a treat that she’d trade her paperwork delays for.
A busy therapist, she told me that she’d love to have two hours to see a movie in the middle of the day some work days. That, she said, would be a delight.
I told her to open the calendar on her phone to a an entry seven days into the future and schedule two to three hours for a day at the cinema.
All she had to do to enjoy this treat was to do her SOAP notes before bedtime on the day of any session. She didn’t even have to do them right after each massage.
If she did this each day for one week, then she’d get to enjoy her film on the seventh day.
Did this game work for her? Let’s just say that she’s now enjoying healthy cash flow, not struggling to remember the details of massages given weeks before, and has become quite an inveterate film buff.
Her inner child got to sit in the dark and be entertained, and her family had money coming in on time when it was needed. Her marriage is also much happier.
The New York “boxaholic” therapist had books piled on her bedside table that she’d been meaning to read for many months. Her treat: two hours of reading by the fireplace in exchange for going through the boxes in her bedroom for 40 minutes every other day.
It took only a few months at that pace to undo the clutter that had been building up for years.
The Play’s the Thing
Other clients have tackled boxes, taxes, garages, house cleaning, communicating and so on.
The key to making the reward game successful is to make certain that the game’s terms are clear: If you do a certain behavior every day or in some cases, even every other day, for a week, a specific reward is enjoyed at the end of those seven days.
A week is an ideal timeframe because it’s long enough to put a good habit into motion and short enough to have a reward for your efforts fairly quickly.
Delaying the reward gums up the works because the pleasure of the reward has to be a real treat—a massage, nine holes of golf, a day at the beach or a walk in the woods or park, whatever might be your cup of reward.
It should be something you desire, that gives more pleasure than the negative pleasure you derive from procrastinating.
The idea is that each time you do the thing you’ve been procrastinating, you’re one step closer to your pleasurable reward, and the idea is to become conscious of this very fact as you do the activity you’ve put off.
Sometimes massage therapists in my 3-CE “How to Overcome Procrastination Now for Massage Success” workshop or personal clients of mine intent on tackling their procrastination say something like: “Why do I need a reward when marketing my massage business (or whatever) is reward in and of itself?”
I respond by saying that it’s the adult in you who realizes the truth in the question. But it’s the frustrated child who wants the reward.
That child needs to be satisfied for the procrastination to end. Such an ending enables your adult self and your inner child to live together in harmony, with a life that flows much more smoothly, with much less worrying, much better sleep, much more peace, and a healthier body, marriage and massage business.
About the Author
Cary Bayer, American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) keynote speaker and Marketing Coach, has worked with Quality Inns; Oscar-winners Alan Arkin and Pietro Scalia; Emmy-winners including comedian and director David Steinberg, and Judy Henderson; and 300 massage therapists. For massage therapistss, he’s created 14 National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-accredited workshops and two DVDs. He has written for 15 AMTA newsletters and authored the Grow a Rich Massage Business trilogy.
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