I first experienced the wrath of the Gorilla in 1982. I was an hour late turning in a final paper for a college English class. “Sorry” the instructor told me “You’ve just flunked and will have to repeat the class.” “No way!” I exclaimed. “Way” he said.
At that very moment, a Gorilla in a suit and tie grabbed me from behind, threw me on the ground and stomped all over me. Little did I know, it was the first of many encounters with this merciless brute.
One day I was driving around in my Fiero, first car I ever bought. I’d been lending it to someone in another state. When I got it back, the registration and insurance had expired and payments hadn’t been made in 4 months. I got pulled over by a cop and incurred a ticket for $350 including expired drivers licence. One morning a week later, I walked out and my car was gone. While I was wondering what happened to it, the Gorilla came out of nowhere and tackled me, mowing me over like a hairy freight train.
Yes, I was once a major procrastinator. Some stuff I was able to get away with, but with the big stuff, the adult responsibility stuff, the Big G was always there to inflict major pain.
I’ve gotten better over the years. I’m better now at kicking my own butt to accomplish most things, but not everything. Give me a new project that I’m unfamiliar with and you can bet that I’ll procrastinate. That’s why now, the Gorilla works for me.
Even though he is a mean s.o.b. and I fear him, I’m more afraid of procrastinating my life away, so sometimes I make that dreaded call.
“Hey G” I usually start with.
“Hey chump, need your butt kicked?” I can hear him smiling over the phone.
“I’m hoping to avoid that.”
“If hope is your strategy, them I’m looking forward to mopping my floor with you. Tell the Gorilla what you are trying to accomplish.” he says sarcastically.
“I’m trying to write a book”
“Ah so, taskhopper, taking on something new and exciting, are we? Unusual for you to step so far out into the unknown.”
“That’s why I need your help. I need to get the book written and uploaded to the publishing site by Tuesday night.”
“Very well. If you don’t, you know I will be there.”
“I will mangle your self esteem. I’ll destroy your momentum and stomp on your dreams. I will crush your integrity into dust. And I will carve a giant L into your forehead, Inglorious Basterds style.” I heard a click and the line went dead.
I got the book uploaded at 2:15 am. Technically it was Wednesday morning, but it was still night and I guess that was good enough.
Usually I only get glimpses of him, driving by my house in his Jag, or I’ll catch him watching me through the window while I’m reading the paper at Starbucks…a reminder that there awaits a dark angel dealing dire consequence, should I find myself unwilling to take action.
You may not have the fortune of having a scary beast to frighten you into action when there is something at stake (your grade, your job, your paycheck etc.) But the key is to make yourself accountable to someone or something and make the possibility of pain very real, should you fail to complete what you’ve set out to do. Here are some tips for doing that.
- First and foremost: create a deadline. There must be a date on your calendar as to when you will complete the project. Especially important if no one else is holding you to a deadline. Have a pad of paper or white board and each day write “X more days left for completion”, or cross out each day on a calendar.
- Create a scenario of frightful consequences. This is more of a mind technique. The most extreme example I’ve heard of is a guy who imagines that terrorists are holding a gun to the head of his wife and kid, and if he doesn’t complete his project on time they will die. That’s uh, pretty extreme but I guess it works for him. You might imagine yourself out of a job, or failing the class, or people laughing at you. Pain is a great motivator.
- Put some money on the table.Take a hundred dollar bill and give it to someone you trust. Tell them that if you don’t produce on time they get to keep the hundo. If you complete on time you get to spend the hundred bucks rewarding yourself. Most people will take much more action to keep from losing $100 then they will to earn it.
- Some people are more motivated by pleasure. In your mind you can imagine all the wonderful benefits that will come to you if you complete on time. Or again, you can figure out some kind of reward for yourself. Make sure to set that up, putting some money aside or making a reservation for a trip or dinner.
- Enroll someone to be your accountability partner. You will each put on the table in writing specifically what you are going to accomplish by when. You then check in on each other once a week or more to keep each other on track. Whoever misses the deadline or doesn’t finish first buys the other dinner or a night out on the town.
- Hire me as your coach. I won’t beat you up, but I provide accountability and support to help you accomplish your goals. .
- Call Ted A. Moreno, hypnotherapist. Not only will I hold you accountable, but we can also use the tool of hypnosis to train your brain for action and productivity.
The key to getting things done is to put something at stake. It could be pain or pleasure, it could be preserving the quality of your word or the desire to avoid embarrassment. But there must be something, some compelling reason to take action or you won’t do it.
Take it from me, I learned these lessons out in the jungle, at the hands of the Ape of Accountability.