You know you’re guilty.

Every weekend, you tell yourself you’re going to figure out how to be more productive and finally get your business under control.

You set goals.  You prioritize.  Get inbox to zero, sort through receipts, and systematize online marketing efforts.  Maybe you even use things like Evernote, Teuxdeux or Workflow to make yourself feel extra on top of things!

But let’s fast forward to Monday morning.

You’re at your desk — pumped and ready to conquer the world.  You open your inbox, and three seconds later, you’re hit with a tidal wave of subject lines crashing against the screen.  You hold your breath, start at the top, and work your way down to the messages you didn’t get to last week.

Two hours later, exhausted and only halfway through your inbox, you decide you deserve a break, so you glance at the shoebox of receipts sitting on your desk — the next task on your list. . .and the perfect alternative to going through your e-mails.

But before you pick up the box, your hands take on a mind of their own and start typing in the URL for Facebook instead.  Several cute baby pictures later, you look at the clock and realize half the day is gone!  The task list you were so excited about now feels painstaking and endless.

But now you also feel that since you couldn’t follow your plan during the first half of the day there’s no point of sticking to it… at least for now.  Tomorrow you’ll make sure to devote a large chunk of your day to finish it up—at least that’s what you tell yourself.

However, tomorrow you get a client request that needs to be attended to right away.  And the day after that it’s time to write your blog post for the week.

And so you know what happens. . . .

You’ve abandoned your plan to get organized. . .again.

Then the guilt of not keeping your word creeps into your heart.

You *know* this is no way to run a business.

So, why can’t you just get a grip on yourself?  Why do you continue giving into temptations that sidetrack you. . .that you know don’t serve you?

Is it lack of self-control?  Or motivation?

Can you break the cycle?


STEP 1: Accept that being sidetracked is perfectly normal.

Everybody (even those super-organized types) get distracted and give in to their emotional sides despite all their rational knowledge.

Our emotional side is instinctive.  It’s the part of us that talks us into eating the chocolate cookie on the first day of our diets and coaxes us into logging on to Facebook, even though our overloaded inbox has been calling our name for months.

Our rational side is analytical and responsible for planning situations.  That’s the part of us that suggests the diet to begin with or urges us to do something about our disorganized inbox before it’s too late.

The thing is that our rational side acts like it’s in charge, but the truth is that our emotional side can overrule the rational whenever it feels like it.

As a result, we constantly experience a tug of war between the emotional and rational.

Accept the fact that you can’t get rid of it!  Stop fighting with your emotional pulls, and don’t beat yourself up when you give in! 

Remember, this is the same side of the brain that gave you the inspiration, motivation, and determination to follow your dreams in the first place.

And now, that you’ve given yourself some leeway when it comes to chocolate cookies and Facebook, here’s how to get back on track.

STEP 2: Get clear on WHY you are doing things, HOW you are going to accomplish them, and WHAT your milestones are.

Since it’s no use fighting your emotional pulls, you’ve got to get them to work FOR you by getting to the heart of WHY you need to do something.  What is the big dream that will be possible by inconveniencing yourself, pushing yourself to the limit, and getting out of your comfort zone?  That clarity will give the force to your intentions.

Then, to appeal to your rational side, identify the actions that you are going to take to get to your goal (HOW).  List and plan them out.  The more accurately you define your steps, the easier it will be for you to stay on track.

And lastly, recognize the small wins on your way to your big goal (WHAT).  Make sure you acknowledge yourself when you reach each milestone, no matter how insignificant it may seem.

The secret to winning the emotional vs rational tug of war is practicing how to get back on track. Tweet this!

Example: Inbox-Zero

Let’s say you’re trying to accomplish a large goal, like getting your inbox from 1,184 unopened e-mails to zero.

Let’s break down the WHY, HOW, and WHAT.


Why do you want to do it?  To have more time to share your unique gifts with the world?  To create the mental and emotional space necessary for creating something new and extraordinary?


Then plan out your work.

You might start taking 15 minutes a day to deal with your backlog (scanning for and deleting obvious junk, unsubscribing from newsletters that clutter your inbox, and marking and going back to the e-mails that need your immediate attention).

Or maybe you’ll want to spend those 15 minutes archiving all e-mails that are older than 2 weeks and testing a new routine that will help you to stay on top of your new e-mails.

Or perhaps you just want to give your VA access to your inbox and provide her with instructions on what emails to delete or flag.

When your strategy is broken down into tiny action items, your to-do list feels much more manageable, you don’t need large chunks of times to complete an item (who has large chunks of times anyway?), and the simple action of checking off one item after another fuels you to go after the rest of the list.


Make sure to identify and celebrate your accomplishments.  What about:

  • Operation E-mail Backlog 1 month-and-going-strong Anniversary;
  • Tamed Inbox Beast Tea Party;
  • Recorded Procedure of How To Handle Your E-mail Happy Hour!  (You see how easy it would be to get an accountability group?)

It’s not that you’ll never again “fall off the wagon.”  No one can perfectly follow their plan 100% of the time.   And, to be honest, that shouldn’t even be your goal.

The secret to winning the emotional versus rational tug of war is practicing the routine of getting back on track.

Back To You

What are you going to do this week to ensure that your emotional and rational sides cooperate with each other to increase your efficiency?