Musting: How To Put Off Procrastinating

3 Aug 2011

Musting: How To Put Off Procrastinating

Obligation – and a sense of resentment

If you’ve ever done anything you didn’t really want to do, you’ll understand the feeling of resentment that can consume rational thought. You agreed to do something – so you feel a sense of obligation. But given a ‘free’ choice, you’d most likely do something different with your precious time!

Words that help you put off procrastination

The words you choose can have the same effect

Using certain words when you talk to yourself can also cause resentment. Or those same words can make you procrastinate.

They’re such common, simple, little words it’s easy to overlook their power.

The words are; should, ought, got to, have to, must, need to etc.


These words imply that there’s some outside requirement or compulsion to do certain things or behave in particular ways. For example:
“You ought to go and visit your grandmother in hospital.”
“You should do it this way.”
“You need to clean out your room.”

No Choice

When you read those sentences, it’s easy to see that there’s no element of choice; the speaker is more-or-less demanding that these things be done. Of course, most of us don’t like being told what to do. So when you hear those particular words as an adult it’s quite likely that you’ll dig in your heels and refuse to cooperate! You might flatly refuse, or you may just choose to ignore the request. After all, it’s your life and no-one can order you around!

So you procrastinate.

You’ll get around to it… maybe.

But what about the things you want to get done for yourself?

Most people have some kind of a to-do list; whether it’s tasks to be done or goals to achieve. If you find you’re procrastinating on your goals or tasks, I’d suggest you examine how you’re talking to yourself about them.

You react the same way

Although you might not even be consciously aware of it, you’ll most likely react to your own words in the same way you react to someone else’s words. To illustrate this, let’s imagine that your self-talk goes something like this;

“I really should clean the car, it’s filthy. I haven’t cleaned it for weeks. And the windows in the lounge need cleaning as well, after all those storms. And I’ve got to get that report finished by tomorrow evening. I ought to take all that old clothing to the charity shop. And then there’s Jim, I really must get around to asking Jim about the trip.”


My guess is that by this stage you’ll begin feeling a little overwhelmed with the things you’ve ‘got’ to do. And my second guess is that you won’t do any of them! Why, because you’ll do exactly the same as if someone else told you to do those things.
You’ll resist.
You’ll feel resentful.
You’ll procrastinate.

In fact, a friend of mine calls this process ‘musturbation’ and another calls it ‘shoulding on yourself’!

Test this out

Read the paragraph starting, “I really should clean the car, it’s filthy,” but replace ‘I’ with ‘you’. In other words, imagine someone else was telling you to do those things and think about what your reaction might be.

Interesting isn’t it?

In my experience, most folk would fight against those demands if they were made by others.

Here’s where things become really intriguing.

It doesn’t really matter whether others say those words to you, or whether you say them to yourself, the result is often the same.


And of course, resistance leads to procrastination.

So what can you do?

If you want to feel more motivated towards getting things done, it can be as simple as changing the words you use. Try replacing must, ought, got to, need to etc with words such as; might, may, could, able to, want to, like to, love to.

So that earlier paragraph would now read, “I really would like to clean the car, it’s filthy, I haven’t cleaned it for weeks. And I want to clean the windows in the lounge after all those storms. And I’d like to get that report finished by tomorrow evening. And I might take all that old clothing to the charity shop. And then there’s Jim, I could go round and ask Jim about the trip.”

Notice how this feels different. Do you notice there’s less resistance?

Less Resistance = More Motivation

When you’re not resisting, fighting and putting obstacles in your way, you restore choice and freedom. With choice, you can make a conscious decision. With freedom, you can also decide not to do something – or to do nothing. At least you’ll be doing it consciously and not just reacting against your own restricted thinking. You never know, you might even feel inspired enough to get some of those tasks ticked off  your list – and, ironically, put off procrastinating.

Listen to this

Here’s an audio that gives you practical experience of how you might get more motivation from changing a few keywords in your internal dialogue. There’s also a true story of how a client changed her whole perception just by changing a few key words.

Feel free to send me feedback on how this works for you!

Click the play button to hear Stephanie give you first-hand experience of the problems associated with too much musting!

Want to learn more?