How to Use the Alter Ego Strategy

16.08.2017 |

Episode #7 of the course How to overcome procrastination by Jurgen Wolff


In the previous lesson, you found out how to use rewards and punishment. In this lesson, we look at an unusual way to make sure you’re in the right frame of mind when you take on any task.


What Is the Alter Ego Strategy?

The Alter Ego Strategy is based on the fact that all of us have many different sub-personalities. One comes out when we’re partying with friends, another when we have to give an important presentation, another when we stand up for ourselves when unfairly challenged, and so on.

The problem is that most of the time, we leave it to chance which of these sub-personalities is in charge.

If you leave the wrong one in charge for an important task, it doesn’t get done well, and sometimes it doesn’t get done at all.

My favorite example is that we all have a “Curious Kid” sub-personality. This is the part of you that loves to explore new ideas, places, and activities. It’s helpful when you’re brainstorming.

However, leaving the Curious Kid in charge of clearing the mess in your office is asking for trouble. The Kid will come across an unread magazine and start reading it, which will lead to looking up something on the internet, to checking email, to remembering that you wanted to post something on your website… 4 hours later, your office looks the same or maybe slightly worse.

For clearing your office, you need your Attila the Hun sub-personality. Focused. Direct. Ruthless.


Give Your Alter Egos Memorable Names

It’s fun to give each of your Alter Egos a name and useful because it can call up a set of qualities very quickly. Here are a few others I use:

• Miss Moneypenny: when it’s time to be sensible (especially about money)

• Sister Harmonia: the model for finding win-win solutions when there are disagreements

• Albert: the genius part of you who is willing to challenge all assumptions and generate new ideas

You can come up with a list of your own for the types of challenges you encounter most frequently.


How to Put the Alter Ego Strategy into Action

1. Decide what kind of Alter Ego is best suited to the task you are about to undertake. If you were hiring someone to do this task for you, what are the main qualities that person would require to do the job really well?

2. Remember a time when you felt or exhibited those qualities. It doesn’t have to be in the same context as the current task. In a place where you won’t be disturbed for 5 minutes, close your eyes, relax, and imagine you are feeling those qualities.

3. When you’ve captured that state, open your eyes and go and do the task. If you feel you’re losing focus, mentally say the name of your current Alter Ego and take a moment to get back into the state.

4. When you’ve finished the task, take a little break. Decide whether the same Alter Ego would suit the next task or whether you require a different one. If it’s a new one, go through steps 1 through 3 again.

In a notebook, keep track of the Alter Egos that are most effective for you.


Remind Yourself to Use This Powerful Strategy

The hardest thing about this technique is remembering to use it! It’s so easy to forget and just slip back into our random state, so figure out a way to remind yourself—this could be a sticky note (or several) in your work area, a reminder at the top of your notebook pages, or any other trigger you come up with.

Now you have another powerful tool to help you complete the tasks you take on. In the next lesson, you’ll find 4 masterful mini-methods for overcoming procrastination.

All the best,

Jurgen Wolff


Recommended book

Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change by Timothy A. Pychyl


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