5 Simple Tips To Keep Self-Sabotage At Bay

Negative self-talk is a form of self-sabotage, and it impacts your productivity levels.  Try these 5 simple tips to keep self-sabotage at bay.

Have you ever had one of those days when you wake up in the morning and think – today, I’m going to get so much done?  There is nothing that can stop me from being super-productive. 

Yet, as the day goes on, you find yourself getting further into a downward spiral.  Now fast forward a few hours, and suddenly you’re dragging yourself home at nightfall, wondering where the day went, feeling like you haven’t achieved anything at all.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Most people feel this way, at least sometimes. I can remember many days like this when I used to get so frustrated with myself—the constant interruptions, the unexpected issues and a to-do list that threatened to swallow me whole.

The trick is to realize that this isn’t something entirely outside of your control. Sure, things will happen, which derail you, but more often than not, you’re reaping the fruits of self-sabotage. You’ve derailed yourself through your own negative self-talk.

Ahem – yes, I was guilty!

If you want some help overcoming negative thinking, read 5 Quick Ways To Stop Negative Self-Talk.

So, how to get past this and begin to be productive?  Simple! Start with these simple tips that I used to keep self-sabotage at bay and get myself back on track.

keep self-sabotage at bay by listening to music on headphones - young woman enjoying music on headphones

Get lost in music to boost your mood

1.  Listen to Music

Listening to music is a big mood booster that will keep self-sabotage at bay, especially if you feel that your mood is dragging you down.  Thankfully this is a quick fix. Put on some music you love, something fast-paced and catchy for a quick pick-me-up and watch your productivity soar.

You can do this at work by donning a pair of headphones and listening to something on your iPod.  Alternatively, if your company allows you to access non-work-related websites, you can have a quick look on YouTube. However, I do recommend that you don’t spend forever searching for a favourite tune.  The boss won’t like it!

Many years ago, I worked with someone who would use her 10-minute walk from the tube to the office to listen to her favourite compilations.  By the time she got to the office, she was ready to face whatever the day had in store for her.  In she came, armed with a grin and an attitude that said – let me at it.

2.  Get up and Move To Keep Self-Sabotage At Bay

Most office work is sedentary.  Like listening to music, putting your body in motion will build your energy levels (so long as you’re not trying to run a marathon). Dance around the room, take a brisk walk or try a few jumping jacks to get the blood flowing. Then tackle your task again, wide-awake and energized.

A quick walk around the office building If you are stuck inside can work wonders, although getting some fresh air is preferable.  If you don’t like the idea of wandering around aimlessly and you work in a big building, then go to the loo on another floor.

Fancy a dance?  You might want to find a discrete place to do this if you are in the office. However, you can always do a little jiggle on the spot!  But if you work from home, you can do this quite easily – let yourself go.

Another tactic I used when I was working from home was to get a skipping rope.  If you’ve ever found yourself staring at your screen without doing anything, then you need a break.  Another tell-tale sign is if you find yourself flicking between different open tabs as you try to figure out what to do next.  I highly recommend skipping.   It’s cheap for a start, and you can go outside and get your whole body moving.

If you don’t fancy skipping, even just marching on the spot to get your step count up works wonders.

woman meditating in front of her laptop helps keep self-sabotage at bay

You can easily do deep breathing or a meditative practice at your desk

3.  Look Inward

Life goes at a frantic pace, and we usually have 100 thoughts an hour whizzing around our brains.  Thoughts that quickly turn negative.  You can keep self-sabotage at bay by looking inward. 

Sometimes what you need is some quiet time. If you find your mind racing and unable to concentrate on what you’re doing, try meditation to slow things down.

Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Take deep breaths, nice and slow, and focus yourself on the present until you feel calm again.

I do recommend meditation as a daily habit.  For the last 5 years, I have adopted a morning meditation practice, and it works wonders for me.  When I take between 10 to 20 minutes to focus on my breath and clear my head of nagging thoughts, I know that I’ll start the day fresher and better able to cope.

There are a lot of great apps out there.  I use HeadSpace, and they do offer a free trial period.  But there are many free guided meditations available on the internet, so you can find the meditation practice that works for you.

4.  Reassess What’s Important

It might be you’re not getting things done because you no longer find the value in your goal, so you self-sabotage your efforts. If this seems to be the case, keep self-sabotage at bay by taking some time to ask yourself some very crucial questions about why you’re on this journey.

On a recent training course I attended, I learnt that an excellent way to identify if you are working on the right thing is to ask yourself two questions.

  • What’s the most important high-leverage thing I can work on now?
  • Why do I choose to work on this?

When you figure out your why, you boost your motivation to get the task completed.

Think about how the piece of work or goal will move you forward in your career.  Will completing the task take you a step towards becoming more proficient at what you are doing?  Perhaps you will gain credit from your boss and build your trustworthiness?

You might discover that the goal or task is not serving you.  In this case, shift your goal to something else entirely or, at the very least, adjust the outcome to fit your present needs.

two women sitting together at work

Meaningful work often means helping others

5.  Help Others

When all else fails, if you do not feel your work has value, offer to help someone else. Mentoring is one of those win-win situations where you bring your life skills and experience to help someone else who truly needs it.

We are good at sabotaging ourselves, but when we help others, we keep self-sabotage at bay because our focus is on someone else.

There are also several other advantages to taking this approach.

When you help others you

  • Benefit from ‘helpers high’.  Studies show that helping others makes us feel happier about ourselves because it releases endorphins.
  • Builds stronger work relationships and increases job satisfaction
  • Helps you rediscover your passion through teaching others what you know.

When you use these 5 simple tips to keep self-sabotage at bay and increase your productivity at work, you’ll say good-bye, self-sabotage, hello accomplishment. Soon you’ll be more productive than ever and happier as a result!

Next steps when read good things happen when you ask for what you want

To help you implement the 5 simple tips to keep self-sabotage at bay, try this action plan

  • Put aside an hour or so this evening or at the weekend and start compiling your Top 10 Tracks.  Dig out some of the music you used to listen to when you went clubbing (probably showing my age here, do they still call it clubbing?).  Then when you want a musical uplift, you have your tunes ready to go.
  • When you sit for long periods, try to schedule a 10-minute break in your diary.  Use this time to get up and move.  You don’t have to skip, but you can certainly do a march on the spot.  To make it even more effective, use your arms at the same time.
  • Explore meditation – google meditation but don’t get distracted by cocoon chairs like I did!  There are a lot of videos on YouTube to try for free.  Or you can set up a free trial with an app like Headspace.   Set a date and give it a go.  Even better, try and include a meditation practise into your daily routine.  If you don’t feel ready to do meditation, then try some deep breathing exercises.  Again, there are a number of those available on-line.
  • To keep self-sabotage at bay, before you sit down to do a big piece of work, write down: What’s the most important high-leverage thing I can work on now, and why do I choose to work on this.  These two questions will help you maintain your focus.
  • Get involved in a mentorship program.  Talk to your HR department to see if they have a scheme running.  If not, see if there is someone within your team with whom you could set up a regular mentoring session.  A new starter is also a great person to approach. 


Good luck with setting up your self-sabotage defence system.  Remember, you don’t need to do all these things at once.  Try something out and see if it works for you.


About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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