How To Use the TIC-TOC Technique to Improve Your Motivation and Defeat Procrastination


“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” — Anonymous

How do you improve your motivation?  How do you get over procrastination, when your own thoughts get in your way?   You can use the TIC-TOC Technique. The TIC-TOC Technique replaces your Task-Interfering Cognitions with Task-Oriented Cognitions.

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns shows how to use the TIC-TOC Technique to help motivate yourself.

Here are the keys to the Tic-Toc Technique:

  • List your negative thoughts.  List your negative thoughts that get in the way of you taking action.
  • List your objective or positive thoughts.  List the thoughts that can help you either defeat the negative thoughts or provide a positive action.
  • Rationalize the results.  Use the table to rationalize your negative thoughts and replace them with positive actions.

I think this is an effective technique, especially if you have a pattern of automatic thoughts that work against you.  This is forcing you to think about your thoughts and put them in perspective.  While it takes a little bit of work at first, it’s not long before you can quickly improve your thought patterns to be more supportive and improve your motivation.

Summary of Steps
Burns identifies the following steps:

  • Step 1. Create the TIC-TOC table.
  • Step 2. Record the thoughts that inhibit motivation.
  • Step 3. Substitute more productive attitudes.

Step 1 – Create the TIC-TOC table.
To create the table for the TIC-TOC table:

  1. Draw a line down the center of a piece of paper to divide it in half.
  2. Label the left-hand column “TICs (Task-Interfering Cognitions)”
  3. Label the right-hand column “TOCs(Task-Oriented Cognitions)”

Step 2. Record the thoughts that inhibit motivation.
In the left-hand column, TICs, record the thoughts that inhibit your motivation for a specific task.

Step 3. Substitute more productive attitudes.
In the right-hand column, TOCs, identify the cognitive distortion and substitute more objective, productive attitudes.

Example TIC-TOC Technique
Burns includes an example of the TIC-TOC Technique:

TICs (Task-Interfering Cognitions) TOCs (Task-Oriented Cognitions)
Housewife: I’ll never be able to get the garage cleaned out. The junk’s been piling up for years. Overgeneralization; all-or-nothing thinking. Just do a little bit and get started. There’s no reason why I have to do it all today.
Bank Clerk: My work isn’t very important or exciting. Disqualifying the positive. It may seem routine to me, but it’s quite important to the people who use the bank. When I’m not depressed, it can be very enjoyable. Many people do routine work, but this doesn’t make them unimportant human beings. Maybe I could do something more exciting in my free time.
Student: Writing this term paper is pointless. The subject is boring. All-or-nothing thinking. Just do a routine job. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. I might learn something, and it will make me feel better to get it done.

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