There are so many times in life where simplicity seems to be the answer to our most complex problems.
One tool I use to keep me on top of my to-do list is the Trello app. I strongly and heartily suggest you download the Trello app immediately. You can use the Trello app on any and all of your devices, and any information you enter into the Trello app will be synched across your devices.
I first learned of the Trello app from the Zen Habits blog. I figured if the blogging king of simplicity, Leo Babauta, uses the app, it should be good for me too. And it is. I have a view of everything on my plate on one screen. I also have the capacity to slice and dice my to-dos until they are in shreds.
The app is designed with simplicity in mind. Your screen view will be of white vertical lists arranged from left to right. You get to decide how many lists you want to keep. You get to decide how to categorize them. You get to decide which order to you keep (or don’t keep) them in. Within each list, you will keep individual “cards,” each indicating a single task (or event or thing to remember or whatever). You get to decide how to prioritize and to organize each card.
Whenever I try to describe how well-designed the Trello app is, I get a little frustrated. My descriptions inevitably end up being more complicated than the actual process you will go through when you get your hands on the actual app and play with it. And it is like play. And who wouldn’t want to inject a little more play into their work?
If you’d like to get a more detailed look at how the Trello app looks and works, please read my recent Lifehack article. For some great ideas on how to use the Trello app to its potential, please read this piece too.
I hope you get as excited about the Trello app as I have been. Do you have any suggestions for other apps I should try? Do you have simple solutions for your own work that you’d like to share?
There’s been a lot written about the importance of pushing past your “comfort zone” in order to do creative work, and to be productive in general. Sometimes that idea helps me, other times it just doesn’t feel right for me. I’m not really a Rambo-type of personality, and thank goodness most days I don’t need to be like Rambo.
The idea came to me this morning, that for many Procrastinators, instead of pushing our boundaries, we may need to develop our comfort zones more actively. The idea came to me as I was sipping my warm rice wine and boiled egg soup breakfast, my secret concoction for feeling ready to take on any day. You see, I was in my comfort zone.
I truly believe if we do not feel well, we cannot work well. And oftentimes, it is our responsibility to create the opportunities to remind ourselves that we are well, that we can continue to be well, and that the day ahead will be manageable come what may. If you are lacking in the experience of feeling comfort and find yourself locked in zones of stress, I suggest you consider making some of the following zones a reality:
a place in your home for privacy
a shelf on your bookshelf for reminders or memories of a loved one
a breakfast that reliably makes you feel healthy and awesome
a nook or corner to sit for a few minutes and read or meditate daily
a wall or vision board of images and quotes you select for the inspiration you need
a secret project you tend to everyday, like knitting a hip and trendy shawl #shawljustisnotatrendywordbutdoesconnotecomfort
Sometimes productivity requires aggressive planning and action. But sometimes productivity gets blocked when we try too hard, worrying about being perfect and about feeling ashamed of what we do. Let’s not forget that productivity may also be the result of daily, calm, and focused effort. Namaste.
What do you use or have as a zone of comfort? Do you have plans to make one? Are you more like Rambo than I am? Please share your experiences with us by replying here.
I’ve recently been making it a habit of spending my hour-long commute listening to audiobooks and podcasts. If you haven’t yet tried either or both formats of learning, I highly recommend you do. Not only are you able to sample content and information from a great variety of authors and sources, you end up feeling like a learning machine, able to absorb new information quickly and quite enjoyably.
I also recently came across a post recommending a few well-regarded TED talks. If you haven’t heard of them, TED talks are brief lectures (18 minutes or less) delivered by experts from a wide range of areas of interest — music, arts, psychology, and business to name a few. And so, I plugged in and discovered yet another source of education and entertainment for myself.
I’ve found many of the TED talks informative, but I’ve found a smaller subset of TED talks to be moving. They’ve affected me and the way I think, and I find myself talking to my patients about some of the new information that I’ve picked up.
This is all a long-winded way of recommending one TED talk in particular — the one called “My Stroke of Insight” given by a neuroanatomist named Jill Bolte Taylor. At the time I was writing this post, the TED talk had been viewed 17,225,029 times, so there may be others in the universe who might agree with my recommendation.
The story is a most unusual one, where someone devoted to the study of the brain experiences a stroke, and recovers to recount to us even the minutest details of that event and her behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in the aftermath. She does so with humor, personality, and real story-telling flair.
Aside from learning a lesson on the differences in the personalities of the left and right brain in each of us, I also came away from the TED talk with Dr. Taylor’s insights in my own head.
Her talk made me think, in what ways are we limiting ourselves with our own thoughts? Her talk let me know that part of our brain allows us to experience life in the present moment, unbounded by chatter and worry. What if we were able to expand our own point of view consciously, to encompass more of that experience — living without bounds, without comment, without fear?
Well, of course, as soon as I started thinking in that frame of mind, I started thinking of all of us Procrastinators. What if we were able to push past those self-statements that hold us in a non-moving state, like “I am lazy,” “I am worthless,” or “I don’t know how”? What kinds of energy might be released. Tremendous energy, I suspect.
If you feel stuck today, that is okay. If what you do today is pick up something to get some insight from or to change your view, that is okay too. Just know that your potential has no limits and know that you can begin to reach for it again tomorrow.
Enjoy the TED talk and any other learning experiences you might have today. If you have any of your own insights or recommendations for learning materials you’d like to share, please leave a comment here.
In my work as a psychologist, I listen to patients and the fears they harbor. Since I tend to work with Procrastinators, the fears I hear about most frequently go like this:
fear of making mistakes: we worry about doing something the wrong way
fear of being awkward: we worry someone else will see that we are not exactly “normal”
fear of disappointment: we worry if we move forward with our plans, they will not pan out as we’d like
fear of letting someone down: we worry even our best performance will be unsatisfactory to those we are trying to please or to impress
fear of rejection: we worry we will not be accepted for who we are
fear of being called out: we worry our worst flaws will finally be seen by someone
The list above shows how vulnerable we each can feel, even over mundane matters. It also shows how important being accepted and being treated kindly matter to us.
The great, unfortunate, irony for Procrastinators is we end up treating ourselves more harshly and viciously than anyone else would. We do this in the name of self-protection. We try to protect ourselves from re-experiencing hurts we went through or witnessed when we were younger. We do this by being vigilant and perfectionistic. We do this by warning ourselves to be careful where we step. When we use a self-protection mindset as a method of coping with life, our lives tend to get clouded with a general feeling of worry. When we do this over many years, we end up forgetting our original fears and wind up developing ageneralized fear of taking any action.
The benefit of naming your fears, to yourself or to someone else, is a return to the present moment and to life outside the cloud of worry. When I help patients to name their fears, I also help them to understand their immense capacity to take care of themselves and to handle whatever may happen once they take action. Most patients tend to find these ideas much more comforting and realistic than the fears they had been carrying around.
Perhaps the real benefit of facing your long-held fears is to replace that feeling of worry that resides in your chest with a feeling of calm self-acceptance. When we develop and nurture that feeling, it becomes much easier to sidestep worry. It becomes much easier to be ourselves, no matter what action is required of us. And that feeling of calm self-acceptance is possible for each of us.
Do you see a bit of yourself in the list of fears? Can you challenge yourself today to test and break down your specific fear? Please feel free to share your thoughts on this humongous topic by posting a comment here.
Procrastinators are known to have problems with getting work done. I wonder, often, if there is something more to Procrastination other than the actual work. In my experience working with clients who are trying to recover from chronic Procrastination, the root of the Procrastination problem never seems to be the actual work itself.
More often, it seems Procrastinators appear to have a problem with trust. Most often the issue appears to be difficulty with trusting other people. We can have trouble trusting other people to see:
our point of view
We may have trouble trusting people:
not to be punitive
to be kind
to be fair
to be empathic
to be forgiving
We also have trouble trusting that other people are human like we are. Complete with flaws and quirks we wish no one else knew about.
The reality is, we grow to be distrusting in these ways as a result of various events in our own childhood and past. We may have grown up amidst chaos and trauma. We may have had a severely punitive parent or caretaker. We may have had a tendency towards acting the role of “parent” even though we were the “child.” We may have had parents who didn’t know how to communicate effectively, leaving us to wonder whether we were on the right track in our own behaviors.
Whichever road you travelled, somewhere on that road you decided it was unsafe to put your trust in others. You also decided you needed to shoulder your burdens, even the most painful ones, on your own.
We can free ourselves of our distrusting stance by realizing the people we find hard to trust in our adult lives are not the same people we feared in earlier days. Don’t get me wrong – people can be judgmental, unforgiving, critical, arrogant, and obnoxious. The good news is we are not the same people we were in earlier days either. We are capable, vocal, multi-dimensional, mature, and able to rely on both our thoughts and feelings in meaningful ways. We can handle things now.
If you have trouble seeing yourself as being able to handle what other people do and say to you, chances are you haven’t had enough experiences to make you feel a sense of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the mega-important concept that we believe we can achieve what we set out to do. And of course, that’s the big kahuna connection with Procrastination. Without our own sense of being able to achieve what we want to, Procrastination and a sense of inefficacy are our only options. We are left thinking and feeling that we do not have the power to achieve what we would like to.
So now it’s up to you. Who are you going to trust today?
There are many avenues towards building a more trusting attitude towards other people. One key way to become more trusting (and confident) in your interactions is to release your grip on the situation. Have faith that you will not need to be in control of each factor and every outcome.
Another key towards becoming more trusting is to allow the people you are interacting with to be themselves. It’s an interesting concept not controlling everyone. Hmmmm.
Finally, have trust that the relationship will take the work of TWO of you, not just one of you. If there are misunderstandings and disagreements, talk them through. If you need to disclose your needs to the people you’re working with, do so. Trust is a building process, so go build.
If you feel like you’ll never be able to feel comfortable placing trust in someone else’s hands, I suggest you consider finding a therapist or coach to help you. The therapeutic relationship between you and your therapist or coach is designed to teach you how to trust the world, other people, and yourself. It will be worth the time, energy, and money you spend to be able to feel enabled to lead the life you want to lead.
As a side note, blogging has been an interesting experience for me in learning to build trust. I have to have faith I can say what I mean to say. I have to have confidence you’ll be willing to receive what I have to offer in each blogpost. I have to trust you won’t laugh at what I spend my free time thinking about. And because I continue to blog, I have developed a deeper sense of trust in my own voice and thinking, even though I sometimes still feel I have no idea what I’m doing. Practice, practice.
I do know I appreciate your time and attention always. Now go find those people in your life who want your time and attention too. I trust you can do it.
One of the most useful techniques I learned while training to be a psychologist was to avoid starting questions with “why” when addressing my patients. You ask, “Why why?” It is a great, easy way to start off a question or conversation, and it is very direct. It just rolls off the tongue. Why, oh why, would we want to scrap such an efficient, useful, and reasonable word?
I guess this is why the technique has been so useful. The reason “why” should be avoided when you are trying to explore a topic in conversation is because the word has a way of making people feel they have to explain their motivation for doing something. It can sound accusatory and implies fault when we ask it of others.
A therapist might ask a patient, “Why didn’t that happen the way you wanted?” Although the therapist might have been completely open-minded and genuinely curious when asking, the patient on the receiving end runs the risk of feeling like a justification needs to be made, thus putting the patient in a defensive stance.
I think this is an important point for Procrastinators to grasp, because we are often times in the position of asking ourselves the “why” questions:
“Why didn’t I do that on time?”
“Why don’t I know that?”
“Why I am so stupid?”
“Why can’t I fix this problem when it happens so often?”
Or, as Procrastinators, we have been the target of “why” questions such as:
“Why don’t you just commit to the project and get it done?”
“Why don’t you just pick a corner and start decluttering there?”
“Why are you making it so difficult for yourself?”
“Why are you still complaining?”
When I’m the object of some of these “why” questions, I know I end up feeling a bit cornered. I also feel worse than when I started.
In case you’ve become overly dependent on the use of “why” in your dialogue with yourself and in conversations with others, there are many, many other ways of starting off a good, meaningful discussion. For example:
“What makes the situation difficult for you?”
“How did you get to this point?”
“Are there ways that you can think of to change the current situation?”
“That’s interesting. Tell me more.”
“Where do you feel things went awry?”
“What do you feel like when these events happen?”
“How do you wish you might have reacted differently?”
“What do you want to happen next?”
There you have it — one of the great secrets of WHY therapists can help you feel more open to talking. They don’t ask “why.”
If you want to pin a person down in conversation, definitely start off with the word “why.” I have a feeling it’s a favorite word of litigators and investigators. Just be careful when you are using “why” to address anyone who might feel vulnerable, who might be worried, who might feel guilty, or your friendly neighborhood Procrastinator of course.
See where this great technique can get you.Observe how often you accuse yourself of “Why didn’t I ____________?” Start using different styles of considering your dilemmas and take yourself out of the hot seat you’re always sitting in.
Do you have any communication tips that have helped you communicate more effectively? Please share them in a reply to me. I’d love to hear about them. For more tips on getting by, please follow me on Twitter@ChristineLiPhD.
Procrastinators are great at telling themselves what to do and what not to do. Unfortunately, many of those directions are rooted in a need for total clarity. Procrastinators tend not to act if there is an absence of clarity.
In case I’m not making sense yet, here are some examples of what I mean:
I’m not going to throw out this piece of paper because I might need it someday
I’m not going to say “hello” to her in case she doesn’t recognize me
I’m not going to finish this essay even though the deadline is approaching because I’m not sure if my professor is going to like what I’m saying
I’m not going to move forward on this project because I do not have a sense of how it is all going to turn out
I’m going to delay making this decision because I don’t know a better way to manage my stress about having to make this decision
I think it’s ironic how Procrastinators are seen as slackers, when in fact, many of us Procrastinators suffer in inactivity because we care so much about making things right.
We get ourselves in trouble when we insist on having total clarity before making a move.
My own method of bypassing this need for clarity is to work on accepting that so many things and outcomes in life are never going to be clear. I know from my own life story and from the stories of the patients I have worked with over many years that we cannot know how things will turn out in:
our career choices
our choice of partners
the transitions we often have to go through
matters of our physical health
the aftermath of a major disappointment
our best-laid plans
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not made of steel. I still occasionally get totally flattened by anxiety because I’m not in total control of what will happen when I have to make a decision.
If you are currently feeling stuck, stifled, or stressed out by a decision you have to make, take a step back and see what you know already. It may be you started feeling paralyzed from acting because you knew you had enough information to go on, but didn’t want to risk making the wrong move. It could be you were so afraid to look at the details involved in your situation, that your decision making skills ground to a halt. It might be your fear of taking control of your own life made you feel unable to make a reasonable choice.
Avoid stopping yourself from moving forward. It’s okay to be clear.
We can speak with clarity and assertiveness about our decisions, even if we are not sure which way things are going to turn out. We can know with clarity that we arrived at our decision after sufficient thought and consideration, and because we tried our best in the decision-making process.
Do yourself a favor today and take a look at any situations which make you feel nervous or afraid to act. Here’s how:
Evaluate what is frightening you. Be very specific so you can know how to target your fear.
Specifically target that fear. If you have a penchant for thinking that others might think you are not responsible, every time that distracting thought comes into your head, take a minute to say to yourself, “Oh, there’s my fear of being seen as irresponsible again. Bo-ring. Now where was I?” Repeat as often as necessary, and hopefully to a point where you’re so bored with your self-attacks that you stop launching them!
Bring your anxiety down. Calm yourself down by taking a pause, taking a shower, calling a friend, or taking a walk. Avoid spending too much time getting calmer. As you take steps to calm yourself, you’ll be keeping an eye on yourself to make sure you are working towards your goal, not away from it.
Take the fastest route towards moving that fear out of your perspective. Outline the next step you will take to move forward.
Commit to something involving the number 3. Tell yourself you will only allow yourself to delay for another 3 minutes, 30 minutes, 3 hours, or 3 days. You get to pick which time frame. Pick the 3 that fits your circumstances the best. What is the absolute fastest time frame you can make your next move within? Three days is the outer limit because honestly, after you’ve waited more than 3 days to work on something, you have bigger problems brewing than just the original project you have been worrying about.
Coach yourself into believing that everything will work out okay. This is something that is difficult for people with anxiety, obsessional tendencies, depression, or negative thinking. It is something that is difficult for all of us at different times. We cannot face having to make an action if we are consumed with the problems that lie just ahead. Remind yourself that our minds and bodies were built for smooth functioning and for resiliency in those times when stress is high. Utilize that high-level imagination you have and convince yourself that all will work out in the end.
These suggestions demonstrate how we can move forward despite not having a guarantee on our outcomes. When we stay in motion, we are able to see our options more clearly and to move towards better opportunities more quickly because we are already in motion. With all the complexities involved in our lives, having that type of clarity feels sufficient and good.
Please consider following me on Twitter for more information on how to break away from Procrastination and to improve your productivity.
Over the course of a single day, we are involved in several different types of conversations. As a Procrastinator, you may have difficulty with a particular type of conversation, or, you may have difficulty starting any type of conversation.
I thought it might be useful to outline some of the many reasons why you might want to consider picking up the phone or starting an e-mail or text message today. Sometimes taking a cold, hard look at what we are facing helps to take the drama out of the need to take action.
So here’s what I suggest you take a look at:
Can you try to fix a financial hole?
Can you resolve a debt?
Can you design a payment plan to get a loan paid off?
Can you start a partnership that might make you some extra money or ease your own workload?
Can you call your wireless/phone provider to see if you can negotiate a more economical contract?
Can you call your credit card company to begin making automatic payments or to ask that a recent late fee charge be forgiven?
Can you ease your mind?
Can you start the process of setting up your will?
Can you discuss significant problems with your doctor, lawyer, accountant, financial planner, or any other professional who may be available to help you steer clear of trouble?
Can you talk to neighbors or friends to see if they might be available to cooperate on tasks like watching or feeding pets, taking care of children, keeping an extra key, or watching out for delivery packages when you are away from home?
Can you apologize…
for a misunderstanding?
for a misstep?
for inconveniencing someone?
for an absence or a lateness?
Can you express your feelings…
of wanting to stay in touch or to check in?
of thanks or gratitude?
Can you start to brainstorm…
plans for a get-together?
how you’d like to spend the next four weekends?
your next volunteer activity in your community?
how to be of help to someone else?
Can you prepare yourself for…
an upcoming interview by practicing your main points with a friend?
your next meeting with your dissertation advisor by asking him or her what is expected from you?
a separation or break up with a significant other by talking with your sibling or your therapist?
This list could go on and on. These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg for small actions you can take today to move yourself forward. You may wonder “How would setting up plans for the weekend help me get past my Procrastination?” In my view, any motion designed to get yourself out of a paralysis of action is helpful, especially if it frees your energy up for greater focus on what you need to deal with.
Grab something, anything, from this list today and go for it. Open up your mind, heart, and calendar for new movement and a lighter feeling. I hope you have fun in the process.
Which item are you planning on choosing? If you continue to feel blocked, what kind of action can you design to help yourself move forward again?
Lately, I seem to be feeling stuck every day. Whether it’s an e-mail I don’t want to reply to or an uncomfortable interpersonal dynamic I don’t want to address, it seems I am in a bad run kind of way.
There are so many reasons we can get really stuck. So stuck that:
we can’t concentrate
we feel nauseous (or that may just be me)
it doesn’t make any real sense to us why we are so stuck
it feels critical to solve the matter so we can feel happy again
even though we have the actual time to accomplish the task, we never seem to be able to get started on it
I have found that when I find myself in predicaments like the kind I just described, the reason I cannot seem to move forward is rooted in my emotional life. Not just one feeling, but a veritable compendium of feelings. To give you an example, before I begin to do my yearly taxes, I end up feeling this lovely mix of feelings:
I am in no mood for this again
I can’t believe I am going through this exact same crazy dance with myself again
I’m forgetting something again
Why can’t I get my record keeping in order, even after so many years?
My accountant must be losing patience with me
Why didn’t I manage to save more of “my potatoes” (as my accountant would say) this past year?
I can’t put doing my taxes out of my mind until every single last dollar is accounted for
This list goes on but I don’t want to scare you so I’ll stop there.
Since Procrastinators are prone to having many episodes of feeling really stuck, I thought I’d suggest some techniques for prying ourselves out of that frying pan that we can get ourselves into:
Separate what is business from what is personal. If you are in a tangled mess of thoughts, tease out which of those thoughts are business-related and take care of those first. That way, you will have more peace of mind and will therefore be in a better place to deal with your difficult or problematic feelings after all the business has been taken care of.
Talk over your feelings with someone who isn’t directly involved in the matter. Even better, talk about the way you feel with someone who does have some involvement in the matter. Just the act of expressing yourself to another person may allow you to feel more empowered to get your work done. You may also gain extra insights to help you get your task completed in a timely manner.
Have compassion for yourself for feeling the way you do. Do NOT feel more embarrassed or humiliated than you already do. Begin to turn that dynamic around so you can begin to sense you have the capacity to take action again.
Take action. In general, the actions that most effectively get me out of my disaster zones are making e-mails, texts, or phone calls. Once I’ve gotten those communications out of the way, I feel it’s a bit easier to wait for what might be the next step for me to take, rather than dreading the next steps I am supposed to take.
Remember that with most all things, eventually we need to move forward. Even when we are emotionally stonewalled, we, for the sake of our mental and emotional health, need to move forward. When we don’t deal with our more difficult feelings head on, they tend to show up again in some other time or place just to aggravate us again.
We can’t address our Procrastination fully without dealing with the feelings which cause us to delay and to sabotage ourselves and our projects. When we are feeling the most stuck, we may be in the middle of the best opportunity to learn about what gets us stuck.
I wish you the best of luck in making your way through your next challenge, and in gaining momentum as you go.
What are you stuck in currently? What feelings are too painful for you to open up and to face? Who can you speak with to help you feel more motivated to move forward?
I have been very excited to share my love for the 30/30 app for some time. I have been busy telling the people in my off-line life about it first. Now, it’s time for me to tell you about it.
How the 30/30 app works:
First of all, this app is beautifully and smartly designed. It is almost a no-brainer. With just a few taps, you can identify the items you need to get done, sort them in lists, set the proposed time frame for completing each one, and then have a count-down timer to help you accomplish the items in the time frame you’ve selected. There are options for shrinking or expanding those time frames as needed also.
So…this app effectively operates as a to-do list, a timer, and a type of accountability coach. Magic. And it’s free!
How the 30/30 app has helped me specifically:
I think the first thing I realized after starting to use the 30/30 app was how damn fast time actually moves. It does fly. Of course, it also reminded me how I am susceptible to miscalculating how long things will take to accomplish. Yes, miscalculating too little time rather than too much.
The second realization I had was just a reminder of how I hate, just hate, to set something as a priority. You see, the to-do list on the app allows only one item to be at the top of the list at any given time, thus forcing you to work on what is at the top of the list. This is NOT how I typically work #randomashumanlypossible. I have found that there is much to be gained in concentrating on one thing at a time with the help of the 30/30 app.
Another benefit of the 30/30 app for me has been being able to make rapid progress on my to-do list items. I have found myself utilizing this app more for the mundane tasks that I need to remember and get done, rather than the big kahuna tasks. The 30/30 app helps me to get my tasks in order, in front of me, and out of my way. It is amazing to me how an app can create the sense of urgency that many of us need to get anything done.
If you can’t tell already, I love this app and have enjoyed using it very much. Enjoy your expanded sense of time after using the 30/30 app and then help me spread the word.
Do you have a productivity app that you are in love with? Please share with us here in the comment section.