A Conversation about Procrastination and Creativity

I recently answered some podcast interview questions about the relationship between procrastination and creativity in a conversation with Rob Lawrence, host of the Inspirational Creatives podcast.  I wanted to share the conversation with you.  Rob is a wonderful podcast creator, thinker, and colleague.  Please give his Inspirational Creatives podcast a listen when you can.

A Conversation about Procrastination and Creativity with Rob Lawrence, host of the Inspirational Creatives Podcast and Christine Li, Procrastination Coach

Rob Lawrence

Rob Lawrence

Christine Li

 

Tell us more about yourself.  You’re a professional psychologist and procrastination coach: how did you arrive into this field of work?

I arrived into the field of psychology with a good bit of luck since I was really uninformed about the entire field and world of psychology after graduating from college.  After college, I had a job as a college admissions officer.  Through that job, I was able to interview and to speak with hundreds of teenagers eager to take their next step into college.  I was also able to sift through their life stories in their application essays.  It was through that process I realized I liked the subject of people’s lives and what they make of them.  A couple of courses in psychology later, I had confirmation that the field was a great fit for me.  I arrived at the specialty of procrastination several years later.  I discovered I was a severe procrastinator myself after having volunteered to lead a workshop on procrastination and after having begun to research the topic. 

What aspects of your work are you most passionate about today?

I’m excited about a lot these days.  I’m excited about learning how to reach procrastinators who might realize there is an easier way to get through work and life — a procrastination-free way.  I’ve been experimenting with different ways of encouraging procrastinators to take the steps to come forward and to start learning how to get things done without stress and strain.  I’m also excited about learning these days.  With podcasts, blogs, books, colleagues, and conferences, it seems like the sky is the limit.  Whatever topic you might want to explore — there’s so much to dive into.  I’ve been exploring topics such as the power of subconscious thought and the connection between the mind and body lately.

Who do you typically work with today?

In my private practice and my online work, I work with many college- and graduate school-aged clients, and I work with them through graduation and their post-graduation journey.  Many of my clients have a history of procrastination, anxiety, or difficulties getting past emotional blocks.  I enjoy working with people in the creative fields, where I feel there is a huge payoff when procrastination is done away with.  After procrastination is dealt with, creativity has room to blossom.

How much do you feel procrastination, and this personal business of us being stuck, is a bit of a “taboo” subject today?

I feel talking about procrastination is one of the last remaining taboos.  There is such an emphasis on perfection, comparison, and success in our culture that talking openly about being stuck can make us feel incredibly unsafe and vulnerable.  I think the perception that there is no way to talk about the issue without hurting our own reputation is one of the main reasons people keep procrastinating — even when it no longer makes any sense and is causing significant harm.

Why do you believe we get stuck as creative beings?

There are so many reasons.  But many of those reasons fit into the category of fear.  We get stuck because we fear judgment, comparison, criticism, failure, inadequacy, frustration, achievement…the list is pretty much endless.  These fears tend to be about what other people will think of us.  We worry whether we will still be accepted and loved.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge for anyone wishing to improve his or her own motivation towards overcoming procrastination?

Ironically, oftentimes we pose the greatest obstacle to our own recovery.  We fail to see our improvements after becoming accustomed to spotting every fall and failure.  Sometimes our mindset is stuck in “nope, no way this is going to happen”-land.  That is why having support from other people is often necessary for procrastinators to make meaningful changes that stick.  We have to learn how to get out of our own heads.

Where does procrastination typically start?

Procrastination starts when the individual finds him or herself with more work that can be managed in a particular period of time.  The other option is when the person finds him or herself with more anxiety about the work that can be managed before the deadline arrives.  As you can tell from these descriptions, procrastination can happen at almost any time when there is work to be done.

How can we spot it?

That’s easy.  When you find yourself focusing on everything but the work, that is when you are procrastinating.  For instance, when you are engaging in “What ifs…?” and worrying, worrying, worrying.  And then, of course, there is the classic, “I just need to read one more thing….”  If you are complaining, chances are there is a good bit of procrastinating involved in that too.

How much do you believe ego comes into all of this?

Ego is often the reason why procrastination happens in the first place.  The ego wants to protect us from danger.  When we perceive judgment to be dangerous to us, we then stop working altogether.  So, yes, ego is big here.

The good news is, when we take ego out of the equation and do work just for the work’s sake, procrastination becomes unnecessary.

And what about fear?

Fear is, in many ways, just a part of life.  There is no way to escape it fully.  However, it is critical that we learn how to function in spite of our fears.  Be courageous instead of fearful; we are all really safe.  Most of us aren’t facing grave dangers when we fuss and fret over our fears.  I wish we were all coached into bravery as much as (if not more than) we are coached into fear. 

How do we begin to overcome procrastination as creatives?

Step by step.  Daily work.  Daily progress.  Making sure to eliminate the self-critical voice and enabling our creativity to emerge as a result.  I think we have creativity inside of us, but we also need to be open to the ideas that swirl around us also, e.g. the inspiration in nature and in daily living.  I think it is so important that we take care of our physical bodies and emotional selves in order to have that creative space be at its fullest.  There may be real obstacles to our success outside of ourselves, but we cannot turn ourselves against ourselves.  We must manage our interior life as best as we can.  We must be the champions of our own work.

I remember you talking recently on a webinar with Pam Slim about the benefits of batching similar tasks – can you tell me more about what you mean by that?

Yes. Batching is a terrific technique where you do tasks that are similar to each other with each other to save the energy that it takes to start working.  For instance, doing several loads of laundry in quick succession rather than having to do laundry multiple times over the course of a week can be a real timesaver.  You save yourself the 5 or 10 minutes it might take you to get over to the laundry room each day and thereby create more time and energy for your creative work.  We can use batching as a way of managing our energy across the day to make sure we are working during our hours of peak focus and resting during the times when we feel less energetic.

Why is becoming unstuck so important in the world today?

I’ve come to believe that being stuck, as opposed to being just at rest, is a dangerous position for a person and a physical body to be in.  We are moving organisms, and everything inside of us is in motion.  I associate wellness with movement these days.  It is important to learn how to be unstuck to learn that we each have incredible power and agency in our lives.  Learning that lesson well will be life-changing for anyone who gets the message.  What is created after the person gets unstuck is just the extra bonus!  Just imagine what we can produce.

What does leading a successful life mean to you?

For me, success means being able to lend other people a hand where I know how to.  I’m trying to do that with my procrastination work.  I try to live focused on joy, and I have been very lucky to have experienced so much of it in my life.  Leaving procrastination behind has taught me that we have all that we need inside of us and in our lives as they are.  We don’t need to achieve or to have things in order to feel like a success.  I guess living without a lot less stress has had me feeling like a success lately.

Who or what’s inspired you most recently?

I am routinely inspired by patients I work with.  Trying to break free from the chains of procrastination is no small feat.  It has been inspiring to see people reach new highs in productivity and well-being after many years of feeling disorganized and unhappy with themselves.  I think anyone who ventures into therapy or coaching or into any path of self-development is inspiring.  Anyone who is trying to find and to use their full voice is my hero.

What are you grateful for today?

Everything.  Life is really daunting, but it is way more mind-blowingly cool than daunting.

Where can folks find out more about you and your work?

I invite your listeners to my website which is www.procrastinationcoach.com.  I have a Free Resource Library (with 13 downloadable items) to share at www.procrastinationcoach.com/freelibrary.  I’m creating new content every week, and I look forward to helping the community of people who want to recover from procrastination as best as I can.

Thank you, Rob, for inviting me onto the Inspirational Creatives podcast and for challenging us all to go more deeply into our chosen work.

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Learn How to Challenge Your Fears So You Can Fully Live

Challenge your fears so you can live to your potential

Are you worrying about a bunch of different fears right now?

Are you always figuring out which worry to manage next?

Do you tend to start your questions with the two words “What if…?”

If this sounds like you, stick around for a bit because I have some encouraging words for you.

I know how many people are consumed and overwhelmed by the number and weight of the fears in their minds.  Not too long ago, I was one of those people myself.

I used to:

  • not know that I was anxious at all because I was always anxious
  • go to bed every night stressing out
  • wake every morning stressing out
  • fear other people’s disapproval
  • fear causing others trouble
  • fear not performing adequately
  • not make decisions by myself for fear of picking the wrong option
  • not socialize a lot because I was too swamped with work and exhausted from worry

Being shrouded in fear had some good aspects, including…

Nope.  I change my mind.

Being shrouded in fear really was not good for me at all.

Starting as a patient in psychotherapy at the start of my graduate school training was the turning point in my relationship with my fears.  With the support of my therapist, I:

  • learned how to identify individual feelings (instead of experiencing them as one globby mess or denying them entirely)
  • learned how to speak about my ideas and needs directly
  • became more confident academically and socially
  • developed stronger and healthier relationships
  • became comfortable living in the present moment
  • became comfortable with myself

When I accepted who I was, I became less inclined to gravitate towards my anxiety and fear for comfort.  I began to tackle my procrastination full on and to engage more fully in the matters of my own life.

That’s most of my story.  Let’s see what you can do to change your own relationship to fear.

6 Reasons Why Fear Should Not Be the Dominant Force in Your Life

  1. If you let yourself be guided by your fears, you will always be headed towards your least-preferred outcome.  You think you are prepping yourself to avoid being disappointed, but in the meantime, you are actively excluding the possibility you might be overjoyed by success.  
  2. We miss out on the benefits of our relationships.  When we predict that people in our current lives are going to hurt us like we were hurt in the past by other people, we end up interacting with those new people only part way.  New people in your life want to interact with the fully present you, not the former version of you.  Open yourself up to create new, mutually beneficial relationships.  Try trust instead of fear.
  3. When we lead with our fears, we forget we are capable of handling whatever happens.  All the progress we’ve made in learning how to cope, using our resources and intuition, and relying on our support network goes out the window when we lead with our fears.
  4. We miss out on the richness of new experiences.  New interactions are dulled or not even seen when we are busy focusing on our anxieties.  The next time you have a new experience, make sure you engage with a clear mind and heart, so you can get the most out of the experience, without the distortion fear brings.
  5. We don’t want to become accustomed to living in fear.  Fear always wants to take more of your well-being if you let it.  Most of us will always have a little bit of fear, but we can make sure we live in conjunction with our fears instead of behind or under them.  Use your power to direct your actions, to follow through, to communicate clearly, and to get things done.
  6. We cause trouble for ourselves.  Fear is confusing to us.  We distort situations, project our fears onto other people, and end up in conflicts that would be unnecessary if there were clear communication and a trusting atmosphere.  Let’s avoid relying on our fears for guidance, and trust ourselves and those around us instead.

How to Lead with Hope Instead of Fear

Life is a constant interplay of up and down.  We try to prevent ourselves from being hurt by the down moments by anticipating them.  We end up hurting ourselves by putting our fears front and center all of the time.  Fear ends up blocking our clear view.

[Tweet “We sacrifice so much when we assume our fears are well-founded.”]

In order to change this fear-based approach, we need to rely on a little faith and hope we will be able to handle whatever comes our way.  Let experience guide you rather than the constant stream of fears that runs through your mind.

If that sounds scary to you, realize you will be more prepared to face the future when you have all of your faculties in place, in the present moment, unencumbered by fear and distraction.  Showing up, without fear, will enable you to reap the benefits of your own natural resilience.  You can do this.  You can do this without getting exhausted, stressed, or disconnected from yourself.

Avoid living with the feeling of being in fear and enable yourself to be the unique, creative, grounded, and attractive person you are.  Fully yourself and open to the fullness of life.

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How I Easily Save Time Each Day

Save TIme Every Day with the Moment App

In my work recovering from my chronic procrastination and in teaching others to do the same, I have found that learning how to save time is essential.  When we use our time mindfully, we are better able to resist the lure of procrastination and we are able to find more satisfaction across each day.

The more we figure out ways to save time, the more we feel:

  • empowered
  • calm
  • focused
  • capable
  • centered
  • grounded

But there is more. 

The more we learn how to use our time mindfully, the less we feel:

  • distracted
  • harried
  • overwhelmed
  • incompetent
  • out of time

Time appears to expand when we are mindful of our time and when our focus is clear.  The opposite happens when we fall behind schedule, are worried about the future, and feel unclear and overwhelmed about what to do next.  Time contracts when we feel stressed.

How I Easily Save Time Each Day by Using the Moment App

I had been hearing about the Moment App, a free tool that tracks how much time users spend on their phone.  I figured I should give it a try, since I’m game for any productivity-enhancing app.

I approached it with some resistance — the resistance of seeing how much time I was ACTUALLY spending on the phone.  You might know what I mean here.

I made it a promise to myself to go through with the experiment by announcing on Instastory that I was going to use the app.  That sealed the deal.

Then I worked a full work day with the Moment App tracking my phone use from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 pm.  The results were: 

1 hour and 24 minutes of screen time and 19 pickups

The results didn’t blow me away (either in a good or bad way), so I decided to continue using it for a few more days.

Now those results I paid attention to. 

I initially saw my phone time go way up — probably because it was the weekend.  And it went up substantially.  Enough to make me take note. 

Then after another few days, I realized the extra self-awareness I had because of the Moment App encouraged me to curb my phone use.  My self-awareness was now switched to “ON.”

Whenever I just wanted to linger on the phone a little longer I didn’t. 

When I had no specific reason to pick up the phone I didn’t. 

Bam.  That right there probably saved me an hour a day.  Pretty sweet.

I encourage you to move past your own resistance to looking at your own behavior and life.  I highly recommend the Moment App, but if you have some other way to examine your actions more closely and to save time that works for you, do that. 

I’d say there are few investments better than those that rescue your time.

Enjoy having more time and more freedom in your day.

Before You Go

What will you do with all of your new-found time?  Take advantage of the time you will save with the Moment App.  I’ve designed the TIME TRACKER sheet to help you plan your actions and ensure you’ll feel good about what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day.  The TIME TRACKER sheet will encourage you to be strategic about your planning and to be mindful of what you do and don’t do.

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16 Ways to Fast Track Your Way to Success

These 16 steps will show you the way to successHave you ever wondered how some people seem to move from one success to the other?

Have you ever wanted freedom from the things that hold you back from success?  Can you imagine what life would be like without procrastination, self-doubt, and fatigue?

I have great news for you.  You can readily attain the success and good feelings you crave. They are available to all of us.

Below I’ve listed 16 steps you can take to lay the groundwork for your own eventual success.  Be patient with yourself as you guide yourself through the steps, as some of them may require you to change some long-held patterns.  You may feel doubtful or anxious when you make these shifts in behavior and mindset, but please remember, change tends to bring a little bit of anxiety with it.  Breathe through the anxiety and have confidence in the changes you are making for yourself.  Avoid trying to master all of the steps all at once.  One step at a time is a great way to travel.

16 Ways to Fast Track Your Way to Success

  1. Get enough sleep. Sleeping 7-9 hours per night will do the trick.
  2. Decide how you want to feel tomorrow and make your decisions based on that feeling.
  3. Speak up for what you need when you need it (or before).
  4. Be yourself.  When you are not being yourself, others will not be able to get a “read” on what you want.
  5. Don’t compare yourself with others.  Comparing yourself to others will slow you down unnecessarily.  It may block you from moving forward altogether.
  6. Eat healthy foods as often as possible.
  7. Set a priority.  Always orient yourself towards that priority until it’s done.
  8. Stretch yourself forward.  You can grow and change more than you think.  Anxiety has us thinking way too small.
  9. Connect with people who can help, guide, support, and encourage you.
  10. Think positively.  When we imagine success, it becomes easier to head for it and to see it when it arrives.
  11. Discard your feelings of guilt, worry, and shame.  They are not essential for working, playing, or living.  Orient yourself towards success.
  12. Stay connected to why you are doing what you are doing.  This will keep your focus strong and your motivation high.
  13. Plant seeds daily.  My friend and colleague Pamela Slim is the champion of this concept — connect with someone or act in a way today so that in a little while, you will see growth and engagement springing from that earlier connection or act. Growth comes from consistent, concerted effort.
  14. Avoid overdoing, perfecting, rehashing, and hyper-regretting.  The goal is to streamline our actions.
  15. Remember your creative power is already within you, part of you, waiting to be expressed.
  16. Celebrate every win.  When we forget to celebrate, we are essentially forgetting to be happy.  Celebrate each success.

I hope this list has given you the gift of get-up-and-go.  If it has, or if you are hoping for something a little more concrete to get you started, I invite you to use the same Garden of Seeds spreadsheet template which I use myself.  Trust me, it is a wonderful tool to have and to use.  Click the button below to get it in your own inbox ==>

Click Here to Receive the Garden of Seeds Template

Whichever strategy you choose to use, please remember to be kind to yourself.  If we do not feel well, we cannot do well.  External success is meaningless if it costs us our health and well-being.  Always make sure to take care of your mind, body, energy, and spirit.

Do you have any strategies for success that you would add to this list?  Please share them in the comments below.  If you feel this article might be helpful to someone you know, please share it with them.  Thank you.

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How to Get Back on Track after You’ve Lost Track of Time

Get past the interruptions and distractions

Are you wondering where your time has gone?  Even better, are you wondering what you can do to make sure you don’t lose any more time?  It can be very difficult to get back on track after an emergency or more general interruption occurs.  We can veer so far from our original intended actions.  The good news is, we can also learn how to protect ourselves from unexpected or unwanted time waste.

Instead of getting down on yourself and making it more difficult to feel motivated, have a set of strategies to cope with interruptions.  Coach yourself to restore your sense of focus and purpose as quickly as you can.

Here’s a quick list of 6 suggestions for how to get back on track after dealing with an interruption or distraction:

1.  Start by knowing what your general game plan is.  Before you start your day, sketch out a general game plan for how you would like things to progress.  I recommend you start with a copy of The Emergent Task Planner if you don’t already have a good system to organize and to track your daily activities.  Once you have an established plan in place, it should be easier to avoid disruptions and to get back into action if you face a blip in your plans.

2.   Figure out which factors tend to cause a break in your focus.  Is it boredom?      Working for too long?  Lack of sleep?  Too much alcohol last night?  Whatever the reason, note it well.  Devise a plan to reduce the occurrence, impact, and effect of these trigger factors when you need to get more things done.

3.   Accept and tolerate interruptions when they occur. Don’t add emotional drama to the existing drama of the event that caused you to go off course.  Life happens. Let it be.  Take a breath.  Start over again.  Also remember…just because other people are getting worked up does not mean you have to.  Stay the course.

4.   Lighten your schedule a bit if you can anticipate a series of interruptions or if you struggle with not being able to stay focused for very long.  Trim your schedule so you can feel the benefits of completing what you start.  Enjoy feeling accomplished, successful, and free.  You can always build your schedule up again if you need or want to in a few days or weeks.  Remember, you are the boss of your own time, so be a great boss.

5.  Use your evening time well. There is much ado lately about using our early morning hours well, but I have always thought the evening hours deserve recognition too.  Reflect on the day’s events at night time and make another game plan for the next day.  If you had to deal with procrastination or another type of interruption in your work, do a few minutes of what you originally planned to do.  Those few minutes of actively dealing with your work at night will set you up for greater productivity the next day.

6.  Forgive yourself quickly to recover more quickly.  You simply lost track of time.  You were busy.  You really meant to get more done.  It is okay.  Any of the reasons you lost track of time have got to be okay because now that time is in the past.  Gone.  Done.  Move forward again, the way you had wanted to.  You can still do it.  Remember, no drama needed.

There are many ways to get back on track after an interruption, so feel free to build your own set of trusty tricks and tips too.  Remember to be kind to yourself no matter what situation you find yourself in as that always makes everything easier to get through.

Want to try something new?

I’ve designed the One Page Personal Plan to help you make good on your intentions to get your important tasks and goals accomplished.  The One Page Personal Plan consists of sections for goal-setting and tracking your progress as well.  To get your free copy, please click the button below:

Please share this post if you feel it might be helpful to someone you know.  Thank you!

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What You Need to Know to Stop Procrastinating

What you need to know to stop procrastinatingWhat in the world do we have to do to stop procrastinating?

Procrastination is super sneaky and annoying.

None of us wants to procrastinate routinely, but many of us get trapped into the never-ending cycle of delay – stress – embarrassment – sleep deprivation – delay – stress – embarrassment – sleep deprivation.  We’re so spent it feels like we have no energy to do other things — especially new ventures which require creativity and clear thinking.

So why is it so easy to fall into a cycle of procrastination, yet so hard to escape from it?

Our false beliefs about how to get things done may be the reason we can never seem to stop procrastinating.  The following is a quick list of 5 common myths about productivity that tend to keep us wedded to procrastination:

What You Need to Know to Stop Procrastinating

Which of these 5 assumptions do you tend to make?  Keep tabs on yourself after reading them to make sure these false ideas don’t block you from being productive in the future.

  1. I need to be very anxious in order to good work.  We are taught as early as elementary school that doing good work is a good thing.  As we make our way through middle school and high school, our work becomes more complex, but so do our feelings about doing that work.  Somewhere on that journey through high school, we become anxious about a paper, exam, or grade, and then, lo and behold, we end up associating our work with stress.  We start feeling stressed before we work.  We can even feel stressed at just the idea of working.  And that is where procrastination walks in the door.  At first, it is an innocent delay, but then procrastination becomes more of a routine reaction to work.  So what’s the answer to this problem?  Realize you do not need to be stressed out to do good work.  We may actually do our best work when our minds and bodies are clear of stress and anxiety.  The next time you have an assignment or project you need to get done, decide what your first steps should be and get those done without creating extra emotional drama and distress.
  2. My work represents my value in and to the world.  This particular myth is probably the single greatest cause of procrastination.  When we believe our work somehow represents our value as a person in the world, our work becomes more than just work — it takes on too great a significance as the concrete symbol of how good or bad we are as people.  No wonder people refuse to finish their work and choose procrastination instead!  The good news is our work is not a full measure of our value as human beings.  It is not even close.  The solution to feeling this way?  The next time you have to get work done, address the work and what the work needs from you.  Don’t demand that the work reflect your value as a person.  Keep it simple, straightforward, and do your best, but don’t overwork it in any way.
  3. All of my work needs to be done perfectly.  This is a variation of item #2.  When we attach our self-worth to our work, we then force ourselves to make everything we produce top-notch.  If we don’t, then we risk facing blows to our self-esteem.  But again, our work does not represent who we are or what we are worth.  So how do you deal with your perfectionistic tendencies?  Do good work but make sure you don’t sacrifice your well-being in the process.  Push away any thoughts about how other people might react to your work.  They are going to have a reactions, but those are not yours to control.  Let your work stand for itself.
  4. I have to keep my problems getting things done hidden from other people.  When we feel badly about our actions, we try to keep them secret from other people.  Our intentions are pure, but we feel the need to isolate ourselves from people around us because we feel ashamed.  Problem is, when we become socially isolated, our procrastination takes over even more powerfully.  We no longer have someone to talk with, someone to alert to our difficulty, someone who can remind us everything will be okay.  Since procrastination blooms in an atmosphere of isolation, make sure you take specific action to reconnect with the people in your life.  Doing so will re-energize you and help you to regain your natural motivation.
  5. I will always feel shame and embarrassment about my procrastination, so there’s no payoff for trying to change my ways.  Thinking that we will never be able to stop procrastinating causes us to feel very negatively about ourselves.  This negativity prevents us from reaching out to others for support or advice or help.  It also makes the pressure we feel about our unfinished work even greater.  The good news is the idea that we have to remain in a shamed and embarrassed state forever is a big lie.  As soon as we make the decision to do anything within our power to move forward, the positive feelings begin to flow in.  If you feel stuck because of negative feelings, make sure you speak with someone who can help you feel better again as soon as possible.

So, are you ready to stop procrastinating yet?

When we realize the ideas that keep rattling around in our heads are erroneous, we get a little more courageous when it comes to fighting the impulse to procrastinate.

We decide we are going to keep our work:

  • simple
  • stress-free
  • good enough (and not “perfect”)
  • connected with the people who need to see our work
  • guilt- and shame-free

Sound good to you?  I thought so.

Adjust your mindset in order to get the things you need to get done done.  If you cannot at this time, please do not worry.  After all, worry is the whole reason procrastination is so powerfully addictive and why it so often seems like the best idea in town. Take the time to develop a more positive mindset, to feel less afraid about what work and working means to your self-esteem, and to have real patience and kindness for yourself.

It is possible for you to stop procrastinating soon.  It will be worth your extra effort.

Related reading:

What is the Most Important Factor for Consistent Productivity?

25 Questions to Help You Make Positive Changes in Your Life

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How to Perform at Your Best Even When You Have Anxiety

Hpw to Perform at Your Best Even When You Have AnxietyWhen I do coaching or psychotherapy with clients who struggle with procrastination, I almost always end up discussing the topic of anxiety.  Anxiety causes us to doubt our natural abilities, making us more vulnerable to procrastination and a whole host of other fears.

Anxiety is present when we fear:

  • moving forward
  • falling behind
  • never feeling good about ourselves or our work
  • never accomplishing our most significant goals because of the small stuff in the way
  • failing to reach our potential

We all need to learn to co-exist with our anxiety.  Anxiety will never totally go away because we need it to alert us to discomfort and danger.  But we need to build our awareness about how anxiety works in order to maintain a feeling of safety and consistency within ourselves.  We can do this through a daily practice of being mindful of what brings us stress and making sure we take enough action to keep our stress at manageable (and hopefully low) levels.

How to Perform at Your Best Even When You Have Anxiety

Here’s a straightforward plan to keep you steer clear of anxiety-fueled chaos:

1. Avoid seeing all of your undone tasks and unfinished things as one big pile.

Instead of ruminating over how much you have to do, start to tease out what it is that you need to do.  Do not take everything on your plate and turn it into a dark cloud trailing you around town all day.  It is more difficult to tackle everything than it is to tackle something.  When we have too many things to do, getting something done can be a huge plus.

My favorite tool for keeping my to do list manageable is the Trello app.  Take a few minutes today to try it out.  I think you’ll find it helpful for avoiding to do list overwhelm.

Related reading: 5 Secret Uses of the Trello App to Overcome Procrastination and Boost Productivity

2. Write everything down.

When we see what we need to do on paper, we can start to make a realistic plan for how to get the details taken care of.  When we just sit with the anxiety and start to freak out, we reduce our odds of being able to do anything at all. 

Take a small, doable section of your plan and write out your plan of attack.  When will you start?  How much time will you allow yourself to take?  What pieces of this plan can you put down on paper right away?  Don’t even think about the rest of the plan until you finish the first part.

I highly recommend you download a copy of the Emergent Task Planner to get your plan of action laid out.  It’s an elegant one-page planning sheet to help you sort out how you’d like your next day to go.

Related resource: The Emergent Task Planner

3. Be patient with yourself. 

When we are in a period of overwhelm, it is easy to feel drained and frustrated.  Frustration makes It easy to give up on our efforts to move things forward.  When we are feeling overwhelmed, we need to invest our efforts into having more compassion towards ourselves. 

Yelling at yourself will just make matters worse. 

Flinging your papers into the air will just make a mess. 

Believing in yourself and allowing yourself to move forward, despite your doubts and fears, will make everything better.

Instead of giving into the negative feelings, start to coach yourself into getting the next step done.  Relax your high expectations.  Have faith this period of difficulty will be temporary and will soon be over.

4. Focus on your WHY

Anxiety tends to crop up when we attempt projects that are most meaningful to us.  Anxiety also arises when we are trying to do something new.  Keeping our focus on WHY we are doing these new projects is one of the best ways to handle the anxiety that is competing for our attention. 

What is your WHY?  Your WHY might be:

  • your purpose in life
  • using your natural talents to help others
  • making the people you care about feel safe and loved
  • doing your best with the resources you have
  • finding new ways to solve old problems
  • enjoying each day fully

Our ability to change our perspective to get us through difficult times is a tremendous skill. Make sure you remember to use your own ability to reflect and to shift your mindset next time you feel you’re about to give in to your anxiety.

Recommended viewing: How Great Leaders Inspire Action TED Talk by Simon Sinek

5.  Remember that you are limitless

Anxiety forces us to focus on small quantities.  Anxiety forces us to focus on what we are afraid of, which can be a small fraction of what we might actually achieve.  Anxiety reminds us that we have limits and tries to make us believe we are about to mess those limits up.  Anxiety gives us a distorted view of what is really going on.  We can never see things for what they are when we are anxious.

So the next time you feel drained by your anxiety, focus on your abilities and potential instead.  Each and every one of us has the ability and the potential to succeed despite intense feelings of anxiety.  It is in our nature to do so. 

Man on a Wire is my all-time favorite movie.  I guarantee you will take a closer look at what you can accomplish with your one life after watching this remarkable story.

Recommended viewing: Man on a Wire

What’s next?

Why shrink ourselves down to smaller versions of what we might be?  Instead of quaking in our boots, let’s take a breath and move forward into what we might be.  Anxiety will have nothing on us.  And, instead of anxiety, we will be filled with different types of feelings, like joy, pride, satisfaction, and contentment. 

Let’s go.

Before you go

I’ve created a free download containing my top 5 tips for being able to stay on track even when you are feeling anxious.  Click the button below to get this list of helpful tips:

Get “THE 5 SECRETS FOR STAYING CLEAR OF FEAR” download now

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How to Cope with Your Fear of Change

Avoid getting caught in a cycle of fear and take effective action instead.Fear has a way of taking our spirits down.

When we fear our own actions, we cannot generate enough energy to think, to guess, or to push our thoughts forward.

When we fear others’ judgments, we cannot turn papers in, we cannot decide what might be best to say, we start thinking towards the average thought rather than towards the extraordinary.

When we fear change, we become even more anxious since we know our current situation of being locked in fear is not good for us.  We start feeling pressure in our chest, hopelessness in our hearts and minds.

What you need to know about FEAR:

Fear is a transient emotion.

Fear is not an accurate reflection of your reality if you are procrastinating.  If you are procrastinating, you are cut off from the present moment and the way things are flowing around you.

Fear tends to take up a lot of your psychological real estate.  This is something I learned from a supervisor way back when.  When we let fear go unchallenged, fear grows.  Fear starts to invade healthy areas of our functioning and brain space.  When this goes on for a long time, we become overly aware of our fear and we end up feeling like we don’t have much room or ability to get things done. 

Fear breaks our bonds with other people.  When we fear things, we inevitably become removed from important people in our lives.  We stop trusting that we’re okay or sufficient or fun enough.  Then we start to worry that others will reject or punish us for being somewhat less than what we are capable of being.

Fear makes us feel unsure of ourselves.  Instead of just taking care of things right away, we listen to our fears and then we decided all sorts of safety plans must be put into place.  We must look perfect, get the right gift, say the right thing, arrive looking calm and happy, exude the right vibe.  #welcometostresscity

Fear makes us feel unsafe around other people.

Fear makes us super fussy about unimportant and unnecessary things.

Fear makes us forget that we are all the same.

The answer to living entangled in fear is to get support and allow yourself to function as you were meant to — in flow, without excessive fear.

You may believe you no longer know how to live without the framework of fear.  I would say, your fear has taught you that.  You are the only person who can release yourself from the fear-based state you are in.  People may encourage you or inspire you, but only you can make that decision to make your next moment a turning point.  Once you have made that turn, you will feel more yourself.  You will feel your authority has returned.  You will see how open the road is ahead of you.

If you are alone and afraid of changing now, write down some goals you have been thinking about and some people you can connect with.  Then take an action in the direction away from your fear so you can feel yourself again.

You may continue to resist change because you have been in the habit of doing so for quite some time.  Talk yourself through the resistance.  It will be worth the effort.  Resistance just keeps you looping back to the same dead-end place anyway.  Try something new.  Do anything that breaks the chain that burdens you.  You will be just fine without your fear, I promise. 

If you are looking for a tool to help you make this type of change away from fear, I recommend you download The Jumpstart worksheet.  The Jumpstart will help you gain some traction against your Procrastination.

Click here to receive your free JUMPSTART PDF planner sheet to help you get on your way today!

Strategies for Coping with Fear are Everywhere

You’ve got a friend

I was stuck in a rut, not able to get much of anything done, for a month and a half at least, and I finally reached out and asked a friend for help. 

After a wonderful breakfast and a long chat and planning session with her, I felt free and light.

And then, I had the most productive day I’ve had all year.

All the things that came out of the conversation ended up on a list, and I attacked that list.

It was as if all of my locked up, can’t-do-anything feelings had vanished, and my pent up energy and frustrated productivity impulses took over.  It was like I was in turbo drive.

Sometimes it’s important to remember:

  1. friends are always good in a time of need
  2. we will have times of need
  3. it is not important to be constantly productive
  4. it is important to be patient with yourself when you cannot be productive
  5. we are always changing, even when we feel like we are not exactly blooming beautifully

The kicker is that my friend ended up having a really productive day too.  When we step outside of ourselves, we end up really seeing ourselves.

Connect to a Facebook Group

A fear-fighting resource we have are the many Facebook Group communities available. 

You can join a few, hang out in them for a while, and see which ones are most compelling or useful for you.

See if there are people in the group that you share interests or concerns with and see if you can connect with them. 

I invite you to join the Procrastination Coach Facebook Group.  It’s a kind, engaged group of people.  I’m in there frequently, posting and sharing new material and providing feedback and support to members. 

Consult with a professional

Sometimes we can be trapped in misery for way too long. 

I had the opportunity to enter therapy during college, but I did not end up starting it.  I could have used the support back then, but I didn’t know how I would be helped or changed by the experience. 

All things happen for a reason.  Just a few years later, I entered therapy as part of my first year of my psychology doctoral training.

That therapy experience was life-changing for me.

What might therapy feel like for you?

Whether it be a dean, advisor, mentor, coach, or therapist, talking with a trained professional will likely help you:

  • feel understood
  • feel supported
  • feel less at loose ends
  • feel more clear in your thinking
  • feel more clear in your heart
  • feel more confident in your actions
  • take action on the steps you have been needing and wanting to take for yourself
  • process thoughts and feelings that have been difficult for you to process on your own
  • open up to other people, not just your therapist

Write it all down

I’m a huge fan of writing things down. 

Writing things down helps me to:

  • sort out my thoughts
  • create more thoughts from those initial thoughts
  • see which thoughts I should pay the closest attention to
  • take action
  • avoid forgetting small and large details
  • plan out my schedule and upcoming events or projects
  • avoid using my brain as storage space for my To Do list

Writing things down makes things more real.  We are less likely to neglect things if we write them down.  We are less likely to assume they will go away magically if we write them down. 

Use this technique and get back to your handwriting roots — they are your earliest ones, after all.  Those roots reach way back to when you didn’t feel stressed out about getting things done.

Create something

  • doodle
  • dance
  • compose
  • create a mind map your priorities (try MindNode to do this)
  • start a walk with two friends
  • brainstorm with people related and not related to your work
  • view your situation in a brand new way — expand your view

Get the training and information you need

We can hold back from moving forward because we:

  • don’t want to spend the money
  • don’t have the time
  • feel we can’t fit anything else in our calendar
  • feel we the training experience might not be what we are hoping for

But getting information can spark our:

  • creativity
  • drive
  • direction
  • purpose
  • strategy
  • community

And who wouldn’t want that?

Fear tends to keep us from reaching towards our potential.  That is exactly why we should be mindful of when we start to hold ourselves back.  Use the resources available to you.  Find some new ones if you feel like you could use some more.  Avoid getting bogged down in feeling guilt, shame, and other energy-blocking emotions.  Remind yourself how creative, powerful, and free your mind and spirit truly are. 

Embrace the changes you are facing.  They will be more interesting and informative than your fear.

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How to Use Your Schedule to Find More Time for Yourself

Use your schedule to find more time for yourselfTime is very tricky.  Time can slide by us.  Time can get away from us.  We can throw time away.  We can crave more time.  We can even arrange our schedule so to make more time for ourselves.

Fascinating.  (Let’s do that last one.)

I want to help you feel like you have control over your time and that you have enough time to do what you want and need to do.  Fortunately, the process for getting sanity in your schedule is neither complex nor out of your reach.  You can do this.  It does take a bit of planning though.

How to Use Your Schedule to Find More Time for Yourself

Step 1. Download and use the Emergent Task Planner

The Emergent Task Planner

The Emergent Task Planner (a free download)

The Emergent Task Planner is a single sheet free download from David Seah.  Grab your Emergent Task Planner here.  Use it to organize your activities over a single day, plan your priority items, track your time usage, and keep tabs on your entire To Do list.

You will feel more connected to your plans if you write them down and if you see them written down. You will feel more inclined to get something done when you see the range of things you have to get done laid out in front of you in an organized way.

Gone are the days where you just hope that your tasks get done before the end of the day. You’ve got a plan now.

Step 2.  Commit to Accurate Scheduling

Here’s where the planning starts to pay off.

Get in the habit of assigning a time for each of your to do list items to be done.  Build upon that habit by making sure you do things as you have planned.  Each task has its own time slot.  You will know what to focus on just by looking at your schedule.  No need for confusion or indecision anymore.

This step will be difficult to follow through on at first if you have been Procrastinating for a while.  Just stick with the idea and practice of accurate scheduling and take things day-by-day.  You will soon be able to work in synch with time instead of feeling like you are always falling behind.

Step 3. Avoid overwhelm

Procrastinators are accustomed to feeling overwhelmed.  Overwhelm can take so many different forms including:

  • not having enough time
  • feeling incredibly anxious
  • feeling pressured by expectations from others
  • not being organized
  • being exhausted from lack of sleep
  • not knowing what to do next

Keeping your activities organized with the Emergent Task Planner will help you avoid overwhelm.  Accurate scheduling will also help you to to feel calm. You can take the planning one step further by making sure you make room in your schedule for proper rest and breaks, good meals, socializing, exercise, and sleep.  When you arrange your schedule mindfully, it will support your progress and sense of well-being throughout the day.

Make sure you remember to plan sanity into your schedule.  We cannot function like robots because we are not robots.  We need to take care of ourselves first, before we can do good work for ourselves and others.

Step 4.  Eliminate anything unnecessary

In order to have sanity in our schedule, we need to have a To Do List and a Not To Do List. We need to make decisions about what to eliminate and to make them wisely.

These decisions can feel tough, because many of us like to cram every.little.thing.under.the.sun into our schedule.  It can feel fun to try everything, but if we are being real, we need to come to terms with the truest of truths — we cannot do it all.

Consider what you might do without, so you can have more sanity for yourself:

  • binge watching television shows or movies
  • monitoring the news constantly
  • reading the entire Internet every time you pick up your phone
  • worrying and second-guessing
  • saying “yes” to everything

I know, it’s a tough list to think about.  It might be tougher to take this important step of cutting something out of your schedule.  Please know that your decision to manage your time more carefully will actually bring you more enjoyment and freedom in your life — not less.

When you make good decisions about how you use your time, you will end up feeling like you have more time to use.  You’ll need to trust me at first on this one, but that’s okay because these strategies really work.

Love your schedule, love yourself

You might feel some resistance to the idea of using your schedule to combat Procrastination.  After all, there are so many factors that make it seem like Procrastination is here to stay.  But, as we all know, Procrastination is the thief of time and a pain in the a**, and time is truly precious.  So let’s start moving so we can kick Procrastination out the door.

Let’s remember to be kind to ourselves as we try new techniques and ideas.  Let’s not get overly frustrated when things don’t feel like they are going perfectly from the start.  It is important to stay the course.  Love your schedule in order to love yourself.  The rewards of finding productivity and flow after leaving Procrastination behind are tremendous.  Don’t miss them.

Related reading:  

7 Tips to Help You Become a Master Scheduler

 

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How to Leave Your Negative Mindset in the Dust

Learn to leave your negative mindset behindProcrastinators are oftentimes victims of their own negative mindset.  Rather than coaching themselves towards success, Procrastinators lean towards doom and gloom, predicting humiliation and failure for themselves.  

It is no wonder then, that Procrastination tends to be a problem that continues without being corrected or halted.  The combination of negative mindset and Procrastination limits our natural leanings towards freedom and forward movement.  We end up being consumed with worry and fear instead of putting our heads down and getting our work done.  

What gives rise to a negative mindset?

The roots of a negative mindset can be found in many diverse areas:

  • low self-esteem
  • lack of self-confidence
  • growing up with overly critical parents or other authority figures
  • growing up in dysfunctional, chaotic environments
  • early notable academic or personal success which gives rise to anxiety about performance as the child grows up
  • depression

Negative thoughts certainly can occur on a daily basis.  We need to be mindful of when they dominate our frame of mind and outlook.  When we become mired in negative thoughts and negative predictions of future events, we short-circuit our own ability to think clearly and to act with the full power of our skills, intelligence, and resources.  

We begin to limit our own sense of freedom.  We begin to act as if we are broken, impaired, incompetent, or less than we really are.

Four ways to break free of a negative mindset

Fortunately, a negative mindset does not have to be a permanent part of your life.  Use the following four suggestions to avoid getting stuck in negativity:

  1. Evaluate the purpose of your self-dialogue.  Are you trying to scare yourself out of taking action?  Are you trying to convince yourself that you don’t have what it takes to more forward?  Be honest with yourself when you do this kind of evaluation.
  2. Question whether you want your negative thoughts to be true.  (I learned this technique from an Amy Porterfield business podcast.)   Look at the picture you are painting with your self-talk and decide if you indeed want this picture to become your reality.  If the answer is “no,” then change the words you are using to coach yourself.
  3. Learn how to generate action from your thoughts.  What could you replace your negative mindset and language with?  A plan?  A deadline?   A supportive person?  A goal?  A work sprint at a coffee shop?  Replace the anxiety that comes from negative thinking with some sort of action.  The replacement doesn’t need to be dramatic, big, or important.  It just needs to put you back in motion.
  4. Decide to give yourself the benefit of a balanced frame of mind.  Instead of walking around with an overburdened brain, decide to give yourself a break.  Allow yourself to approach every new challenge with an open mind and heart, without expectations of failure and with a presumption of eventual success.

Here’s a bonus technique to try

When you think about your next new challenges, ask yourself the question: “Am I working towards keeping my freedom or am I surrendering it?”  As long as you work towards your next action, you maintain your flexibility and your capacity to learn.  Once you decide to stay stagnant and to let that stagnation go on and on, you become more vulnerable to anxiety and stress.

Keep in mind that relying on Procrastination often puts your freedom and flexibility in jeopardy.  Make avoiding Procrastination a priority.  Learn to treat yourself well, in thought and in action, and the payoffs will keep coming your way.

If you are interested in getting some support in your efforts to adjust your mindset, please consider joining the Procrastination Coach Facebook Group.  You’ll find information, articles, and loads of support from me and the community within the group.  

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