I hesitated about writing a post about Derek Jeter because hey:
I don’t follow baseball
everyone else is writing about Jeter
I wouldn’t want you to think Derek told me his secret to me in person #heehee
Despite my reservations, I could not resist writing about something I read about Derek Jeter this weekend in The New York Times. In discussing how overwhelming his feelings have been during the last few weeks of his career, he said, “I have ‘em, I try to hide them. I try to trick myself and convince myself that I’m not feeling those particular emotions, whether its nerves, whether I’m injured, pain. I just try to trick myself I don’t have it.” When I read this quote, I was struck by the beauty of it. I’m all with Derek. It’s important to have your feelings, but it is also important to develop a practice of making sure your feelings do not get in your way.
Procrastinators suffer when we get overcome by our feelings of:
wanting to control our outcomes
being less capable than our opponents
So this is where Derek teaches us again (via another New York Times piece): “I think that’s where people get in trouble, when they start complicating things. It’s really not that complicated. The more complicated you make it, the more difficult it is on you. You’re playing a game where you fail more than you succeed. You’ve got to try to keep it as simple as possible.” I really got the sense from this quote that he was speaking to US and not just to struggling baseball rookies. Derek reminds us to strip our purpose to the essentials and to be wary of anything that might prevent us from seeing that purpose clearly.
This is what the greats tend to do. They work really (unbelievably) hard at their practice, and leave us thinking they make it look easy.
Here’s the Jeter Take-away for you:
Be present in the moment and feel your feelings.
Challenge the feelings that threaten to take you away from your purpose.
Preserve your capacity to focus.
Don’t complicate your life.
Remember what is essential in the game you are playing.
Since I spend my days working as a psychologist, I spend a lot of time thinking about, participating in, and looking at communication and communication dynamics. I think about:
what people are saying
what they are not saying
what they want to say
what I want and don’t want to say
the meaning of periods of silence
Of course, that’s not an exhaustive list, because communication is such a fascinatingly broad field of play.
Here’s a list of some of the lessons about successful communication I’ve learned over the years:
What we communicate is not conveyed just in words, but how we add our intention, motivation, and feeling into the words we use. Inject your words with your curiosity, your wisdom, your humor, your drive, and/or your personality when you speak. When you do, your words will really resonate with those listening.
The energy of communication between two or more people is live, and not fixed. Though we may try mightily to predict what others might say, we have slim chances of doing so because communication is a veritable dance of human energy and creativity. Enjoy the playing involved in communicating, and avoid trying to control what’s being said.
Listen well to be a good communication partner. Let others know you are interested in what they say by listening closely (to what is and is not being said) when they are talking. Good communication often involves patience, as there may be misunderstandings to work through before communication becomes clear.
What people say to us does not bind us. We decide to be bound or not bound to those words and to people. Do not be afraid of what’s being said. But do be very aware and mindful of how you react to what’s being said.
Fulfill yourown responsibility in making sure the communication is clear. If there are discrepancies in times or dates, for example, play it safe and reconfirm details ahead of time to avoid finding yourself in a last-minute rush or panic. I’m including this lesson here because I recently screwed up a lunch date because I assumed everything will work out just as I think it will.
Communication is an incredibly powerful method to combat anxiety. That’s the whole premise behind psychotherapy, after all. When you put words to your problems, you begin to develop a sense of mastery over your fears. Talk it out. You can do it.
What you are most afraid of saying aloud is likely the issue you need to address most. What you are trying to say matters so much more than how you say it, also.
When you feel free to communicate openly and when you need to, you are likely in a healthy environment or relationship. The inverse of this is also true.
Communication needs to be transactional. We need not fuss and worry over what we say or feel our words will “make” or “break” things. We are not the only ones responsible for making communication successful; those we are speaking to share that responsibility and should participate as such.
When Procrastinators begin to rely heavily on avoidance and denial, good communication tends to go out the window. When Procrastinators feel backed into a corner because of disorganization, lack of preparation, anxiety, or workblock, they may lie to others or isolate themselves in order to feel better. Unfortunately, when we lie or isolate ourselves from others, our stress tends to escalate quickly, because communication is no longer meaningful or effective at getting our point across.
It’s never too late to change how you communicate. But good communication only happens with good practice and trust that your words will see you through.
News to Share:
Registration Going on Now for the October Workout Group
If you are interested in learning more about communication or feel you could use some coaching in that area, sign up for the Procrastination Coach October Workshop Group. The first lesson will be on communication. The weeks following will include lessons on time management, control and perfectionism, and tools to maintain progress post-Procrastination. Membership for the month is $10. I think you’ll dig it.
When we Procrastinate, we create opportunities for a chaotic mess of cognitive and emotional changes to enter our lives. The following is a list of techniques to help you re-emerge from a Procrastination gap, if you are in one:
Be patient with your up-and-down feelings. We have a tendency to believe our moods should be Even Steven when we are at work. I know I don’t have to think very long before coming up with many, many examples of work experiences where my mood, which tends to be stable, was anything but.
Remember your doubts don’t represent reality. To all the “What if?”-ers in the world, those what-ifs are fear statements run amok. Don’t wager your bright future on those made up, extreme anxiety versions of your future. Make it a habit of writing your what-ifs down. The only value they will give you is the sense that your fears are exaggerated once you’ve tallied how many actually come true (if you can even tally a one).
Reject others (sort of). Part of the reason individual therapy and coaching helps Procrastinators is because they put focus on that one person. That one person who likely has been spending a whole lot of time comparing him or herself to those around them, even people who don’t actually exist. It’s really, really, really hard to be the world’s best anything or something, so let’s drop the competition and let’s start living.
Join others. Get into a group of like-minded people. If there isn’t a group, form one. Start with one person. If that person isn’t a good fit, ask for his or her suggestions for who might be a good fit. Let the stimulation of meeting and connecting with someone new enable you to forget your worries.
Stick with the basics. When we sit with ideas or stress too long, complications ensue. We get overloaded, tired, and unfocused and then get ourselves started on a bum foot. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish here?” or “What aspect of this project do I understand so far?” With a deep breath and answers to those questions, write two sentences, break out those tools, plug in that device, turn up the music and get started. Once you’ve started, continue to keep the basics of your purpose in mind.
Look straight ahead, not up. There are so many pressures to “make something of yourself” and to achieve and to acquire whatever (you fill in the blank). Sometimes the message comes with the teaser that Happiness will be yours once you’re done. We often think upward progression is the only path to success. I’ve come to understand after years of working as a psychologist, that the sense that achievement is beyond your grasp, or only for the super-talented and naturally gifted, is a false one. Achievement (including the upward progression kind) requires involvement. Our involvement comes in the moments where we decide our efforts are worth our toil and trouble.
Adopt an accepting attitude. We rail against life’s unfairness – our need for a root canal or to shoulder a burdensome task, for example – but we tend not to celebrate when life is…well, fair. When you find yourself in a low moment or period, remind yourself that life is not stable, and then find a way to get your own sense of stability again.
Immerse yourself. Instead of running away from what you need to take care of, run towards it. Surround yourself with your unsorted documents. Turn on the computer and get writing, or e-mailing, or planning. The boldest way to deal with Procrastination and the stress of it is to go in.
For me, method #8 is the key. It’s the key to me staying as clear away from Procrastination as I can manage. It’s a daily struggle, but one that is well worth my while.
Which method is key for you? I’d love to hear. Please leave a reply here if you’d like to share your technique for getting rid of Procrastination-caused stress.
News to Share
I’m excited to announce that the Procrastination Coach October Workout Group is currently taking members! The Workout Group will provide members with weekly written lessons on dealing with Procrastination, a live coaching webinar with me, and the opportunity to connect with other members in a confidential Facebook group. Membership for the month of October is $10.
I’ve been having some difficulty getting my act together regarding this blog lately. I haven’t been posting consistently, and some days it feels like the well has run dry.
What I’ve realized in thinking about this current situation is that running a blog is kind of like being in therapy. Sooner or later, your issues are going to come out. But, the only way you’re going to be able to look at those issues in a meaningful way is if you stay in.
What I’ve learned through running this blog and struggling to make it what I would like it to be is:
Blogging is a tremendous opportunity to reach other people and to explore one’s own voice.
Blogging can reinforce some of the beauty of daily living.
Blogging can make one more mindful.
There is no sure-fire way to do a blog despite countless blog posts written to that effect.
In fact, the only way to do a blog is to do the work.
Who Am I Waiting For?
Part of my recent struggle with posting consistently is I’ve been mired in my own thoughts about what the blog posts are supposed to look like. What theme should I follow? What images should I post? Should I really devote my time to the blog? The questions go on and on.
But the struggle isn’t just me versus me. I know through working with my patients over the years, that for me and most others, there’s always something else looming. There’s always the fear of the other person. That other person, whether they be real or just an internalized voice, holds the key to our ability to act.
That other person makes us feel:
afraid to be creative
afraid to be original
afraid to move forward
afraid to commit to time being used
afraid to do things others wouldn’t do
afraid of our own capacity to get things done
Believe me, if I could design or devise a one-stop shop place to cure the other person syndrome I would. It would be my life’s work, I’m sure. In many ways it is my professional work, as I spend my days talking with patients to help them move past that other person in their head or in their life.
The reason this is not a one-stop fixer-upper situation is because we are complex, intelligent, and anxious beings. We have come to our situations of delay and distress honestly. Over the years we have convinced ourselves that stressing out over our lives and work makes everything better in the end. And because doing work is generally inherently a hard thing to do, we get ourselves in long patterns of delay without purpose, of worry without productivity.
I’m Ready to Go
Although I know I can’t offer a one-stop shop, I am now prepared to move forward with an idea I’ve had in my mind for quite a long time. I have long dreamt of finding a way to gather people suffering from chronic procrastination together. My blog and the Internet and your own efforts to find solutions for yourself now make it possible for me to do so.
I will be using the month of October to run my first Procrastination Coach Workout Group. The group will be multi-faceted in purpose and design.
The purpose: To help members gain a foothold over their Procrastination. There will be no set expectations for how members choose to do so. The Workout Group will provide a forum and arena for experimentation and consideration of what needs to be addressed and worked through.
The design: During the month of October, members will receive written lessons each week covering the topics of communication, time management, control and perfectionism, and tools for maintaining progress. There will also be a live webinar with me so I may answer your questions and do some coaching. Members also have the option of joining a “secret” and confidential Facebook group open only to Workout Group members. My aim is to provide useful and easily implemented information for you. My intent is to do that without wasting your time and using the most efficient methods I know how.
The cost: $10 for the month of October
Why this is worth your valuable time and money:
Spending some time to evaluate the reasons you are stuck will pay off in time, flexibility, and lowered anxiety.
Membership in this Workout Group will connect you with peers who are experiencing problems similar to yours. The Workout Group will facilitate open communication and supportive conversation which I firmly believe will aid you in your effort to recover from chronic Procrastination.
You will gain information and tools relevant to your personal needs.
You will gain direct access to lessons and coaching with me during the Workout Group experience.
Click the Join Now button below to register for the October Workout Group:
I’m really excited about this new venture. My decision to run with this idea of announcing the Workout Group has renewed my blogging spirit. I hope you’ll join me and others who are interested in gaining momentum in their lives in the Workout Group. Who are you waiting for anyway?
Please feel free to reply to me if you have questions about whether the Workout Group will be right for you. I look forward to working with you soon.
In my constant quest for ways to be more efficient, I’ve tried out my fair share of apps and programs. Below are a few I thought might be helpful if you are on your way back to school or looking for new ways to stay focused and connected.
1.Drafts — This app works well for me because it saves me a few seconds every time I have to send a note to someone, to schedule an appointment, or to log a reminder to myself. This app allows me to go to the Drafts icon to start and to compose each type of entry, and then, and only then, do I decide what the best destination for that entry is. Drafts provides the entire list of choices of e-mail, text, reminders list, print and other send-to options. I choose one from the list and send or I can leave what I’ve written in draft form.
I’ve just recently started using Drafts, but I think it’s fantastic. The app helps me to stay focused on what I am trying to get done first, so I don’t get lost in a sea of other app icons (#wordswithfriendsblackhole) before I get my message written. I think it’s helping to preserve my sanity, which is no small thing.
2. Gingko — I am also new to this web app, but I am already well-enamored of it. Gingko helps writers keep a handle on what they are doing by allowing them to see how their writing is taking shape as they are writing.
No more one line by one line writing for me. With Gingko now I can see the entire scope of what I am planning to write. Gingko encourages you to type your thoughts in a “tree” format, where the root of the tree (your main idea) is on the left side of the screen, and the branches (your supporting ideas) extend out from the root towards the right side of the screen. Gingko even offers suggestions for how you might want to structure particular types of writing. With my basic ideas mapped out in front of me in the tree format, I can pick and choose where I want to continue writing. One moment I’m expounding on the main idea, the next I’m hopping over to add a small detail to another section. Shazam.
3.Lift – I heard about the Lift app through the blog of Pat Flynn who had heard of it from Tim Ferriss. Knowing how productive both gentlemen have been, I was intrigued and downloaded the Lift app. Though I was interested, my hopes were not high because I have tried other habit tracking apps and have just been too bored or unmotivated to keep up with the checking and the logging in processes.
I think the Lift app has been working fairly well as a gentle, friendly reminder of the self-improvement goals I set when I first started using the app. When I actually succeed at abiding by one of my goals, I simply press the screen to indicate that, and am rewarded by praise and phone fireworks. It’s cute and just fun enough to keep me mindful of the goals I’ve set. By the way, the Lift app has a community of goal seekers too, so if you’re community-minded, you can also log in your goals and share your progress with others who share the same goals as you. Try to avoid checking your e-mail before breakfast for a few days with the help of Lift. I dare you.
4. Twitter — Okay, I am pretty sure this is not an “app,” but more like a phenomenon at this point. I wrote about my love for Twitter a while back, but since I wrote that post, I’ve seen how Twitter has been more prominent in news circles, sports communities, and the like. I recommend (as appropriate) my patients try Twitter as it’s an easy way to connect with the information communities and sources YOU want to be connected to. And I’m mentioning Twitter here because I think all students can benefit from a hip research tool like this. If you haven’t tried it before, get yourself a Twitter handle and send me a direct message (by starting your tweet with @ChristineLiPhD) through my Twitter handle @ChristineLiPhD and I will tweet you back to get you started.
5. Google Drive — Again, not technically an app, and probably something you may already be using. I have been using Google Drive a lot, most recently to co-author the book Stepping Into College with my colleague Diane Elkins who lives in North Carolina. Using Google Drive, we were seamlessly able to write our own parts of the book and then to collaborate in the editing, publishing, and marketing processes. Google Drive is very user friendly and has my dream feature — auto-save. Use it to start making plans for a new on-campus club, future business, or book!
I hope you find these apps as useful as I have. Consider getting a copy of Stepping Into College too if you are just entering college now. It contains loads of advice on how to make the early months of your freshman year more manageable and how to use them to ensure your success in the rest of your school years. Please also keep a look out for a new offering I am putting together for Procrastination Coach readers for the month of October. Announcement coming soon!
I recently read a blogpost by Shane Parrish entitled “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” on the origin of the checklist and the author’s ideas about how checklists prevent us from making errors. I thought this idea was interesting, but then I moved on to read the rest of my Twitter feed. But then I realized how I never really have associated making checklists with preventing errors. I’ve always used them as last-ditch efforts to get myself moving when I have been stuck. I’ve also used them for packing lists, but since I tend to be disorganized, those packing checklists often end up being only partially helpful.
Anyhow, I thought it was worth revisiting the idea of checklists here with you. Perhaps this idea of preventing errors might make me (and you) a bit more inclined to make some checklists up and to make sure we check each item off. We could make quick checklists for:
Calls we need to make
Making the most out of the rest-of-summer plans
Financial matters to be handled for taxes
Marketing plans for a new launch of a book or other product
Dividing duties up among different people
Cleaning tasks as we transition into the fall season
Thank you lists
Books to read and movies to see
It seems the idea of creating a few end-of-summer checklists might just make the season end on a high note. Get cracking and get packing. I hope your end-of-summer plans go off without a hitch.
Remember to make room for enjoyment in your life. If you’d like to add your checklist suggestions here, that would be great! And please remember to follow me on Twitter @ChristineLiPhD too!
The following list is an excerpt from STEPPING INTO COLLEGE, an e-book I recently published with Diane Elkins. Although the list was originally written to assist students about to head off to college, I believe the points are relevant for us all. In fact, I think if you are feeling stuck, there is a good chance you are not sticking to one of the listed guidelines.
Take a few minutes to scan the list of tips, and try to zero in on the one tip you are ignoring. Then determine how you will set yourself on a path towards greater flow and movement, by addressing how you have been behaving, what you have been ignoring, and what you need to do or to avoid doing.
Recently, I have felt the pain of Tip #2. To elaborate — figuring out how to get a book published has been a huge learning experience, largely one consisting of times “when things are going wrong.” Don’t get me wrong…it has been an exciting journey too. Things didn’t go so much wrong as much as it seemed EVERY part of the process was a new challenge. And that made it feel like things were going wrong. Persisting and completing each challenge (read: hurdle) brought us to where we are now – published authors!
14 Tips for Keeping Yourself in Flow
Don’t be afraid to mix it up.
Use the times when things are going wrong as learning experiences.
Ask for help whenever you need it.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Don’t assume you can do everything.
Don’t assume you need to do everything.
Don’t do everything.
Write it down. Keep good records and keep your records simple and organized.
Choose simplicity over complication.
Follow your interests and participate in what interests you.
Invest time daily in keeping yourself organized and healthy.
Reduce distractions and time suckers. Whether it’s your phone, social media, or trying to study in a noisy room – identifying and eliminating distractions is crucial to success.
Take good breaks. Get outside, move, stretch, eat something, meditate, laugh.
Be patient and kind to yourself, especially when things aren’t going the way you want them to.
Best wishes as you embark upon some list reviewing. If you think you might be interested in STEPPING INTO COLLEGE, get it today (8/3/14) on Amazon for FREE! (Click through to the Amazon sales page and the price will be $0.00.)
I have difficulty with #3, #6, #7, #8, #9, and #12 also. What’s on your list? Which ones get you stuck in a rut? Comment here to share your stories.
Checking you have all the right ingredients for a recipe before you start baking
Figuring out how much time you want to spend on finishing a project
Sorting your ideas for an essay into categories before you start writing
Setting your backpack, handbag, briefcase, or gym bag in order and by the front door with your keys the night before
In overlooking the need to make micro-movements, we may believe we are ready to work when we are not. We may have to stop mid-way in our work to recalibrate. We may have to make a U-turn in our travels in order to pick up a needed part. We may get frustrated at ourselves for not having thought of the little things and then lose steam or motivation, or both.
I can speak about the importance of micro-movements now because I am in the process of promoting my e-book STEPPING INTO COLLEGE. From the very start, when I had the idea to compile useful tips for students who were about to become college freshmen, I realized the process of producing the book would involve many varied micro-movements.
What I didn’t realize was that I was significantly underestimating exactly how many micro-movements there would be. I didn’t think about how much time editing a book takes. I didn’t remember that my co-author Diane Elkins and I had lives, especially over the holidays. I didn’t even spend a second worrying about promoting the book either.
The funny thing is, you cannot publish an e-book without going through all of these micro-movements. The good thing is, no one micro-movement ended up flattening us. We continue to learn so much about the book writing and selling process as we go.
What I’ve learned is when you push forward, there will likely be resistance. I’ve also learned that when you train yourself to stay steady and work past the resistance (both internal and external), your future movements will become more clear.
Try to remember when you feel stymied that those accomplishments you admire in others and in your own life were made great, in part, because all the micro-movements were taken care of first.
What projects are you working on now? Are you feeling flattened by (seemingly) endless micro-movements? Do tell.
Often when we are stuck in a large, multi-faceted project or task, there is good reason. We get:
consumed by something else
and over time, we forget the need to have this task be done.
So much for the task.
In my experience, there is always a key in these situations. That is, there is one action you can take that will cause a rippling, cascading effect on the rest of your to-do list items within the project. Taking that one action will make you feel like you are on a downhill glide to the finish line.
Here’s an example of a “key” situation: If you are stuck on your dissertation, try to identify what is getting in your way. Is it that you haven’t put yourself in the library in a while? Is it that you haven’t seen your advisor for an update meeting in a while? Is it that you haven’t seen any human being in a while? Instead of sitting and stewing about how much time has gone by and how wrecked you feel, contact the person in your life who will help you to remember you can do your work. Turn that key.
I recommend acting on your “key” idea or action as soon as you possibly can:
If you e-mail your advisor that you’d like to meet at the end of the month, your motivation will be recharged if only because you now have something to aim for or because you are freaked out about the idea of showing up empty-handed.
If you are planning a large get-together, send an e-mail blast to all of your guests, just to get your juices flowing and to engage your guests in conversation about your plans and preparation needs.
If you need to mail a package, place the package near the exit to your home, so it has a fighting chance of making it out the door.
If you don’t know how to proceed because you have no knowledge how, contact the first person you can think of who can guide you in the right direction.
If you need to fix something in your relationship with someone close to you, speak specifically and directly about the problem you’re experiencing, and simply follow along once the conversation gets rolling.
In all the above scenarios, you can see there is no “perfect” plan in action. Each of these “key” steps will lead to you opening up your capacity to act again. It’s not so important what you do as it is important that you do do something to move yourself forward. There’s your life you need to enjoy again. Go do it.
If you have any questions about finding your “key,” or stories to share about successful actions in your own life, please feel free to leave a reply here. Please also remember to join me on Twitter @ChristineLiPhD for more information and conversation.
STEPPING INTO COLLEGE is a primer on many important topics every new college freshman will face. We hatched the idea for this book, because we felt young adults who were excited about leaving the nest would benefit from relevant and pragmatic information about the adjustment process they were about to head into.
Writing this book was a labor of love, because we focused on what would help new college students feel comfortable, confident, focused, eager, and positive. We combined our expertise — Diane’s is in workspace organization and sending her own three children to college and mine is in helping students thrive in college and graduate school — to compile solid advice on making the most out of the first year in school. We cover topics such as:
how simplicity and organization can support academic progress
how to avoid common freshman year pitfalls, like procrastination and feeling overwhelmed
ways to develop healthy relationships with new friends while maintaining good ones with family
ideas for ways to engage in the campus community
tips for successful time management
guidance on being mindful of finances and spending habits
and of course, suggestions for a great dorm room packing list!
We wrote this book with both students and parents in mind. There are many talking points throughout the book that will make for great discussions. We’d love it if you’d consider purchasing a copy for your friends or family members who might be thinking about what’s in store for them at college this September. You can also follow STEPPING INTO COLLEGE on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful ideas for your (or your son’s or daughter’s) college debut.