What Is the Most Important Factor for Consistent Productivity?

What is the most important factor for consistent productivity?Both procrastinators and non-procrastinators yearn to be more productive.  There are lots of strategies, tools, and techniques to assist us in our work and daily lives these days, but even with that assistance, many people find consistent productivity hard to achieve.

Why is this the case?  Why do we intend and want to be productive and to get our work done, but then have our actions get in our way?  So often our actions don’t line up with our original intentions.

I found the answer to this question in a conversation with my husband.

I talked with my husband about all things related to being consistently productive.  We had the opportunity to review what we thought were the most important factors for getting things done.  He is a project manager and an inherently organized and practical, and of course that means he’s the world’s exact opposite of me, a hopelessly disorganized and spirited psychologist.

But it turns out we think about consistent productivity in similar ways.

When he talks, he uses concepts like:

  • goals and objectives
  • execution
  • figuring out the scope of the project
  • assumptions and constraints

When I talk, I refer to concepts like:

  • tolerating your difficult feelings
  • making room for flow
  • developing a daily practice
  • dealing with your self-doubt and resistance

As you can tell, our relationship is bilingual.  We often see each other as originating from an alternate universe. 

What I realized from this conversation was we agreed on one thing.   We used the exact same language to describe that one thing.  I also realized that this thing is the most important factor in being able to develop a practice of consistent productivity.  That thing is — DON’T PERSONALIZE IT.

My husband would say, “It’s a project with a defined purpose with a beginning and an end.  Don’t personalize it.”

I would say, “Don’t personalize it.  It is a project, not a statement about you or your worth or value as a person.”

No matter how we say it, we both want you to get this message firmly into your head.

This is difficult to do because from a young age we are trained that work is important and that the better we do, the better we should feel about ourselves.  This association gets developed and reinforced over and over again as we grow up, and not just in academic environments.  That association may be useful in motivating us to get good grades in school, but the closeness and intensity of this association between work and ego can inhibit us from feeling free to work when there are high stakes involved, and sometimes when there is any work involved at all.

Let that association go.  Let it go.  #singitifyouhaveto

The benefits of being able to separate your ego from your work are many.  They include:

  • clearer thinking
  • quicker decision making
  • better judgment
  • better communication and discussion
  • less time waste
  • more room for creativity
  • easier collaboration
  • consistent productivity

Let your work be your work.  It stands on its own.  Don’t burden the work or yourself with extra meanings, messages, or expectations.  Do what needs to get done with your best intentions, motivation, and skill.  Be courageous and stretch yourself.  Invest yourself in making your work better rather than in needing your work to garner you some praise or acceptance.  And never let fear get in your way.  

You might even be able to get along well with someone who speaks a totally different language than you.

Related reading:

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The Benefits of Everyday Habits

Everyday HabitsMany, many years ago, I spoke about Procrastination to a small group of 17 dissertation students at a major university.  The group was polite, attentive, and eager to learn.

Mid-presentation I spontaneously asked the group how many of the 17 were doing their work on a daily basis.  I don’t know why, but I was shocked by their response.

Only one of the 17 dissertation students was dealing with her work on a daily basis.  When I asked her what made her behave differently from the rest of the group, she told me and the group that the university, due to a change in guidelines regarding financial support of doctoral students, was taking away her financial backing.

Ah-ha.  There was all of a sudden a very large motivating force compelling that student to work on a daily basis.

Although I was shocked by the fact that 16 out of the 17 students were not working every day, I shouldn’t have been.  Why?  Because I too, had developed 9,000,001 techniques to avoid working on my dissertation when I was in that very difficult emotional zone of dissertation writing.

Since that talk I gave many, many years ago, I have developed the opinion that the only way to push a humongous project (like a dissertation) through to the end is to work on it in a serious manner every day.

I am sharing these memories with you in order to encourage you to develop a daily habit with the project that is most important to you, and perhaps the one which is making you Procrastinate the most.  Why should we waste valuable time when we know the answer to faster and greater productivity?  We’ll have way more fun when we are finished (as every single dissertation student who has ever successfully completed a dissertation will attest).

The following are a few guidelines and reflections to get you started:

1.  You need to be able to distinguish real work from fake work.  When we have in-depth, complex projects to handle, it is easy to manufacture a sense of doing the work, when in fact, we are just passing time.  Make sure you are honest with yourself about whether you are actually focusing on your work, or if you are researching and fussing your way around it.

2.  Even 15 minutes a day of real work will be beneficial to your overall productivity. If the idea of working on something every day makes you cringe, know that just 15 minutes a day of real work will give you tremendous payoffs at the end of the day.

3.  You will not have to deal with initiation stress as much.  So often the issue with getting down to work is the problem of needing to get past our discomfort with initiating our work.  Once you get into a pattern of daily work, that initiation stress dies down significantly.

4.  You will not need to deal with distracting thoughts, events, and people as much. When you train yourself to work on a daily basis, the time you spend working becomes a solid, knowable event in your day.  You will begin to protect that time in your schedule for the work.  As a result, your work will be easier to pay attention to and to develop.  The distracting thoughts, events, and people that are part of your day will have to wait a bit for you to finish your day’s work.

5.  You will develop a system of working and a sense of mastery.  What I’ve learned from writing posts week after week (often with a daily writing routine) is the intangible factors involved in getting to my work smooth themselves out when I keep to a daily habit of working.  When you develop your own daily practice, you’ll find the mindset of working is accessible, the materials you need are at hand, and the readiness to produce is there.

6.  Your work will actually progress.  This is obvious, no?

7.  You will not dread working so much.  Wouldn’t that be great?

When you develop a daily productivity habit, you develop a trusted way to make sure you maintain a healthy relationship with your work.  No more complaining, no more obsessing, no more regretting.  More freedom, more productivity, more confidence, more contentment.  Sounds good to me.

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The 30/30 App: A Free Tool to Boost Your Focus and Productivity

The 30/30 App

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.  Time 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 is 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 to 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 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.

 

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5 Back-to-School Productivity Apps for You to Consider

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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Make Hard-Working Checklists to Save Time and Energy

Use the power of checklists to save yourself time and energy

 

Checklists don’t get a lot of respect.  My purpose here is to convince you to develop some well-constructed checklists to ramp up your efficiency and your purposefulness in your day.

What’s the big deal? — it’s just a checklist…

I once read  “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Shane Parrish.  It was a review of the book by the same name written by Atul Gawande on the origin of the checklist and how checklists can prevent us from making errors.

Parrish noted the backstory of the checklist dates to 1935.  After two of five airmen died in a test run of the Model 299 plane, a pilot’s checklist was designed in order to avert future catastrophes.  The pilot’s checklist detailed everything that needed to be handled, from takeoff, flying, landing, and taxiing.  Apparently, that checklist helped to prevent any future mishaps with the Model 299 plane.

After reading Parrish’s piece, I realized I had never really 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 tried to use them for travel packing efforts, but since I tend to be disorganized, those packing checklists tended to be only partially helpful.

Details of my own checklist experiment

A few months after reading Parrish’s article, I was inspired to take checklists more seriously and to use them to help revamp my own life.  I found the inspiration in an article entitled, My Morning Checklist for 2016 written by “Bob.”  

I was intrigued by the amount of detail Bob shared about his 90-minute morning routine.  It seemed that Bob could get a lot done in a 90-minute span.  He even noted that he set a timer for 90 minutes each day to make sure he didn’t waste any time.  I could visualize someone going through the steps Bob had laid out for himself.  I was hooked and was encouraged to design something for myself.

I decided to include the following actions in my own morning routine:

  • take medications
  • drink water
  • make bed
  • walk dogs
  • feed dogs
  • do one load of laundry
  • decluttering for 10-15 minutes
  • make and eat breakfast
  • plan for the day, define priority item
  • writing
  • check messages
  • connect with family

I had, of course, been doing many of these items already, but putting all of the items together in a checklist format helped me to get through them more quickly.  After a few weeks, I didn’t need the checklist anymore because the whole process became a routine. And the routine-ness of the morning helped me to set the day off with a positive, healthy, and calm attitude.  I could feel successful even though it was still the morning.

The checklist I had made for my morning routine completely altered my mindset and attitude – for the better.

Yes, these checklist items all take time, and some of you may not have as much flexibility as I currently have in the morning.  That said, I heartily encourage you to use what time you do have and to try your own version of the morning checklist.

Make use of the morning time which is an open, clean space for you to fill and to appreciate more and more.  Just think about it — your mind is not cluttered or weakened by the events and stresses of the day in the morning.  You are at your most clear then.

What’s on your checklist?

Is there room in your life for a hard-working checklist?  Maybe even a few checklists?

We could make quick checklists for:

  • recurring projects
  • calls we need to make
  • grocery shopping
  • making the most out of the rest-of-summer plans
  • financial matters to be handled for taxes
  • marketing plans for the launch of a book or other product
  • business practices
  • dividing duties up among different people
  • cleaning tasks
  • travel packing
  • back-to-school items
  • thank you lists
  • party planning
  • books to read and movies to see
  • a decluttering plan of attack
  • morning, afternoon, and evening routines

See how the power of checklists might affect your own life for the better.  Might you make fewer errors?  Get more done?  Feel less stressed?  The potential here is enormous because the potential within you is enormous.  Get crackin’ today.

If you need some more ideas for how to use checklists in your day, please use this free download I’ve created for you — Check My Lists:

Click here to receive the CHECK YOUR LISTS downloadable sheet to help you get more organized today!


You’re invited to join the Procrastination Coach Facebook Group too!

If you’re interested in getting started on your own journey towards life without Procrastination, please consider joining the Procrastination Coach Facebook Group. We’re a group of supportive, understanding people sharing our thoughts, struggles, and wins in a closed Facebook group environment.  Hope to see you in the group soon.

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14 Tips for Keeping Yourself in Flow

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

  1. Don’t be afraid to mix it up.
  2. Use the times when things are going wrong as learning experiences.
  3. Ask for help whenever you need it.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  5. Don’t assume you can do everything.
  6. Don’t assume you need to do everything.
  7. Don’t do everything.
  8. Write it down.  Keep good records and keep your records simple and organized.
  9. Choose simplicity over complication.
  10. Follow your interests and participate in what interests you.
  11. Invest time daily in keeping yourself organized and healthy.
  12. 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.
  13. Take good breaks.  Get outside, move, stretch, eat something, meditate, laugh.
  14. 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.

 

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Set the Wheels in Motion

Often when we are stuck in a large, multi-faceted project or task, there is good reason. We get:

  • deflated
  • distracted
  • uninterested
  • bored
  • consumed by something else
  • perfectionistic
  • 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.

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16 Tips for Speeding Up Your Productivity

I have a habitual problem with slowness.  Not with how I walk or talk, but how I get to things.  And how I get to a point of being able to focus on what I am focusing on.  It is a constant, daily exercise for me to work on these struggles, and I have learned a few tricks over the years which have helped me to squeeze in a little more work each time.  Making these extra efforts helps me to keep abreast of my own affairs.

Here’s a quick list of 16 of my sneaky techniques:

  1. Add one or two more points.  Get that much closer to starting the next thing on your list by wrapping up the project you are currently doing with gusto.  Use that energy to push you forward rather than letting yourself come to a cold, hard stop.  Jot down some ideas to help you gear up for the next project on your list.
  2. Drop one or two items.  For example, if you are thinking of buying items off a supply list, see where you might be able to shave off some time by re-purposing what you already own.  Save yourself some moolah in the process.
  3. Shorten what you need to write.  This particularly works well when writing texts and e-mails.  This also often helps to increase the clarity of your message.
  4. Change your style and/or format.  As in Tip #3, this works well with texts and e-mails.  A formal e-mail exchange might end up looking like a list of bullet points by the time you are through.
  5. Batch your items.  Bundle your work rather than spreading it out over time.  For instance, you can tackle all your laundry at once.  Batch your work so you don’t have to waste time stopping and starting it again and repeating the process needlessly.
  6. Make a conscious effort to work quickly.  Remind yourself of all the good stuff you want to get to after your hard work is done.  Refresh your work speed by reading “Do Things Quickly.”
  7. Break things up.  This is the opposite of Tip #5, but sometimes it’s good to switch things up to increase your productivity and speed.
  8. Stop and evaluate what is going on when you find yourself working at a particularly slow pace.  Do you need to get a drink of water?  Do you need to eat? Do you need to find a work buddy?
  9. Jot down a quick list of what needs to be done to keep yourself focused.  Don’t be perfectionistic or obsessional with this list.  Taking two minutes to make a quick list will improve your focus right away.
  10. Put distracting thoughts aside.  Jot them down as they pop up, so you don’t forget them and they don’t distract you.  Try the Emergent Task Planner to help you manage the items from Tips #9 and #10.
  11. Identify what your next (small, doable) action step is.  This tip never fails to get people moving.
  12. Decide what your point is.  Sometimes we hover around “the point” and write too much, talk too much, and think too much.  Figure out what is at the heart of your efforts.  Then head in that direction.
  13. Pretend what you’re doing isn’t so important.  Reducing your stress in this way can do wonders for your work speed.
  14. Talk about your plans with someone else.  I find when coaching clients know I know what they are planning to do, there is a higher chance those items will get done.  Go public with your plans.
  15. Make it a game.  Use a timer.  Challenge your colleague.  Track your speeds on a spreadsheet.  Make a bet with your work group.  See how you might adapt the idea of gaming for productivity in your own life.  De-emphasize the work, and up the fun.
  16. Decide it’s important.  Focus by will and intention.  Hone in.

There.  I’ve just told you everything I know.  Best of luck using these tips and creating some of your own.  Let me know how you do.

What tips do you find helpful for speeding yourself up?

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What to Do When You Don’t Know Everything, or, Tips for Every Day

When I began my graduate school training to be a clinical psychologist, I was worried.  In particular, I was worried because not only was I one of the youngest in my cohort, but because I also had almost no experience in psychology.  I had never done or seen an intake session.  My classmate conducted an intake (in front of all of us classmates) like it was something she had done daily for the past 20 years.  I was freaking out internally, but I remained calm on the outside.  Who exactly could I express my anxiety to anyhow?  My new classmates?  Nope.  Not happening.

I was also worried in a bigger way.  I believed I would never be completely ready to be a psychologist because I could not possibly ever know everything.  And that meant I believed at that very important time in my life that because I was training to be a psychologist, I needed to know everything.  I wondered, “What if a patient asks me to explain every sexually transmitted disease in existence?”  “What if I need to describe how planes take flight?”  You get my message.  The potential for on-going worry was endless.

Fortunately for me, I survived my graduate school training.  Fortunately for you, I’m still pretending I know everything by writing this blogpost, but feeling more calm and collected about what I actually know.  What I know now is this:

  • You don’t have to know everything.  No one does.  No one can.
  • Don’t assume you know everything.
  • People do not assume you know everything.
  • Don’t worry when you inevitably get caught not knowing everything.
  • You can use your lack of knowledge to learn more.
  • Keep your mind as open as you can.  People will appreciate that as your eagerness and capacity to learn.
  • Life will teach you what you need to know.  There is actually no getting around this point.
  • If you are a professional, e.g. a doctor, your patients and clients can help you to know more.  You can help them get over their own worries about not knowing it all, e.g. what to do, how to cope, where to turn.
  • Everyone has some anxiety about how competent they are.  Use this fact as a way to connect with people around you rather than to feel inferior or superior to them.
  • Knowledge isn’t everything.  It isn’t what we really treasure most.  For example, knowledge, for me, does not trump trust, love, and kindness.
  • Knowledge is not the equivalent of competence.  So stop beating yourself up if you feel you don’t know enough.  You are good enough.

Thanks for reading about my journeys in graduate school anxiety.  I hope my reflections and tips help you to enjoy your sense of your potential more.

Do you have any tips for getting around the need to know everything?  If so, please send a reply.

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We All Have So Much To Live Up To

We all start innocently enough.  In childhood, I mean.

Then life gets increasingly complicated.  Very fast.

My understanding of Procrastination includes a recurrent theme I see in my Procrastinating clients.  Adult Procrastinators are so often just the adult form of the super-intellectually-bright young children they once were.  They are also often the adult version of the super-entertainingly-gifted children they once were.  For example, they used to breeze through acting jobs on the side when they were little.

When I meet these people as adults, it is difficult for them to comprehend how their childhood experience (no matter how dramatic) might influence their tendency for delay and Procrastination now.

It makes a lot of sense, however.  You are a whipper-snapper of a second-grader and thus, you make an early splash in your town and within your family.  Even if everyone else is pretty cool about it, your own ego starts to build and to strengthen.  This ego building happens at the same time as the excellent performances you give in school or on stage.  You, being the bright child you are, begin to associate feeling good with doing well in your performances.  Actually, you associate feeling well with doing extremely well and noticeably better than others in your work.  This will go on for a few years, but then the trouble starts:

  • you find that your school work is getting harder and you can’t just wing it anymore to get good grades
  • you delay your work because you think your work will not be good enough
  • you become perfectionistic
  • you start to feel increasingly bad about yourself as your own method of improving your self-esteem (i.e. performing well) is now on hold because of Procrastination
  • you begin to stand still developmentally as you wait for your pizzazz to come back
  • you feel stuck in a time warp
  • you wonder how your peers are becoming so accomplished as you were the original wonder kid
  • you start to hide your Procrastination from others
  • you reach a point where you cannot work at all because it would expose you to potential judgment and criticism

Procrastinators wonder how will it be possible for them to change this bond between performance and self-esteem?  Well, most people try to break this bond by not doing their work.  Not a good or useful method.  It gets you stressed and very certainly does not undo the link between performance and self-esteem.  Here’s what I do indicate:

  • Mindfulness of the link between performance and self-esteem is weapon #1 against it.  Move away from the idea that what you do is who you are.
  • Begin to work with pleasure about the work again.  Reduce all of the pressure you tend to apply to your work, your work process, and the meaning of your work.  It’s just work.  Plain work.  It’s not that interesting.
  • Avoid projecting into the future to try to predict how your finished work will affect others.  That is too much to think about when you are trying to write good work.  It is also a true form of distracting yourself from the present, which is rarely good for getting work done.
  • Be patient.  You will need to adjust to getting real feedback from people.  You will learn step-by-step that you can withstand any criticism that may come your way.
  • Accept that you are imperfect and very much like everyone else in that way.
  • Your efforts to move away from Procrastination will be worth it.  You will find yourself thinking more broadly and fully.  You will spend less time managing floating anxious thoughts that clutter your mind.  You will become a better performer all around when you unshackle yourself from the performance-and-self-esteem bind.

When it comes down to it, even if you follow the steps I’ve just suggested, you will still struggle when you work.  It is human to do so.  It is inevitable to do so.  Effort is part of work.  But you will be open to your work, and the frustrations you feel when you work will therefore be much less than when you were hiding behind your former glory.  In reality, we all have so much to live up to.  In some ways, it is a constant pressure.  We will never fully reach our potential, so please don’t let your enormous potential keep you down.

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