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 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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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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My Latest Greatest Secret Weapon for Getting Things Done

A secret weapon for getting things doneGetting things done is a high-priority item for me since I’ve recovered from chronic Procrastination.  Alongside my recovery has been an avid interest in exploring tools, tricks, and apps that might help me to get things done more quickly and easily.  I want to share with you my latest and best find, which has helped me in small ways that have yielded tremendous results.

The app is called Magnet.  As far as I can tell, it is an app that is used for laptop or desktop screens, and not smartphones.  But that’s great, because Magnet will change the way you work on your laptop or desktop.

What it does is simple.  Magnet enables you to click your work to the left/right/bottom/top of your screen so you have room to view another part of your work on the other available part of your screen.  Basically, the app allows you to split your screen so you can see different sets of information on the same screen without having to toggle between tabs on your computer.

Wham!

Here’s a sense of what Magnet can do with what’s on your screen:

Magnet is an app for getting things done!

This is such a timesaver.  But what I have found is that it makes my efforts to create a new blogpost or on-line course (or anything I’m writing on my laptop) so much easier.  I can stay in “flow” with my course of action because I don’t have to switch my brain off in order to find another piece of information from another tab.  This app proves that a simple idea can have the most powerful effect.

I hope you’ll take my word on this one and give Magnet a try.  Use it to multi-task (#shiver), to toggle between tasks, or manage your empire.  Enjoy getting things done with ease and of course, the extra time that comes with that.  Boom!

P.S.  If you use a PC, please research options for split-screen apps or options for PC users.  Working without the need to switch back and forth is wonderful.

Please share any tips, tricks, or apps you might secretly use to rock your productivity. We’d love to know!  Remember to join the Procrastination Coach Facebook Group for camaraderie, support, and information on getting things done if you haven’t already.  Let me know how I might be able to help you in your efforts to get rid of your Procrastination in the Facebook group. Finally, to receive access to a Free Resource Library for Procrastination Coach readers, please click this button  –> Click Here to Get Access

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25 Questions to Help You Make Positive Changes in Your Life

25 questions - WP

Have you ever wondered why it can feel so difficult to make positive changes in your life?

What I have learned from working with my psychotherapy and coaching clients over the past 20 years is this — None of us is lacking in desire to make positive changes.  It is the whole reason why people seek out psychologists and coaches in the first place. Always has been, always will be.

So, if the desire to make positive changes is not lacking, what blocks us from going forward with our plans and wishes?

My answer is PROCRASTINATION.

The more I think about the topic of Procrastination, the more I realize it underpins so many of our difficulties and problems.  Procrastination can be at the root of relationship troubles, financial predicaments, communication missteps, major health issues, and of course, productivity decline.

When we become a little too comfortable with Procrastination being a part of our operating system, we become vulnerable to its numbing effects.  As Procrastination lingers in our lives, we start to not see problems for what they are.  We start to not clean up simple messes.  We start to avoid communicating as effectively and promptly as we can.

And then we have trouble making sense of our situation.  Each of our difficulties starts to blend into the next, and we become unclear.  That is the block that prevents us from making positive changes even though we know we should or we want to quite badly.

25 Questions to Help You Make Positive Changes in Your Life

Ask yourself these questions in order to determine the extent to which Procrastination has entered into your life:

  1. Do you tend to feel overwhelmed when you look at your workspace?
  2. Do you feel like you have too much to do at any given time?
  3. Is it hard for you to focus because your mind is filled with thoughts about what you haven’t yet finished?
  4. Do you dread being contacted by other people for fear of what they’ll say?
  5. Are you self-critical?
  6. Do you feel you are efficient at getting out of your home in the morning?
  7. Is your bedroom a calm place to be?
  8. Do you feel panicky often?
  9. Is it difficult for you to relax?
  10. Do you feel like you cannot pay full attention to people who are talking to you because you are preoccupied with something else?
  11. Do you tend to be late to appointments?
  12. Do you fear failure often?
  13. Do you speak in public situations easily?
  14. Do you fantasize about having someone rescue you from your stress?
  15. Do you have difficulty letting other people know you need help?
  16. Do you have unfinished projects because you are trying to perfect them?
  17. Is it difficult for you to focus for more than 15 minutes at a time?
  18. Do you estimate time well?
  19. Are you afraid of being seen as incompetent or irresponsible?
  20. Do you have difficulty saying “no” to requests that don’t suit your needs well?
  21. Do you have difficulty saying what you mean in a direct manner?
  22. Are you involved in projects or activities that you feel are a waste of your time?
  23. Do you wonder why you spend as much time as you do running errands or shopping?
  24. Is your closet overflowing?
  25. Do you feel you have to tell people untruths to make them feel better or to make yourself look better?

I made the list of questions above to show you how the dynamics of Procrastination work.  They:

  • make us doubt ourselves
  • make us misspeak
  • make us off-synch with time
  • cause us to feel stressed
  • cause us to feel uncomfortable in our spaces
  • cause us to feel nervous when we are with people and when we are alone
  • cause us to feel distracted
  • cause us to feel insecure
  • cause us to feel exhausted
  • cause us to feel unfocused

To sum it up, Procrastination can be a very toxic factor in our lives and can prevent us from making positive changes.  We may think to ourselves, “Oh, I just have an issue with clutter,” but the single issue of clutter is a symptom of the larger issue of Procrastination and delayed action. 

Whenever we delay action, there is a consequence.  When we Procrastinate too much, we are forced to deny the consequences in order to feel okay.  If our eyes were really open, we would feel uncomfortable about putting so many things off into the future.

Procrastination causes anxiety.  Each of us should work diligently to keep anxiety at bay.  It’s just a killer.  A killer of creativity, of courage, of individuality, of spirit.  When you remove anxiety from your mind-space, you create room to make positive changes.

Yes, you can make positive changes too

Pick the ONE question that really jumped out at you from the list of 25.  You know, the one that made you startle or think twice.  

Make a plan to resolve that area of difficulty or unease and make that your focus.  Make it happen.  You will find yourself feeling relief once you make your problem disappear.  You will also set the stage for making positive changes (and not Procrastination) a habit.

If you need assistance, ask for it and seek it out with the right person.  Or a few people even.  It will be worth your time, energy, and resources to learn how to get rid of your Procrastination and to feel like you are in flow instead.  Go get ’em.

News to Share:

1.  I’ve been enjoying the cameraderie and engagement in the Procrastination Coach Facebook Group that has been growing steadily week to week.  If you’d like support for your efforts to defeat Procrastination, please join us in the Procrastination Coach Facebook Group.

2.  I recently compiled a group of 13 free downloads that are useful to Procrastinators who are interested in finding new ways to organize their morning, their plans, and their schedule (and more).  Register here to receive the password for all of the downloads in the Free Resource Library:
Click Here to Get Access

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5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Focus and Attention Span

Get more work done by simplifying your approach and boosting your focus in the process.How many of you would like to improve your focus and attention span?  Okay, don’t go crazy.  Pipe down.  I know there aren’t many of us who would turn down that opportunity.

Yet there are so many of us who have difficulty knowing how to start or work when we:

  • have too much on our plate
  • feel too tired 
  • would rather check Instagram
  • would rather check what’s in the refrigerator
  • feel frustrated by our work
  • feel afraid of our work
  • get overwhelmed by our feelings about our work

The solution to overwhelm is relatively simple.

In working with psychotherapy patients and coaching clients, I have noticed the general tendency in other people to make things complicated.  I have that tendency strongly myself.  

This can mean a lot of things, including:

  • imagining that the end product needs to be perfect
  • examining every possible avenue that can be used to do the work
  • spending excessive amounts of time thinking about the project without actually working on it
  • interviewing everyone around you for their opinions about your task
  • overworking and making ourselves exhausted

Any of this sound familiar?  So what’s the solution?

Breaking things down into simpler behaviors, strategies, and approaches tends to help both my clients and me to cope with the stress brought on by work.  

We find a small action step to take, put it in our schedule, and make it happen.  Simple as that.

Once we have started working, our stress tends to ease up.  As a result, we then are naturally more inclined to focus on what is in front of us.  The view ahead is clear.

And that is awesome.  There are even more strategies to use when we feel like we can get started…

5 simple strategies to improve your focus and attention span

When people ask for my help for problems with anxiety and distractibility, these are some of the pieces of advice I give:

1.  Your drama with your work does not get it done.  In fact, it acts as interference, or a wall.  You block your ability to focus when you concentrate on your anxious and perfectionistic thoughts.  So much time is lost to the drama, you end up having little or no time left to do real work.  Give up the drama and improve your focus instantly.

2.  Don’t make your work more important than it is.  It may help to relieve the stress you are feeling to remind yourself, “It’s just boring work.”  Your work is simply asking to be done.  Remember, there is no drama needed.  Adopt a calm, neutral approach to all your work. 

3.  Have clear boundaries between work and the rest of your life.  When work  worries and procrastination extend into the areas outside of your work life, you can lose way more than productivity.  You lose the chance to refresh and to recharge, to feel calm, and to feel accomplished.  When you re-establish good boundary lines between work and the rest of your life, you will experience improved focus in both areas.

4.  Decide that what you do is between you and the work.  Your teacher, your mother, your neighbor, and your twin brother are not involved in your work.  They might see it and comment on it after you’re done, but you should feel free to produce and to create the work without their influence weighing on you.  

5.  We do our work to share it with other people.   Orient yourself towards doing good work so you can share it with those around you.  See your work as a kind of gift to other people, rather than seeing it as a mechanism for those people to judge and to criticize you.  Remember, no drama, just good work from you.

If after reading the list of 5 simple strategies, you still feel overwhelmed at the thought of work, please remember that emotions are fleeting.  They are brief reactions and internal expressions that will not last forever.

Once you start your work and you go step-by-step to the finish line, you won’t be so overwrought with feelings. The anxiety will start to fade.  It might linger a bit until you finish, but then it’s done.  It’s just gone.  It is taken care of by the fact that you were able to work. I think this should be a universal law because I’ve seen it happen time after time — we feel better once we have challenged our fears and removed our obstacles to working well.

Nike has such a good slogan with “Just Do It.”  

They didn’t say “Do It Like a Champion.”  

They said “Just Do It.”  Drop your drama, do your work for the work’s sake.  You can improve your focus and attention span by limiting how much your worries creep in.  Enjoy working smoothly from now on.

News to Share

1.  If you feel you need some support in your own efforts to improve your focus and attention, join us in the Procrastination Coach Facebook Group where we share tips and stories and keep each other accountable every week.  It’s a wonderful, supportive group of people.

2.  I’ve designed a Mindset Management Worksheet downloadable PDF to help you develop a positive mindset for yourself.  Keep it handy as you start to improve your focus and to get more done in your day.

Click here to receive the MINDSET MANAGEMENT WORKSHEET to help you get on your way today!

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The Simple 5-Step Plan to Avoid Distractions

Avoid distractions with these 5 simple stepsWe live in the era of distractions.  There is no doubt about this.

The number of distractions we face each day seems endless. When we get mired in the larger web of distractions, including the internet, busywork, errands, e-mail, and shopping, we can lose sight of the activities, people, and actions that will bring us happiness, satisfaction, and contentment. We get sucked into short-term distractions and quickly forget what really makes us feel good.

What is the cost of being overly distracted?  The costs of giving in to distractions are many.  We may lose:

  • our sense of self-efficacy
  • our free time
  • our sleep
  • our money (think shopping sites)
  • our safety while driving
  • our connectedness with others, including our children and our friends
  • our way (literally)
  • our time to plan our projects mindfully
  • our time away from various digital devices
  • our organized self (because we don’t have time to put things where they belong)
  • our grade point averages
  • our learning opportunities
  • our time to exercise
  • our time to create new things and experiences
  • our sense of calm
  • our time to be relaxed

What keeps us in a distracted mode? It seems there is more pulling us away from our work and focus than pulling us towards it. We can be stuck in distraction zone because:

  • we don’t feel confident about moving forward
  • we are too tired to concentrate well
  • we are afraid of missing out
  • we think we have to cover all of our bases all of the time
  • we have never been very good at maintaining good focus
  • we are addicted to the streams of information that social media and services like Netflix provide
  • we have difficulty stopping ourselves once we start something
  • we have become accustomed to not getting things done efficiently, so we don’t clearly see the time wasted when we’re distracted

If you’re currently struggling to separate from social media, clutter, minor matters, or other distractions, I have a few suggestions for you to consider.  If you implement these 5 simple steps on a consistent basis, your difficulties should start to wane.

The Simple 5-Step Plan to Avoid Distractions

1.  Make sure you have one priority focus.

Get real with why you are where you are.  If you are a student, remind yourself of your purpose.  If you are an employee, remind yourself of your aim at work.  If you are an entrepreneur or a freelancer, decide how you want to maximize your productivity.  I have found this to be a particularly hard trick to master, as I like to flit and float among several different ideas and projects all at once. When I’m honest with myself, I know I get my most meaningful work done when I know what my priority goal is.

2.  Write your plan down.  

There is something magical that happens when you write things down.  Use that magic to connect with your purpose, to focus your attention, and to get the distracting, unformed thoughts out of your head and onto paper.  Writing your plans down will do you a world of good.

3.  Be brave in the face of your lack of understanding.

So often, we become stymied by what we don’t know.  Instead of freaking out about not knowing what to do, decide to see the moment as just one part of the entire experience of getting something done. When we accept that there will be gaps in what we know, we will be able to stay the course better while working.  We can steel ourselves against the sudden impulse to flee the discomfort of not knowing what we are doing.

4.  Separate work from play/distraction.

Being able to separate work from play is one of the great keys to beating Procrastination.

When we allow distractions like Facebook into our workspace, we instantly mix work and play.  When we do this, both work and play get diluted.  We no longer get the bang out of our work, and we no longer get the pure joy out of our play.  And we find ourselves adrift in the distractibility zone.

Practice isolating work from play, even if the work and play times are very brief.  Work single-mindedly for 15 minutes.  Play for ten minutes.  Rotate these periods if you like. Expand them as you like.  But don’t mix them together.  Train yourself to resist being distracted.

5.  Have a sense of gratitude for your work.

Although the distractions these days tend to be enjoyable, light-hearted, or connecting us with friends and family, deep down inside we are aware that our greatest feelings of satisfaction come when our intentions match our behaviors.  When we let ourselves drift away from our focus, we lose control of our sense of purpose and our sense of agency.

Let’s get a handle on the distractions in our lives.

There is no need to eliminate distractions.  We need them to pass the day, to make things light, and to enjoy ourselves when things get rough or stressful.  That said, many of us natural-born Procrastinators will benefit from sharpening our ability to focus and to manage distractions more effectively.  Find the clearest, cleanest, most efficient way to move through the day.  The payoffs will be worth the effort.

Related:  The 30/30 App: A Free Tool to Boost Your Focus and Productivity7 Tips to Help You Become a Master Scheduler

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9 Communication Strategies for Peak Productivity at Work

Communication strategies for peak productivity at workIn our efforts to be productive, sometimes we cut corners, thinking if we can just push through to the end of the project we’re working on, everything will be okay. Oftentimes, we cut out important communication steps from our work routine, just to save a few minutes to get things done.  

It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes, it’s better to add a few steps to our process of getting things done, in order to ensure that when we arrive at the finish line, all will be in good order.

Consider using the following communication strategies to get the results you desire:

  • Get the specifics.  Don’t make assumptions.  Make sure you know the parameters of the project you’re working on by checking in with others you are working with. Determine the project’s requirements so you have a clear sense of how it should run from beginning, to middle, to end.
  • Announce your plans.  Let other people know what work you will be taking on. This way, they are clear your time is spoken for, and they know they can focus their own work efforts elsewhere.  When we communicate our plans, we reduce the chances for misunderstanding and duplicating work.
  • Be open about your lack of certainty when you feel unsure.  Don’t be afraid to speak up when you don’t know how to proceed.  Let other people help you. Don’t stay silent.  Your efforts to minimize error and confusion will give you a much better payoff than hiding the fact that you are confused.  
  • Communicate clear start and end times to yourself.  Decide what your intentions are for your work.  Start with a sense of how the project should progress, including a list of intermediate deadlines to shoot for.  Keep your end goal in mind at all times.
  • Arrange for coverage when you cannot take care of things yourself.  Be clear about the start and end of the period of coverage you will need.  Check in before the start date, and thank the person who will be covering you once they have finished their period of coverage for you.
  • Check in with people you are supervising or cooperating with mid-project to evaluate how things are going and to see if you can be of help. You’ll be able to avert problems from occurring by checking in with your co-workers. Making this extra effort to keep communication open will enable others to work at their best as well.
  • Be in frequent communication with your calendar.  Review your calendar to see what items need to be followed up on or dropped from your to-do list.  Make sure your schedule stays clear of any clutter or distraction.  Being mindful of how you are spending your time will enable you to work with less stress and more focus.
  • Keep a running log of your communication contacts.  This technique will take a few extra minutes of your time, but will give you the peace of mind of knowing what conversations you’ve had and what interactions you might expect going forward.
  • Keep in touch with people you care about.  Let’s remember to check in with those special people in our lives who might have nothing to do with our work. When we do this, we give ourselves a mood boost and strengthen our relationships.

When you take care of yourself first and keep yourself in good spirits, your work will tend to reflect your care and good attitude.  

Use some or all of these communication tips to make your work easier to complete, quicker to finish, and of better quality.  Minimize any potential areas of confusion in order to maximize your productivity.  Remember that healthy communication habits are key for clarity throughout your day.

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7 Ways to Stop Anxiety from Blocking Your Productivity

Learn how to block your anxiety before it blocks you!One of the key strategies I teach to help people improve their productivity and to fight their anxiety is this:

SEPARATE YOUR FEELINGS FROM YOUR WORK AS BEST AS YOU CAN.

This is not to say that we should not care about our work.  It’s that we should not care so much that we become entangled by our worries and erratic thoughts. When we feel anxious, our creativity and our productivity can become blocked.

If our work gets tangled up with our fears and feelings so much, how can we separate them from each other?  Tough question.  Here are my 7 answers:

1. Be the gardener of your thoughts.   Maintain a peaceful, calm landscape in your mind.  Sort the productive, healthy thoughts from the upsetting and disconcerting ones. Do this diligently and with care. This quote from Robin Sharma suggests how: “You have now learned that the mind is like a fertile garden and for it to flourish, you must nurture it daily. Never let the weeds of impure thought and action take the garden of your mind. Stand guard at the gateway of your mind.”

2. Understand that we concentrate better when we are not at peak anxiety.  Although some excited energy is needed to create, when we are fraught with anxiety our creativity and productivity suffer.  Never confuse being hysterical with doing good work.

3. Keep your focus trained on the present moment.  Every time we worry, we take our focus away from the task in front of us.  You can easily check this by seeing if your thoughts are wandering to things you have already done or something in the future you don’t have control over.  Practice refocusing your attention on what is happening at the present time.

4.  Build a plan of action.  If you are feeling trapped or cornered in a not-so-good arrangement or predicament, try to figure out what thoughts and actions created this situation.  Did you miss a meeting or an update?  Did you feel too embarrassed to ask for help?  After you determine what happened, build a plan to free yourself from the confined and restricted feeling you have.  It often takes a simple text, phone call, or conversation to find relief.

5. Don’t cramp your own style.  Don’t hide what you have to offer to the world. You can always scale back, but you can’t get back what you miss out on by being a wallflower, or by being silent, or by pretending you have nothing to say.  By releasing what you have to give, you’ll experience a feeling of satisfaction, which becomes motivation to do more so you can continue to feel better.

6. Instead of focusing on being perfect, take risks and be brave.  Anxiety and perfectionism are cousins.  They are cousins who are no fun and who don’t get out very much.  Decide to leave your anxiety and perfectionism at home today, and go out with a more adventurous attitude.  Try the new program.  Go for the more enticing option.  Give a compliment to someone you are interested in.  You will be okay.  See how different it feels to be moving and grooving.  Keep close to that feeling of being active because it is a surefire way to steer clear of Procrastination.  

7. Develop a mantra to use when you feel anxious.  Turn your fear on its head. For example, if you are worried about making a fool of yourself in public, craft a mantra to keep in your mind when you’re out in public.  Instead of telling yourself “I’m going to say the wrong thing,” remind yourself of your new mantra, which is “I am going to connect easily and well with the people I meet today.”  You’re going to speak to yourself anyway, so you might as well be kind and supportive!

Try this for yourself.  Here’s a worksheet [a free PDF download] I created to help you put all of the steps above into action.  The worksheet includes a section where you can design a mantra to combat the negative statements that may be preventing you from moving forward.

Click here to receive the MINDSET MANAGEMENT WORKSHEET to help you get on your way today!

Anxiety is a mighty foe.  Make sure to keep yourself fit against anxiety by treating yourself well, making good decisions, and being open with others when you need help.  You can minimize your anxiety and make more room for productivity and joy.

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