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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How to Boost Your Mindset and Motivation

How to Boost Your Mindset and Motivation

I have learned over years of coaching and counseling many clients, that it is of utmost importance to understand the nature of a person’s mindset before trying to help them with anything else.  Without knowing what kind of mindset the client has and understanding how it operates, any efforts at behavior change will likely fall flat, or worse, be demoralizing and lead to even more frustration for the client.  

Taking a hard look at our mindset can be a tricky affair though.  We believe, in our heart of hearts, we are trying our best to keep ourselves at our best.  That makes it difficult for us to see how we might be blocking our own progress with the negative messages we sometimes give ourselves.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re curious about what your mindset has been doing for you:

  1. What messages am I telling myself? 
  2. How am I coaching myself — to succeed or to avoid failing?
  3. What kind of mindset to I possess — a positive, forward-looking mindset or a negative, fear-based mindset?
  4. What kind of future am I predicting for myself?  
  5. What factors in my past have caused me to feel the need to coach myself in this way?
  6. What do I fear when I think about letting go of my current negative mindset?  What do I think is going to happen?

Often the answers to the questions above are pretty frightening.  Frighteningly negative, that is.

For instance, the internal coaching conversation might sound something like this:

“Although you were a star student when you were younger, things have gotten a lot more competitive.  Your work better be better than you can even imagine before you put it out there.”

“If I finish my work and submit it, then I might actually confirm what I have been fearing all along — that I am not good enough, and that I am definitely not as talented as my friends clearly are.”

“I need to deal with myself incredibly harshly because that has gotten me far in the past.  I don’t know if I could even get anything done if I stopped being so self-critical.”

“I don’t really know what will happen if I change my way of doing things.  I’m too afraid to find out.”

The general tone of these conversations is strongly negative.  It also feels as if the conversations can only go one way — down into deeper negativity.  It is no wonder we can’t make new changes, get our work done, or concentrate well when we are steeped in negative thinking about ourselves and our future.  It would seem as if we lacked motivation, when really we’re just scared to act on our motivation.

A negative mindset insists that we keep ourselves rooted in anxiety and fear.  There’s little hope for real progress and growth when the negative mindset dominates our thinking.

The good news is, if you have a negative mindset, there are great ways to start looking at your situation in a fresh light.  Here are a few options:

  1. Read a book to be influenced by others’ experiences.  One book you might start with is The Secret from Rhonda Byrnes.  This is a book I recommend to clients who are mired in negative thinking and can’t seem to find another way.  The messages in The Secret tend to make you worried about having a negative mindset any longer.
  2. Find a simple place to start.  Since negative thinking tends to cause us to feel burdened, we need to find a simpler way of getting things done so we can feel the benefits of being active again.  You could take a quick walk around the block.  You could decide to study outside your apartment.  You could set a small goal that will take 15 minutes and get that goal accomplished.  Don’t let your thinking block you from the things you can do very easily and well.  
  3. Do something for someone else.  Send a text message to check in on a friend.  Meet up with someone for a quick lunch for fun.  Just get out of your own head.  Chances are you’ll find a more positive outlook if you do.  
  4. Declare a restart.  Remember that at any point of the year, month, week, or day, you can decide to do things a little bit differently.  No one has to know you are about to do a total reboot.  Just you.
  5. Find support.  If you feel like you are caught in your negative thinking pattern for the long haul, I urge you to seek support.  Time is too precious a thing to waste, and your life and sense of well-being are worth whatever efforts you might need to make to reclaim them.  Find a therapist or coach, mentor, or friend who might be able to lend their expertise and support to you while you figure out the best way to move ahead.  

There are so many options for you.  Unfortunately, it sometimes seems easier to stay hidden undercover where no one can find you than to show up as yourself.  It can feel too overwhelming to make changes even though you know you need and want to make them.

I want to assure you that your desire to feel better about yourself is the positive message you should be listening most closely too.  The internal knowing you naturally have will keep you grounded and safe as you go.  It will guide you into the new territory, both externally and internally, you’ve been meaning to see.

Before you go:

The Freedom from Procrastination Membership Program

If you are interested in receiving support from me in your efforts to combat Procrastination, I encourage you to consider joining me in my Freedom from Procrastination Membership Program.  The Membership Program has been up and running smoothly for about 3 months, and through it I’ve learned that the twin superpowers of having accountability and community can really supercharge everyone’s ability to make the changes they need to make.  For more information about the Membership Program, please read more here.

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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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Try This 5-Point Technique to Conquer Your Fear of Moving Forward

Try this 5-point technique - WPWhen I work with clients, I hear about a lot of fears.

Those fears never scare me.

You know why?  Because I have no idea whether those fears will become real or not. Please remember me telling you “I have no idea” the next time you think of asking me about what negative things will develop if you decide to move forward.  Because that is the truth.

I can’t say your fears won’t come true, but I can say from 20 years of being a psychologist that our worst fears tend not to come true.

So instead of getting all worked up with my clients, I try to help them to get active. Or to get calm.  Either state — active or calm — is way more beneficial than the state of being terrified.  Way more.

Don’t let all of your precious time be taken up by unrealistic fears and dreamt up worries.

Your fears and worries are just indications that you are about to embark upon something new, and you have feelings about making that change.

Instead of thinking the action is so frightening, start to look at your fear as being the obstacle.

Change your mindset about fear.

Know that fear is just a feeling about something.

We are going to change your mindset.  Instead of using all of your resources and thoughts to avoid the perceived danger, we are going to head towards the fear and break it down.

Here’s the 5-Point Technique to Conquer Your Fear of Moving Forward:

1) What was it about the original idea that made you afraid?

2) What particular fears do you associate with going towards the idea?

3) What risk do you need to take in order to conquer your fear and move forward?

4) What tools do you have right now that would be useful in moving forward?  Communication?  Planning?  Brainstorming?  Interpersonal support?

5) What would be the benefit of breaking away from the fear you have?  More time?  More flexibility?  More sanity?

Now set a deadline — yes an actual deadline — for taking action against your fear and towards the task you want to accomplish.  Imaging yourself bulldozing everything in your way to get done with the task instead of imagining yourself as a vulnerable, helpless newbie with no resources or experience.

Use the enjoyment and relief you will feel after completing your goal to carry you directly into your next efforts for making positive change in your life.  Don’t lose momentum.

Momentum is a powerful force for against fear.  Fear is a powerful force against change. You have all the power in the world to make your choice about which force you’d like to align yourself with more.

Bonus Material!

You know what happens when you drop your fears?  You become FEARLESS.  Cool trick, right?  If you’re interested in even more ways to ensure that worry does not interrupt your plans, get your free resource below:

Get the 5 RULES for steering clear of worry here [free download]

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Why Do Procrastinators Suffer?

Let's not suffer,shall we-I hesitated to use the word “suffer” in the title for fear of turning everyone who might read this post away.

However, I think it is important for me to address ALL issues relevant to Procrastinators and not just the cute ones.

In my experience, Procrastinators, myself included, associate a feeling of suffering with doing work.  The project due on Friday won’t be done until we face the ugly feelings that work can bring:

  • uncertainty
  • fear
  • frustration
  • feeling unprepared
  • feeling unknowledgeable
  • feeling unready

It makes sense that we would begin to associate work with dread and dread with work. We are too smart to walk towards activities that cause us to feel dread, and so we walk away.  Or if you are like me, you run away as fast as you can.

That, my dear friends, is where the suffering comes in.  We start out feeling relieved, but then find ourselves going in two different directions at once — thinking about the work we left behind while trying to do something else going forward.  The longer we stay away from our work, the more vulnerable we are to self-attacking thoughts, feelings of embarrassment, and lots of other negative experiences.  We turn away from those around us, and suffer privately, and seemingly constantly.

Let’s not suffer anymore, shall we?

Take a look at your own emotional signals.  Are they firing like crazy when you think about doing work?  Are you in emotional overdrive every time you walk into your office or drive to work or open your notebook?

There really is no need to be in emotional chaos just because you have work to do.  You can focus and be productive and make changes without feeling burdened.

Work does require the work feeling, a feeling that tends to be heavier than the kind which comes when we are headed to get ice cream.  But we need to learn to tolerate that initial rush of frustration, fear, or dread.  It’s just your body gearing up.  You don’t run out of your car at the sound of the engine revving up, even though it’s a loud noise.  When we run away from our cars, it becomes extremely difficult to drive.  Don’t run away the next time you need to start up your work.  Try it today.  Figure out your destination and start heading there.

Nobody wants you to suffer.  Especially me.  Now go and have yourself a great day.

News to Share:

I recently started the Procrastination Coach Facebook Group.  A small group of people interested in working towards greater calm and productivity and I are co-figuring out how the group will grow and feel.  If you are interested in being a pioneer member, please send me a request to join here.

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One Quirky Thing about Procrastinators

2016 Goals

I have been wanting to write this post for years.

You see, every time I meet a Procrastinator in my office (or on a coaching call), I spend the first session getting to know my new client by interviewing them about their personal history and their current difficulties.  Oftentimes, before the end of the first session, I will assist the client to design something they can accomplish before we meet again in a week.  I take care not to overwhelm with large assignments or daunting tasks.  This is just a get-to-know-you kind of exercise.

What happens in the next session is something that never fails to fascinate me.

Almost invariably, the client will come in, looking and sounding dejected.  I will listen to the client admit to not getting the task accomplished and I will see how badly the client feels to be in this position.

Here’s what’s so fascinating though.

Almost invariably, I will listen more closely for the real story. What is the real story?  The real story is the client benefited from disclosing their history and current problems to someone else.  The story continues that the client goes home, back to real life, and does something very different: the client makes a change away from Procrastination.  Most new clients actually do a good amount of the challenge that was assigned to them in the first session.  But the interesting thing is, they fail to see their progress as progress. Even though they made real progress, they do not see or report it as such.

So here are the takeaways I’ve learned:

Procrastinators are mired in a negative way of looking at themselves and use negatively-tinged language to describe what they have and have not done.  This negative outlook causes Procrastinators to feel down persistently.  Procrastinators, over time, become unable to break the chain of sadness that comes with not moving forward and then find themselves completely stuck.

And here’s the lesson I give back to my clients:

I get to point out the reality that they cannot refute — they are fully capable of changing their behaviors as they please, but only if they realize how powerful they themselves really are.  I get to be a kind of translator for their experience.  I get to be excited for them.

And here’s the lesson for you, Dear Reader:

It is not important the size of the change that you are wanting to make, but it is very important that you take steps to make a change and to acknowledge it for what it represents.  You may need someone else’s help in this change process, but that is okay. You will be able to manage that process too.  You may need to write down the steps you take.  That is okay too.  This is the exact time of year to get a fresh notebook to track your growth and change.

Whatever you need to do, go do it.  I know you are capable of making that real story unfold.

Happy New Year Friends and thank you for continuing to follow my trail of thought crumbs here at Procrastination Coach.  I’m looking forward to good times with you this year.

News to Share:

I’ve decided to start a Facebook community for everyone interested in recovering from Procrastination.  I’m excited about this opportunity to get to know you better and to provide a space for you to get to know each other too.  If you are interested in joining, please go to The Procrastination Coach Facebook Group.  

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How Have You Been Lying Lately?

-...telling lies, even small ones,jolts us our of alignment with ourselves.- (1)I think it’s about time I wrote about lying.  It’s such an important topic in the sphere of Procrastination.  There are so many different types of lying, I could categorize and describe them all day.  But since none of us has all day for that, I will just talk about a few.

1.  Lying to others

This is the most broad category of lying, I suppose.  I remember learning in my Developmental Psychology class that lying starts to kick in at around age 7.  Being able to tell lies about what is real is a powerful tool in navigating everyday life.  It gets dangerous however, when we feel we need to rely on small (or large) lies in order to just get through the day.  The lies seem to have more power over us than we do over the lies. Not good. Not healthy.  Very distracting.

2.  Lying about time

I think I may do this type of lying just about every single day.  Maybe multiple times a day.

  • “This will only take 10 minutes.”
  • “I have enough time to finish.”
  • “She won’t care if I’m late again, since she knows how stressed out I am.”
  • “I will start the project when the time is right.”

You know the drill.

3.  Lying about what we are doing

This type of lying is for the dribblers and the drabblers, the dibblers and the dabblers.  We are good at dithering and frittering time away, but not very honest with ourselves about what we are doing to our productivity, our actual time, and our self-esteem when we lie to ourselves and believe that we are being substantially productive when we are not.

4.  Lying just to feel like we have some control over the situation at hand

Sometimes we impulsively lie to fix some part of our self-image in the presence of another person we want love or respect from.

  • “No, I don’t mind.”
  • “I’m totally ready to handle that.”
  • “I’d love to see you today.”
  • “I have time to help out.”

When we do this type of lying we end up weakening our own willpower.  We tell untruths and then feel twisted up about what we’ve said. It’s just how are bodies and minds are — they like to be in alignment, and telling lies, even small ones, jolts us out of alignment with ourselves.

To demonstrate how lying can operate, I will tell you about this very blog post.

After my summer vacation, which was a good one thank you, I felt rested, relaxed, and ready to get back to blogging weekly like I had been doing prior to vacation.  Then one week went by, and another, and another.  I told myself, “This is going to be easy.”  I told friends, “I’ve got to write a post.”  I spent quite a bit of time sifting through different blog titles and subject matter in my head.

Finally, today, I had had enough of the useless chatter inside my head about the fictional blog post.  I had a few minutes and I just started banging away at the keyboard, releasing the pent up energy I had been keeping trapped by lying to myself.  I do feel a lot better, even though I haven’t even finished writing.

If you are in the habit of lying to get out of sticky situations, or because you feel stuck in some way all the time, I hope this post helps you to be more aware of your actions.  I also hope that extra awareness enables you to try speaking truthfully for awhile, just to see how differently you might feel.  Both lying and telling the truth are charged with energy, but when we learn to tell the truth consistently, we are able to function with much more clarity than when we depend on lies to get us through.

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How to Empower Yourself by Identifying Your Internal Conflicts

ConflictWhy should I put myself out there?

In some ways, Procrastinators are really really smart.  They know what’s up when they say to themselves — “If no one is looking, why should I put myself out there?”  After all, if we don’t put ourselves out there, then:

  • time stands still
  • we get to feel comfortable
  • we get to avoid what we are afraid of
  • no one will no how we are feeling
  • we won’t have to feel embarrassed
  • life will just proceed as usual
  • we won’t have to deal with the stress of handling new challenges
  • we won’t have to discover new things about ourselves, including areas in which we are weak
  • we won’t have to exert ourselves

Writing this makes me think of what striving actors must go through.  Going to audition after audition, many of which may not be ideal, and going all in.  Performing with as much unleashed within themselves as they can manage.  Some may even have performance anxiety or stage fright, but audition after audition, they go forward.

What is it about actors that cause them to bypass their own anxiety to move forward?  Do they not have self-doubt?  Do they not fear rejection and failure?  Hmm.  My guess is, actors have figured out a way to perform even as they experience feelings of conflict.

Let’s get back to talking about Procrastinators.  Procrastinators feel they need to shut down functioning once they decide they have reached the end of their safety zone. They are no longer willing to move forward, no matter how important the task is to them, no matter how prepared they might be, and no matter how much they may or may not want to succeed.  Interesting.

Investigate what is the point at which you stop.  Is it:

  • when you’re asked to provide your personal opinion?
  • when you’re asked to be personal?
  • when you’re asked to express feelings?
  • when you are asked to state facts?
  • when you feel you need to be perfect?
  • when you feel you need to provide the right information?
  • when you sense someone is depending on you?
  • when you feel your status or stability might be in jeopardy?
  • when you feel moving forward might launch you into adult-type troubles?
  • when you believe you are not skilled enough to move forward?

There are more types of conflicts than I could ever begin to list fully.  And of course, your conflicts will be very different than my own.  You want to know mine?  My conflicts include:

  • feeling too unimportant to be the main actor in any given situation
  • feeling doubtful of my capacity to be successful
  • feeling like I’m not knowledgeable
  • feeling like I’ll be troubling other people if I need something from someone else
  • feeling like other people won’t understand what I need

Procrastinators turn away from looking squarely at their internal conflicts and instead, believe their conflict resides just within their work.  Now that seems silly to me after doing twenty years of work coaching Procrastinators.  This is silly because never in twenty years has it been just about the work.

When we get stuck, we feel we need to blame something, and it’s nice and tidy to blame the blank page on our desk or computer.  That blank page is so perfect and innocent, and it doesn’t ever yell back or tell you you’re sadly mistaken.

Does this mean we need to rid ourselves of our conflicts?  Though it may help to reduce the power of our internal conflicts, we will probably never be totally clear of them.  After all, they help to make us who we are.  We are human, flaws and all.  What may be more helpful is reminding ourselves — through our actions — that we can proceed with our lives in spite of our conflicts.  We can have full range of motion when we stop allowing our internal hangups to hang us up.

Getting Ourselves to Act

The following is a short list of some techniques to help you get yourself to act, even when you feel burdened by internal conflict:

  1. Do the tiniest bit on the first day.  Repeat this the second day.  Gradually increase the amount you can work each day thereafter.
  2. Write down the conflict that is holding you back.  Then write down five reasons why you should not pay attention to the fear that conflict generates.  Then do Step 1.
  3. Remind yourself of the multiple benefits of going through with your task.  You’ll be happier.  You’ll be more satisfied.  You’ll be rid of your feelings of dread.  Then do Step 1.
  4. Let someone know you’re ready to work.  Tell a person or a group of people that you’ll be done with your project by next week.  You can even let them know that you are conflicted about it, in order to release the energy you have trapped by not working.  Then do Step 1.
  5. Remove the distractions which destroy your focus.  Create a working “zone” where all you can focus on is your one piece of work.  Then do Step 1.

You do not need to be perfect to get things done.  You do not have to be organized to get things done.  You do not need to be in the right mind frame to get things done.  Get used to working on the fly, in between appointments, without overthinking.  Gradually get rid of the feeling of struggle that tends to get paired with work.  Step by step you’ll move past your areas of conflict, and you’ll get there.

Do I have it totally wrong about actors?  Do you experience areas of conflict which seem too large to shake?  Do you have tricks of your own to be productive even when you are feeling in conflict?  Please share here if you feel comfortable doing so.  And remember to follow me on Twitter@ChristineLiPhD because I love it over there.

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On the Importance of Developing Compassion for Yourself (a.k.a. Life without the Jackhammer)

Self-Compassion

This week I found myself going around in circles creatively, and not in a good way.  I had just finished a few major projects, including wrapping up teaching my on-line course, Open to the Possibilities.  I was left with a little more time on my hands, and nothing that was urgent or pressing on my plate.

That should have felt good, or at least okay, but since I have been in recovery from chronic Procrastination, I am loathe to waste any free time I might have.  It’s not that I don’t rest — I do.  I just really like to be productive when I have the space to do so.

My going around in circles probably had something to do with my not knowing what I wanted to focus on next.  Should I offer the course again?  Should I write some more? Should I explore making some instructional videos and let it all hang out on YouTube? Should I just sign up for belly dancing class instead? #serious

Instead of feeling free to explore, I felt like a bit of a flattened out mess.

Then today, I made peace with that reality and I regrouped.  I decided although the first half of the day had been “lost,” that didn’t mean the second half had to be too.  I opened up a blank page on the computer and started typing up a quick chart of what I wanted to get done in the rest of the day, without moaning or groaning.  And by the end of the day, I was on my way towards greater activity and effectiveness again.

In case you are in a period of going around in circles, I’ve put together a quick list of suggestions for you to try in order for you to develop a sense of compassion for yourself:

  • pause
  • meditate for five minutes
  • take deep breaths through your diaphragm (put your hand on your belly — breathe so you can see your hand moving instead of your chest heaving)
  • remind yourself everything including what you are going through is temporary and transient
  • figure out what part of your situation is actually enjoyable or the start of something good
  • decide for yourself that you can break away from the state you have been caught in
  • call or text someone just to let the stress out

You could also take a different path.  You could decide to take a tornado’s way out of things.  Blitz through all that is in front of you.  Make all the decisions.  Send all the texts. Plan out the next two weeks.  Whatever your needs call for.  Or you can just decide to resume as usual, but without the burden of having to carry your jackhammer around all day long.

What jackhammer?  Oh, the one you’ve been working with.  The inner voice that beats you up when you are not productive and the one you don’t need to keep in your toolkit anymore.

What’s in your compassion toolkit?  What helps you to cope with periods of low-to-no productivity?  I look forward to hearing from you.  Please remember to follow me on Twitter@ChristineLiPhD for more insights into breaking free of Procrastination and zooming around the rest of your life.

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