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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6 Simple Steps to Resolve Problems Quickly [+ a Questionnaire to Get You Started]

Find a way to resolve some open-ended issues today.What unresolved problems do you have in your life right now?  How much distress are you under because of them?  Let’s find a way out and forward.

Procrastinators tend to sit on piles of problems.  Unfinished projects, undelivered mail, ideas unfulfilled.  One way to reduce your reliance on Procrastination is to manage and to resolve your problems as quickly and as mindfully as you can.  Get clear on your what your intention is and the routes to solving your problems will come into view.

Consider these 6 suggestions for prepping yourself to jump on your problems before they get the better of you: 

1.  Adopt an active mindset.  Decide that you are the captain, the boss, the manager, the leader, the architect, the designer — whatever it takes to help you step into an active mindset.  When we take an active role in resolving problems, we tend to think of better ideas, because we are more engaged and invested in creating a good outcome.

2.  Communicate what needs to be said.  As a psychologist, I have seen so many times how we can delay the resolution of both minor and major matters through our lack of communication.  We’re afraid to appear too eager, too pushy, too interested, too direct, and — heaven forbid — too bossy.  Instead of worrying how you are going to look, think about what you will feel when you and your partners get to the finish line.  Train your focus on the finish line and then communicate clearly to get there.

3.  Surrender to your negative feelings.  Yes, I did say “surrender,” but I don’t mean give up.  We are all susceptible to negative feelings and worry about the future.  So accept that these feelings exist and decide that you can move past them anyway. That is what I mean by surrender.  When we constantly revisit our worries, we cannot develop clarity on what actually needs to be done to resolve the problem.  Don’t get sidetracked. Keep yourself focused.

4.  Protect your ability to focus fiercely.  Unresolved problems are a drain on our focus because we think about unfinished business until it is done.  Become a warrior prince or princess and do away with the obstacles (Facebook, Netflix) and gather the information and tools you need to craft your plan of attack.  Why all this talk of fierceness?  Because you have things you want to get done.

5.  Believe that you will be okay.  We hang on to tasks, decisions, choices, and drafts of e-mails as if our lives were hanging in the balance.  For the large majority of things, life is not hanging in the balance.  Try to be more realistic and make a decision or choice that will help you resolve your issue.  Have faith that you will survive the outcome.

6.  Decide that you want to be done.  Many times things linger because we allow them to — unpaid bills, unreturned library books, etc.  Once we decide we want to be done with these things, we manage to get them done.  But wanting the task completed seems to be a prerequisite to doing the legwork.  Commit to being done with your problems and then see what needs to happen next.

When we become active problem solvers, we end up finding there are fewer problems to be solved over time.  You have the power to change things in your own life today.  Here’s to all of your efforts in that direction.

P.S. READY TO TAKE YOUR PROBLEMS ON?

I’ve developed a free PROBLEM SOLVING QUESTIONNAIRE to help you analyze your own situation.  The prompts in the questionnaire will encourage you to look at the obstacles in your way so you can clear them out of the way.  Enjoy.

Click here to receive the PROBLEM SOLVING QUESTIONNAIRE to help you get on your way today!

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7 Techniques to Save YouTime and to Keep You Organized

Use these simple techniques to save yourself time and hassle throughout the day.How do we deal with the seeming onslaught of to-do’s?  How do we prevent ourselves from falling into the same old time-wasting traps?

Sometimes it can feel like we might never get caught up, and indeed, our lives may be so full that we may never get caught up.  Strategizing how we are going to manage tasks and time demands can help us to remain calm and composed throughout the day.  Put in a few minutes to prep in order to save yourself many more minutes later.

Here is a sampling of some techniques I’ve found useful in giving me a leg up during busy times:

1.  Use the proper system for your tasks.  Any task that you do routinely will likely have a timesaving system you could think of and implement.  For instance you could:

  • get a pill case to store medications, vitamins, and supplements you need to take in order to save yourself the stress of forgetting and to keep yourself in your best physical condition
  • have a recycle bin on hand when you are sorting your mail to keep you from having to clean your mail piles down the road and to keep your surfaces clear of clutter
  • have a consistent system for jotting down notes, reminders, and appointments to increase your efficiency and to decrease your error rate
  • plan and pack healthy lunch snacks at the beginning of the week to make it easier for you to get out the door in the morning, to save money, and to feel well

2.  Develop your own best system for handling e-mail tasks.  We each have our own individual relationship with having to manage e-mail.  Take a few minutes to decide what your management method could look like.  Here are some suggestions:

  • reply immediately to e-mails whenever possible in order to get them out of your way
  • if there is a task associated with the e-mail, promptly determine a time and date for the task and enter it into your schedule or in a task management app such as Trello
  • reduce the time you spend crafting your reply.  Keep your message on-point, simple, and direct.  By doing so, you will save the person you’re communicating with some time too.

3.  Say “No” to activities that don’t fit into your schedule or that don’t align with your plans.  When we act with the Fear Of Missing Out and impulsively jump in and out of activities other people think we should do, we can end up overwhelmed and unmotivated.  Clear your mind by clearing the junk out of your schedule.

4.  Determine what your priority and mantra for the day will be.  Knowing what your single priority for the day is will help you to differentiate between good and bad decisions throughout the day.  Developing a mantra or a self-encouraging statement to support that priority item can further enhance your chances of success.

To illustrate, a priority I have for tomorrow is to focus on some unfinished business for my psychology practice.  Having that as my priority will allow me to steer clear of other tasks I could be doing, like checking in with social media.  My mantra for keeping my eyes on my business goals might be “I’ll feel relief when these business tasks are completed.”

What will your priority and mantra look like?

5.  Plan for the future in small ways.  Use micro-movements to protect yourself from unneeded hassles.  Some examples are:

  • making sure to keep your gas tank at least a quarter full
  • keeping extras of the tools and home goods you use and love the most so you don’t have to waste time running out when you run out
  • communicating ahead of time about meet-ups, pickups, reservations, and events

6.  Set policies and expectations for interactions in your home.  There’s no reason to bicker incessantly at home, a place that should support your sense of calm.  Take a few minutes to lay down some policies for things like:

  • bathroom etiquette
  • chore and cleaning routines
  • timely, open, and honest communication and respect

7.  Plan ahead.  This is not an easy technique for Procrastinators, who tend to be looking at the past rather than towards the future.  That is why this technique is so powerful. When we look to the future, we can sense possibility and we can have a role in creating it.  Some things you can plan are:

  • an exit from a not-good situation
  • an exercise milestone, e.g. 6 days of exercise per month
  • a meet-up date with a friend you haven’t seen in two years
  • a summer getaway

Bonus Material:

I’ve put together a planning sheet to save you the time of having to make one up for yourself.  The ALWAYS PREPARED planning sheet is a compilation of many of the tips I’ve listed above.  It’s meant to help you save time and get organized each day, but the intention is also to remind you to do some things that will help make the tomorrow better too.

Click here to receive the ALWAYS PREPARED planning sheet to help you get on your way today!

There are more techniques than there is time in the day.  Choose the ones that look good to you and try them out.  Develop ones of your own that suit you and bring you the most freedom and flexibility.

The more time you rescue from waste, distraction, and overwhelm, the more time you will have to savor, thrive, and enjoy the way you want to.

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7 Ways to Save Time across Your Day

7 Ways to Save Timeacross Your DayWhen people ask me “How do you teach people how to recover from Procrastination?” my typical response has been “Step by step.”  I think that response is the most accurate one I can come up with.  Everyone has a different path of recovery to travel, but each person must make changes in their behavior step by step.

The following is a quick list of “steps” for you to consider taking to begin your recovery from Procrastination, but also to snatch some extra minutes for yourself to use as you wish:

1.  Make a plan for your day.  Although your activities may not vary much from day to day, it will likely be beneficial if you take 5-10 minutes to plan your day.  This should not be an elaborate exercise.  Envision how you would like your day to proceed, write it down, and go.  Because you will have written and planned out your ideas, you will save time in seeing them through.

2.  Meditate for a few minutes in the morning.  I can’t say I’m an expert on the topic of meditation, but I am a new convert to the idea and practice.  Although I can only manage a few minutes of meditation thus far, I have noticed a difference between days in which I meditate and those in which I decide I’m too frazzled to sit down and take care of myself.  It’s this paradoxical concept that when you spend time, you get time.  You get that time by being able to focus more easily across the day, across events and activities.

3.  Batch activities.  Like activities can be done with like activities.  For example, you can do four loads of laundry in a row.  It will still be labor, but you will spare yourself the start-up energy of having to decide to do laundry four separate times on four different days.

4.  Double up on your actions.  If you’re planning on heading upstairs, bring something up with you that belongs there.  Extra rolls of toilet paper, for instance.  If you practice this behavior, over time your surroundings will be tidier and your movements will be smoother and more purposeful.

5.  Learn how to fill shorter periods of time.  When you find yourself with an extra 10-15 minutes, fill that time with actions that will save you time or stress later on.  For example, if you happen to have some time waiting for the orthodontist to finish her visit with your child, quickly send off some emails or review your to-do list.  Again, with practice, you will become better at using your time in general.

6.  Avoid getting caught up in other people’s drama.  This is a tremendous time saver. If you spend most of your time trying to figure out how to make everyone happy, you will find yourself with very little time and very limited energy.  Your responsibility is to take care of yourself well, which in turn benefits everyone around you.

7.  Don’t assume events are going to happen as you expect them to.  I am the Queen of Assumptions.  I would like to abdicate that throne, thank you very much, but I don’t want you to fill that seat either.  So many times I have believed my idea of how events were going to happen.  I didn’t bother to double check my ideas with anyone or any invitations or messages or directions.  I just assumed.  I meant well, but I ended up embarrassing myself and often times inconveniencing others.  Do yourself a favor and call ahead, confirm your appointment, make the reservation early.  Assume, but then make sure your assumption is correct.  Doing so will save you lots of energy, time, and worry.

I hope these tips help you to save time.  In general, just remember not to get hung up on any one thing, event, person, or thought for too long.  You’ll miss the pleasure of the next thing, event, person, and thought.  Enjoy this process of discovery in your recovery.

I’ve created a one-page planner-type sheet to help you figure out how to save time right now.  If you’re interested, just click the orange button below:

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

What timesaving tips might you have to share?  Is there a mindset shift that you have gone through regarding your use of time?  Please let us know by commenting here.  

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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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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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Don’t Downsize Yourself

Keep Your SensesProcrastinators get the message from every which direction that they should:

  • “just get it done”
  • “just hand it in”
  • “just get it over with”
  • “just put your nose to the grindstone”
  • “not worry so much about it”
  • “not be such a fusser”

From the outside, it would seem that the Procrastinator is making a big deal out of a small sack of potatoes.  I think this, if true, is only part of the explanation of why Procrastinators delay doing what they should be doing.

Chronic Procrastinators have travelled a long journey to the point where they feel powerless to change their patterns of behavior (or lack of behavior).

They may have been downsized in many categories, including:

  • self-confidence
  • capacity to see reality
  • ability to absorb information due to high levels of stress
  • self-esteem
  • ability to communicate effectively or openly or at all
  • not being as connected to others socially

How do we break the downsizing pattern?  Here are a few suggestions:

Don’t drag the past into your current view.  I cannot emphasize this point enough. When we repeatedly bring what we haven’t done or what we regret into our present circumstances, we force ourselves to start each day working with a negative, burdened mindset.  Teach yourself, starting today, how to avoid thinking about the past when you are trying to focus on getting anything done in the present moment.  The past will always be there for you to remember.  You do not need to torture yourself with it every time you set out to act.

Don’t envision yourself as being any less than any one else.   In our society, where so much is made of what we wear, what we own, and what we do for a living, we can easily forget that all of those externally measurable concepts do not actually make us any less than or any more than anyone else.  As you begin your recovery from Procrastination, remember you are as in this game of life as the next person.  Begin to play.  Don’t start three steps behind unless there is a really, really good reason.

If you observe yourself closing down any one (or several) of your senses, stop!  If you find yourself denying what you see, hear, or sense, take a breath and consider what is causing you to shut yourself down.  Is it fatigue?  Frustration?  Embarrassment?  Feelings of overwhelm?  Whatever it might be, you can come back to your full senses.  You won’t be doing yourself or anyone else any good by staying trapped in long-term denial.

Grow one step at a time.  You didn’t downsize yourself overnight.  It will take a while for you to move back into your full form and to take your full speed.  Take it slow, but always determine which actions will keep you moving forward. Avoid pressuring yourself too much.  It took me years of back-and-forth practice in pushing myself past my doubts and insecurities before I started moving forward more smoothly again.

Try to differentiate the pressures that you experience from the demands of the work you need to get done. Chances are the work you are needing to accomplish does not require you to suffer or to shut down.  Give it a try.  Give it a go.  Best wishes to you.

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