Tag Archives: procrastination

In Cold Blood: How To Deal With Procrastination

Sometimes, when faced with unpleasant task that have to be done, the best way to get it done it is to just push away the unpleasantness you feel and do it. Like holding your breath when you have to take nasty-tasting medicine: you need to take it, you don’t want to do it because of the taste, but you do it anyway. And then it’s done.

Now, there are a lot of things we can feel ‘icky’ about. And sometimes — well, a lot of times — those feelings help paralyze us into not doing anything at all. By actively feeling them, we can blow the negative feeling out of proportion so they block the energy we need to get things done, and then drain that energy so nothing gets done. That’s why avoidant behavior is seen to be unproductive.

In a business, being non-productive is a liability. Procrastination is a solid example of how putting things off can hurt us. We push things off, we forget, we lose focus —  and small things can turn into large problems. How do you deal? identify the contributing factors.

Indecision.
It doesn’t help that the internet gives you access to massive repositories of data and countless options. Paralysis by analysis, anybody? You want to make the best way to fix it– whatever  ‘it’ is?

There are  specialized forums, customer reviews, and whitepapers. There  are first-person videos, how-to’s and comparison charts. You could dip a toe in that pool and not come up for air for days. You can lose time, lose perspective, and have your judgement affected by the sheer amount of data thrown at you.

Usually when we make goals we assess our time commitments and the weight of goals.  Colin Powell’s “40-70 Rule” (Lesson Fifteen here and explained a bit more here) gives a ballpark figure on how much data you really need to make a tough decision. Less than 40%, you don’t have enough to make a well-informed choice. More than 70% means you’d taken up too much time.

More isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more. You need to be nimble — you can’t  move fast when you’re busy weighing yourself down with data.

High emotions.
We can think more clearly before the actual commitment pressure is on–  a cold look, not a heated glare, so to speak. This helps you dispassionately assess what needs to be finished. Finished, not ‘in process’.

Pulling the trigger is easy when emotions aren’t clouding your judgment.  A rather cold-blooded, image, yes, but it does get the point across. Make the plan in cold thinking, pull the trigger even when —especially when — you don’t ‘feel it’ at the time you are supposed to act.

Now, how did procrastination ‘pay off’ for you in the past? More likely:

  • It increased the intensity and the level of your stress.
  • Added the number of  open loops fighting for your attention.
  • Added guilt, ate at your self image, and reinforced a negative one.
  • Gave you _more things to worry about, like additional fall-out and possible areas for screwing up.

 

This is trading in short-term relief for longer-term discomfort.
You already know this.
You also know you just want to get things done and over with so you won’t have to worry about them anymore– leaving you free to go and do stuff you like and want and look forward to doing.
The shadow side of ignoring stuff is that it’s like crawling  under the rock of misery and staying there since it’s so familiar it feels like home.

Resistance is the silent killer of momentum.
You have enough small stuff to capture your current attention, those small things become hooks that you catch on. They latch onto you and slow you down with ‘false dilemmas’

For example: cleaning papers in your office, whether on your desk, or filed away….somewhere. “Do I need this? Can I still use this later? I have to decide now? Maybe I have to keep this for tax purposes?”

And before you know it, you’re sitting on the floor with yellowing papers strewn out in ‘To-be-classified’ piles instead of actually getting the clutter out

‘Fake dilemmas’  are artificially inflated busy-work. Sure, you can attend to them but the net gain to your end-of-day productivity is negligible.

“But I  need to make the most out of this decision.”
No, you don’t. There are things that definitely need to be optimized, but these things are distinguished by their value and pay-off. Give the heavy stuff their due, not the light stuff.

“I need to get New Thing before I can start New Endeavor.”
Assess your resources.  Can you make do with Old Thing with New Endeavor to start with the New Habit or New Process?  Sometimes getting new stuff can keep the happy, but happy fades and you still have to do the work. And with business, keeping track of expenses is a good thing.

Don’t fall for the belief that New Thing will revolutionize your life and make New Endeavor an cinch. Work needs to be done, and if you can make do with your resources, cool.

It isn’t the newness of tools that get the work done, it’s what you know you will do with the tools you have. Try to make the new thing work with what you have, where you are. Unless you have very industry specific tools, the habit of practice comes from action and presence. It’s not always contingent on new stuff

“I want to do good!”
Yes, but you won’t do good right off the bat. It’s perfectly acceptable and expected to suck on the first few attempts or sessions. Waiting until you’re good without practice is impossible. A nice daydream, but impossible in real life. You don’t get to perfect on the first day, you just have to get it done for today. And that should be your  finish line .

This thing you’re putting off is important enough for you to plan and execute with the aim of getting it done. You don’t get it done now, you’ll still be the person to deal with it later, or tomorrow.   Plus,  the weight of disappointment and the blow to your expectations and self-esteem for not having done it will be the interest.

When you’re calmer, think of what situation or event triggers you most often.
You don’t want to do A Thing.
Why not the Thing?
Why anything  but The Thing?

Emotion is blocking you and your mind seizes any available outlet to explain why you don’t — won’t– do it.
Like, you could get a better outcome if you do a little more research. So you do that instead.
Or, you might need these files for tax purposes so you’ll sort them out later.

Where and when do you put off things the most?
Like any doctor, take historical data. Where have you screwed up by putting things off for so long they mutated and bit you on the ass? Filing important papers? Following up on projects? Where?

Be honest here, anything you hide will just fester. The areas in your work where you slack off may have secret minefield that you have to deal with, or else trip over at crucial moments .

The nature of your complaints can show you a connection you may have not been able to see, and show you a picture you might not want to face. You still have to — if not now, when? Until it’s too late (again)? How will you pay when that happens? In missed opportunities? In a missed-out life?

Bulling through is still reliable when doing so gets the job done.
— Do the task, being as present as you can.
— Remove temptation — use Leechblock, close the door, make sure you have a glass of water, and had been to the bathroom.
— Plant your as and begin until you finish. Not-feeling-it can fade away when you push through the I-don’t-wanna phase and find the groove.

Finding your personal relaxed best.
Have you figured out your personal rhythms yet? People have an optimal time for when they are relaxed and yet alert, so they can be fully present and immersed in what they do. Planning your  work for the best time that you  can do that work is a rare and treasured skill.

It takes testing, awareness, tracking, and knowing your productivity cycle: whether you’re a night owls or morning lark or somewhere in between, or needing the morning to gradually ramp up your processing power, etc.

What circumstances help you focus? What helps you brainstorm?
Find that spot, look at the circumstances that make it: a quiet room, closed doors, noise-cancelling headphones or your favorite inspirational, calming, or energetic playlist — whatever makes your environment conducive to get you into the flow.

Work at a coffee shop. Work in the library. Just make sure that what you’re doing is actually the work you’re supposed to be doing, and not just busy work, which is a stand-in for the real thing.

The point is to get this done so you can leave it behind.
The point is to close this loop so you can take the next step.
The point is to start so you can stop when you’re done.

Procrastination is a common habit, and a maladaptive one. It will take uncommon work and discipline to fence off and box in, as we are still only human, and sometimes, we need to have the freedom to put things off.

When you know you have a good handle on the things that are important to you, you can take that time. Until then, getting things done even when you don’t feel like doing them is one work approach that is sure to keep you on the right track.

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Don’t Stick To The Problem, Work On The Answer

All businesses offer value for money — whether that value comes in the form of a product or a service, that’s how businesses survive. Running a business, on the other hand, is an involved process of  brainstorming, planning, execution, testing, course-correcting, and problem-solving. Nothing ever really goes quite the way it’s plotted out on paper, and dealing with problems is part of the whole thing of having a business of your own.

Many times, it’s not the problems that give you problems, but the getting stuck in the problem-solving that trips you up even worse than ‘the problem.’

Running a business is full of challenges. You deal with customers, deadlines, late payments, marketing, complaints, etc.  You’re responsible for managing the little things and big things while you take the wheel and drive your business to where you’re aiming to go next. And one of the biggest responsibilities is managing and resolving issues. This is where a major part of the stress that business owners face comes from.

Now, the issue hiding in plain sight is that problems have a way of taking over your thinking process— you get stuck in the problem-solving and can’t progress into the taking-action and problem-solved stages.

When it comes to entrepreneurial problem-solving, sometimes the things we learned in science and English classes can help us make the process easier. See, the science teaches us to be methodical: things are connected in ways we don’t usually learn in the course of daily living, but when  we learn these connections, we get to understand how things work. English teaches us that how we use languages can influence people and the way we think.  In the same vein, how we  state a problem  can point us in the direction of the solution, or keep us stuck. Continue reading Don’t Stick To The Problem, Work On The Answer

Make Action A Habit

19 November 2010, by Ariadne Cedilla

It’s strange to hear someone preach about “making action a habit.” In this global and economic climate, fear and unrest is a great motivator in getting people to get off their heinies and work.

Everybody’s hustling, pounding the streets, burning both ends of the candle just to make ends meet. And now you read, “Make action a habit?”

This isn’t a call to busywork. Mindless action to look like you’re accomplishing something makes you someone who is going through the motions of being alive.

Busywork doesn’t engage you, or ask you to be more of yourself, or ask you to bring more of yourself into this world. The action that we’re looking for when we speak of making IT a habit is purposeful action.

Purpose-full. Geddit?

Making action a habit will demand the following things from you

  • The willingness to feel unsure and bad about yourself – and going on anyway.
  • The willingness to welcome feeling like an idiot in public and in private
  • The willingness to let go of what you “know” for what you find out, to release idle dreams in the hope of molding your own reality in truth, not just in theory.
  • The sheer stubbornness to master your feeling and keep focus on the bottom line of each day, each week, each month.

Continue reading Make Action A Habit

Jump! Using Momentum To Deal With Procrastination

12 April 2010, by A. Cedilla

Have you ever watched someone freeze on the dive-board at the swimming pool? It’s something to see.

Usually it’s a kid who just realized just how high the board is over the water, and freezes. From the vantage point of the swimmers in the water, it’s no big deal, just take the step, but for the poor guy staring down, taking that step is inconceivable. Unimaginable. Impossible, just — Aaaugh!

That’s what procrastination is. You freeze before the jump. It’s being stuck on the diving board, wobbling. The wobble is composed of worrying and catastrophizing, self blame, and inertia. You can’t move.

You can’t move.

So what do you do? Start. Start anywhere. Increase the wobble — build up momentum. And then jump.
Continue reading Jump! Using Momentum To Deal With Procrastination

Blowing Up Your Fears

02 April 2010, by A. Cedilla

Everyone gets bad days when it seems like everything’s going all wrong. Days when it’s all you can do to not to yell, or throw something breakable.

Days when you do throw your hands up, and seethe because you blew up over some small thing. Then you slide into dark moods, or funks that keep coming back, like ghoulish sock ’em toys that keep bobbing up no matter how many times you hit them.  They’re named Procrastination, Constant, low-level Anxiety, and Repetitive Thinking.

Underneath many of the behaviors that hold us back lies fear. We don’t like to think of ourselves as fearful, so our subconscious manifests this feeling in ways that aren’t as obvious as screaming and physically being frozen in terror. Everything is felt internally, so it’s inside that we feel weighed down, overwhelmed, unprepared.

Weak and powerless. Frozen, even. Unable to act constructively, or think clearly.

What other behaviors hold us back?
Continue reading Blowing Up Your Fears

7 Steps to Successful Change 1

14 December 2009, by A. Cedilla

The year’s almost over, and now is the time to think about what you did well in the past twelve months…as well as the other things that didn’t quite go the way you planned.

The dying time of the year is the traditional time to remember and reflect on that year’s triumphs and mishaps, so you can learn from them and strive to do better in the coming year.

Here are the first two of seven steps to making a successful change, and make for an awesomer –yes, we know it’s a made-up word — new year.

1. Recognize a growing discomfort with what is, with the status quo.

As a rule, we are never fully satisfied with what we have for long. Once the shine wears off our eyes go back to looking over the fence, wondering what we’re probably missing, and checking to see the particular shade of grass on the other side…

It’s also ironic, and completely true, that we also tend to stay in uncomfortable situations for far too long.

Lest the two seemingly unrelated ideas confuse you, here’s where they connect: We often stay too long in uncomfortable situations because of various reasons, and in an effort to deal with the pain, we look to getting new stuff to ‘fix it’.

Only, the new stuff is new only for so long, and the makeshift solution only masks the discomfort, not addresses it.

So, to deal with the dissatisfaction, you keep getting more new stuff (“It didn’t work, there must be something wrong, better go get a better thingamawhatzit…”), not seeing to the root cause.

Look at your life, over time, and in the past 12 months. Feel free to change from present to past tense in the following sentences: What hurts? Where is it hurting? What’s happening? Continue reading 7 Steps to Successful Change 1

5 Ways To Fail Without A Business Plan

13 November 2009, by A. Cedilla

“It’ll take too much time away from my money-making activities.”
I mean, I’m in this to make money after all, why waste time writing down things I already have in my head about where I want to go with this?

As long as your business plan is only in your head, you should know that people change their minds all the time. And in doing so, can lose track of important details.

The very act of writing things down does 2 things:

1) It forces you to organize your thoughts in a logical order — and by doing so you get to notice issues you may have glossed over in favor of the easier aspects.
If, for example, you’re over-the-moon with excitement on how easily money-making ideas are bubbling out from your mental factory, that’s all well and good, but not at the expense of having actual financial management skills.

 

Ideas are great, but if you neglect vital aspects of your business for the parts that come easiest to you, you’ll be setting yourself up for a world of trouble later down the line.

2) It frees up your focus to explore other avenues you may have not explored before — a brainstorm, in other words.

No one knows everything. Once you write down what you know, you can solicit advice from people you trust, and experts who can help, to make up for your weak spots and inexperience in certain areas. Continue reading 5 Ways To Fail Without A Business Plan

Go Ahead, Make Mistakes

30 June 2009, by A. Cedilla

One aspect of decision-making that people rarely want to talk about is the fear of making mistakes.

It’s almost never included officially in meetings, or committed to paper, and hardly ever addressed except in whispers behind closed doors, or outside the office where no one can hear.

Everything can be printed out neatly in black and white in a neatly bound business plan on your desk, or glowing softly on your monitor screen, but the target of this article is the quietly looming presence in the back of your mental theater for one, waiting for you to slip up so it can sneak in behind you and whisper silkily in your ear,  “Damn…I thought you knew better than that, you knucklehead.”

And you pause in indecision, paralyzed.

 

People grow up used to being judged and measured. It’s part of the socialization process. How else would your growth and progress be charted if it wasn’t acknowledged in comparison with your age-mates, classmates and peers?

The common wound we all carry from this part of the socialization process is the cast of internalized voices haranguing us non-stop and nagging us on what we should do, how we should be, how we should act, and so on.

We grow up to fear mistakes. Continue reading Go Ahead, Make Mistakes

Dealing With The Pain of Procrastination

04 June 2009, by A. Cedilla

You know how dread manifests physically. It’s the burning sensation behind the eyes, or a leaden weight pushing down on your shoulders, and the tired, resentful feeling lying solidly in your stomach in anticipation of dealing with a mountain of work that piled up — all because you kept putting things off until the last minute.

You keep asking yourself, then,” Why do I keep doing this?” without pausing to consider the question seriously. If you did, you’d be surprised at the kinds of issues procrastination can be a cover for. Hopefully, you won’t stay stuck in your head for too long and instead ask yourself a more relevant question.

“How do I stop?”

You do the next thing.

It is a well-recognized theory in the scientific community that people will do more to avoid pain that they do to attain pleasure.

It’s human to avoid the painful stuff — which is precisely why you have to do it. Doing the hard work makes you stronger and can bring out the best that’s in you.

Doing the hard stuff makes it easier for you in the long run as you grow accustomed to exercising your ability to see the truth, make a decision to act on it, and commit to carrying out the steps necessary to realizing your choices. Doing so requires a clear goal, discipline and committed action.

So, how do you deal with putting things off? Continue reading Dealing With The Pain of Procrastination

Protecting Your Time

21 November 2008, by A. Cedilla

Everybody knows that time is the most valuable, non-renewable resource we have . Everyone knows that we need to use and manage our time wisely.

The problem is, if we know all this already, then why do we keep putting things off?

The biggest time waster in our lives is procrastination. Everyone knows what that is, too. Most people tend to delay doing things that should have been done a long time ago – from simple things like dental appointments, say (“Too painful.”), data back-up (“After this project’s done, I swear.”) or updating your will (“Too morbid, good grief!”) .

As long as we keep ignoring pressing issues, hoping they’ll go away by themselves, success and peace of mind will always be elusive in our lives. It’s the people who take purposeful action who get ahead in life.

Continue reading Protecting Your Time