Tag Archives: procrastination

Unmet needs as productivity block

It’s often easier to ask questions than to answer them… I’ve just posted this on my Facebook page, and totally confused myself: “The word of the day today is NEED. What do you need? Which unmet need is distracting you from working the way you had planned (or hoped) to?” How on earth am I supposed to know what I need? I can up with a 1000 answers, but which one of them is true?

Let’s start with the concrete bit: the work I have planned, and the way I hope to do it. I’ll be meeting a coaching client in three hours. Before that, there’s e-coaching I should work on, there’s some decluttering that needs doing, and there are some household chores that are waiting to get done. Whilst writing this down, I notice the way my language changes. There’s something I want to do (provide a great coaching session), there’s stuff I should do, and there’s stuff that’s nagging me.

My first answer would be: I need energy. Since it’s something I don’t have right now, I can write that off as ‘wishful thinking’. IF I had energy, I could do all of this. But I don’t have energy (it’s a lurgy day) and there’s no way t magically get it.

Reality check: energy is what I want. Not what I need.

If I can’t get all of this done -which becomes painfully clear now that I’m writing this – I guess my next answer is that I need to make choices. The coaching is an obvious priority: it’s scheduled, it matters to me, it provides money and fulfillment. Most of the other chores have nothing on this.

If I’ll allow myself to be led by the fear of not having enough energy to be a great coach at 3 PM I will procrastinate on the other tasks all day. Feeling I’m doing something wise (energy saving) but feeling bad anyhow (I could have done more).

Which leads to my next thought: I need to bite as much as I can chew. Or less. I need to feel safe in how I spend my energy.

As long as I’ll feel unsafe, I’ll procrastinate – to leave space for my priority.

That’s a useful insight. I’ll be doing the rest of my thinking around this off line for now. I want to turn this insight into practical action.

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Start with the smallest step you can think of

The bigger the fear, the better this advice is. You know that joke about how you eat an elephant? The trunk first? There’s a reason why there’s no such joke about eating a quail. And it’s not just because a quail has no trunk.

The bigger the fear, the better this advice is. You know that joke about how you eat an elephant? The trunk first? There’s a reason why there’s no such joke about eating a quail (and it’s not just because a quail has no trunk).

I reminded myself of the smallest step technique today, because I know I need to restart my November project soon, and I dread it. I had to quit the project because of the flu – two or three rounds of it, I lost count. Then Christmas came, and then work happened. In the meanwhile my brain has labeled the project a FAILURE, and it’s frantically sending anxiety signals as soon as I consider picking it up again.

But it needs to be done. I want to get it done. And I want my brain to recogniseI did well, even when I didn’t finish it. The failure interpretation is an unfair distortion, and harmful too. Not to mention that it’s a clear invitation for procrastination!

So, my first small step today was revisit this blog. I replied to some of the comments I hadn’t replied to before, which reminded me of what a positive the experience othe blogging about my project has been.

It helped me reconnect to the feeling of ‘I want to get this done’. So I decided on a second small step: checking my diary if I had space (both time wise and mentally) to restart next week. Turned out I have SOME space. Which is enough when you think about small steps; it’s not too daunting to work on it a bit.

Obviously my third small step has been to write this blog post. It’s out in the open now: I will restart my November project. In February. Those taxes need to get done…

Today’s illustration is linked to the idea of taking a first small step. I made it on a day when I hadn’t painted for a long while. I wanted to paint, but felt like it would be impossible to create something beautiful. I felt I had lost all my skills, and certainly all my faith in being capable. So I decided to simply grab paint and create something that I would probably throw away because it was ugly. But at least I’d have handled some paint again. I did it. It worked. And I never threw it away. My son loved it (much to my surprise), so I gave it to him.

Does it lurk or skulk?

I am so good at avoiding planning, that I even mislaid the note pad I was creating my planning in. Years ago, before I became Procrastination Coach, I would have spent the rest of my day searching for my lost item, until I found it or was too exhausted to do anything else.

I’m smarter now. I searched for a new notebook, because I know the project is in my head. I am able to do further planning even without my original notes.

But, procrastination always lurks… I thought I was doing well: simply use a fresh notebook and start planning. But then I found myself:
– writing this post
– searching through my files for a text I’ve written about the importance of having a plan B
– visiting my official website to see if I had posted about it there

When I realised this was SO much distraction that I was allowed to label it procrastination, I went back to my note pad. I wrote down the basics of my project, as I had designed them before. My mini Project Initiation Document.

Still, procrastination lurked… I realised I hadn’t yet used all my project management skills in defining my plan. So I figured I’d look up some of documents I work with in my training, just to make sure that I wouldn’t forget anything. Maybe I can call the one who suggested this to me my ‘inner distractor’.

Because when I think about it a bit longer, I know I have all the knowledge I need right here in my own head. Searching for those documents was nothing more then giving in to the whole sense of fear that the subject of planning installs in my: “You might not be able to do this. You are going to mess this up! You’re headed towards a disaster!!”. So I’ll start looking for things to back me up, as an external safety net: theory, documents, different methods. The hidden reasoning probably being something like: if I’m not good enough, as I fear, they will catch me and I’ll still be able to do my work properly.

I have already stepped into the different method trap: when I couldn’t find the documents I needed as fast as I wanted them, my inner distractor told me ‘wait, you have a coaching method that might be helpful. Tie your project to your values, they can be your compass when your planning goes wrong. So I wrote down:
– honesty (with myself and with others)
– personal growth (I can deal with the setbacks because I grow from them)
– family (my project is not allowed to make me exhausted and grumpy and make my loved ones suffer)
– fun (totally lacking last week, being too serious all the time is not good for me).

And then I realised that was procrastination too. I was still avoiding my planning task. I can tell it’s procrastination because it made me feel bad. I wasn’t left with the feeling: ‘yay, that was an important step, I’m glad I added it.’ I was left with a feeling that said ‘you’re not getting yourself where you want to be’.

After that, I wrote this post. Great for both avoiding and personal growth. I’ll finish this now, and apply my own methods to me:
– . I won’t post it before my planning is done. (that will work out as accountability)
– I will make the planning process nicer by playing music that soothes me or gives me hope. (adding positive things to a task you dread or dislike).
– I will time box: I’ll set a timer to 15 minutes. I’m going to do as much as I can in those fifteen minutes, because when the bell rings I’ll quit. 15 minutes looks too short to me, which will motivate me to not spend too much time on thinking without making decisions
– I’ll plan a reward. Since I didn’t plan fun last week, the reward will be 2 hours to paint or do whatever creativity I’ll feel like (this will also help me stick to my 15 minutes: I know if I get exhausted I don’t even want to do something creative any more)

Today procrastination lurks. And skulks. It pussyfoots and mooches. But you know what? there’s a success I can pat myself on the back for anyway. I am SO aware of the fact that fear triggers procrastination, that there’s no room for my inner critic to tell me off. He wants it, he wants it so badly! But I know it’s normal, it’s human, and I’ve found a way to deal with it. My 15 minutes of planning start now.

I did it. 15 minutes. My planning is done. My #NaBloPoMo post is done. I don’t feel relieved, I feel stressed. Probably created a planning has ignited my fear of failure. The cat is on my lap now. She will make things better.

Day 1 done!

It was really weird yesterday, to stop without doing any work at all, just thinking! And talking, because I talked about my plans (and fears) with my partner.

I was totally right about stopping when I still felt okay though. When I went outside for a walk, I noticed I was feeling some pride. I had started my project, instead of giving in to my longing to procrastinate about it one day longer. Just one day… You can guess what could have happened the next day: still not the right day to start, due to… (no matter what, there’s always something).

Instead, I faced my fears and started. And I started wisely!

You know what I normally do, which is one of the reasons I dread this project so much? I work until I’m totally beat. After that, I don’t feel satisfied, I feel frustrated. I don’t feel that I accomplished something, my brain is totally stuck on everything that’s not finished. It races like mad, it’s in total overdrive. I don’t know how to relax, and I feel stupid.

One of the triggers for procrastination is when one dreads the outcome of the task at hand. So it makes sense that if I expect to go slightly mad, I feel a lot of dread. Very uncomfortable dread.

I’ll use this blog to stay conscious of what I’m doing. And share what works, and what doesn’t work (for me, it can be completely different for you).

My first success: I started.

My second success: I stopped in time and was able to feel satisfaction.

My third success is that I got started with actual doing today. I’ll probably write about that tomorrow, it’s time to step away and relax now!

Lot’s of exclamation marks. I mean all of them 🙂 This is my second post for #NaBloPoMo, even if both were written on the same day. It’s now day 4, so I’m two post behind if I want to catch up.

A lucky mistake?

Please read the post first, and then discover what the mistake was… It’s at the bottom of this post!

I’ve made a start on my November project: digging up the stuff I need to do my taxes over 2016. Lisa, if it’s okay with you I might write regularly on how I handle it. One reason would be that it might help others. The other, more selfish reason would be that I’d like to be witnessed and applauded for what I expect to be a struggle (or, share my joy about whenever and however I manage to avoid the struggle!).

My start has been completely different from what I normally do. I didn’t touch a thing. I sat down and thought. I’ve used some techniques from working in projects, a bit like writing a project initiation document (a light version obviously, but something I can use to keep this thing from turning into a big bang and creating an expanded universe I drown in).

The other thing I thought about is: how can I control this as a process? I know 5 things per day will be to little and will not bring me my goal (taxes done). So I’m considering 5 minutes (or 10, or 15, or 30, I think I’ll have to find out what amount suits my levels of energy and the stress that will come up). I’ve also thought about things like: What will my boundaries be? When will I stop or seek help?

A third thing has been to notice how I’m feeling as I write all of this down (my body sends loads of stress signals), what I’m thinking (chocolate! Go binge watch Sopranos!! Don’t start this, it’s too big!!!).

My last thoughts, is how I would deal with my child if he’d feel fears as big as mine feel now.

This took 30 minutes, a bit of more if you include me typing this here. My stress level is going through the roof, and I want to show myself what I’ve learned over the years. So:

– I’m patting myself on the back. Well done for getting this far and facing all these emotions.
– I draw a line. This is enough for today. If I stop know, I’ll feel amazed at the steps I’ve taken. If I continue, I’ll drain myself and feel I’ve failed.

It’s hard to stop now, but I will. I really want to make this project a success. My definition of success is not just getting these taxes done, it’s also feeling I can handle myself.

So what’s the mistake here, and why might it be lucky? I’m part of a private decluttering group on Facebook, called Less Stuff. In the group we work on gentle decluttering, instead of the purge-type decluttering that has been doing the rounds these last years.

I thought I was sharing my post there and there only, in a group where people know what it’s like when you feel like decluttering is like climbing Mount Everest: exhausting, taking a big toll (whether physical or mental or both). To my surprise I received responses of people that weren’t in my group: likes, loves, thumbs up… I had managed to share the post on my own Facebook wall, for all my friends to see.

The responses made it clear to me that I’m not the only one who struggles with this, even outside the fabulous Facebook group I’m in. People were cheering me on, and telling me they’d love to read the rest of the story – a story that still has to be ‘written’.

So I’m thinking about sharing my journey here, on the ‘old’ Procrastination Coach blog. I know that this project has a lot to do with procrastination. Both the fact that my administration is buried in a mess, and the techniques I want to use to get me out of there – both organised and sane.

Like everyone else who procrastinates, I feel embarrassed about it. In my case maybe even more so, because I’m procrastination coach… I should know better! At least, that’s what the critical voice inside me keeps telling me.

Truth is, I do know better. But, well, things happened, in my life. And I fell off the badwagon of doing things, wrestling with the being part of my life. I understand how I got here. It’s human. And now I want to get out.

As Procrastination Coach, I know accountability can work like a charm. So I think I will join #NaBloPoMo (national blog posting month) where you’re supposed to write a blog every day. I still dread the project, so I also dread the NaBloPoMo idea. There’s something atractive about it though. I like writing. I’ll have to make sure that I leave some energy for writing (yay) after the project work (yikes). Which will probably help me stick to my boundaries and not drain myself…

Into the vaults of administration

Into the vaults of administration

I welcome Halloween, the season of fright
I enjoy my shivers with dark delight
I’ll eagerly visit every haunted house you know -but
into the vaults of my administration I will not go

I’ll walk into cobwebs without a fright
I’ll visit a graveyard in the middle of the night
I’ll face all skeletons in my closet, but no
into the vaults of my administration I will not go

Endless miles of piles of files
Papersscattered, battered, shattered, tattered
A mess, such stress, faith less, digress
procrastin- destin- admin is tr ation

I welcome Halloween, the season of fright
I’m haunted by papers every night
they rustle ‘n’ bustle, they fee-fi-fo
into the vaults of my administration I will not go

I’ll bury my body with dark delight
I’ll feed my brain to zombies without a fright
My gravestone doesn’t scare me but lo and woe
into the vaults of my administration I will not go

Bron: Into the vaults of administration

Happy Halloween to everyone who struggles with doing their administration! And to everyone who has different nightmares too :).

Procrastination is (not) a habit

Often when you read about procrastination, the writer will say it’s a habit. I tend to disagree. I believe the tendency to procrastinate is (partly) innate. The part of giving in to the tendency, THAT’s the habit.

Procrastination often functions as a flight mechanism. It takes us away from things we don’t like or things we (unknowingly) fear. An unpleasant task lights up the same part of our brain as pain does. The instant gratification part of us stimulates us to give in to the short term impulse, and ignore the long term thinking. There’s always tomorrow…

But we all know tomorrow is always a day away, and it makes sense to get a grip on procrastination. To get back our freedom of choice. Do I want to do this now? Or is it REALLY better for me to do it later? If so, when?

If it’s a habit, it can be changed. When it’s a signal of something deeper going on (fear of failure, fear of success, perfectionism, etc.) the signal can be read. The deeper issue can be addressed – whilst you get your work done, you don’t need to wait. But both take effort. There’s an eternal demand for quick fixes for procrastination. I believe the demand is eternal because quick fixes don’t last, or don’t work.

That being said, I’d love to hear what has worked for you. Are there quick fixes that help you out? Have you managed to change (some of) your habits? How?

The next Get it Done week will focus on your personal procrastination habit(s). It starts on May 4, and will end on May 11. You’ll have the weekend off – unless that’s a habit that doesn’t serve you 🙂