Tag Archives: self management

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.

My brain is being mean to me

Dear diary,

My brain is being mean to me. It’s not fair.

I was doing really well, working on my November project. I still don’t know where some of my administration is hiding. So I was searching for it, organising stuff in the meanwhile.

I was creating good results, sorting papers for the recycling bin, freeing up a box to put assorted old stuff in. But my brain started whispering: it’s not good enough. You’re supposed to work directly on your planned result. This is a distraction. You’re giving in to scope creep

So I told myself: No. Look how good this will feel. I’m saying goodbye to an old project, which is quite a big step. The papers will leave the house and that creates space. I’m saying goodbye emotionally too, that will create space on my mind. Really, I’m on the right track.

Then my brain whispered more loudly: look at what you’re doing. You’re making small piles of stuff you don’t know where to put. You’re not sticking to your planned result. You’re not sticking to your method. You’re doing a bad job. You’re stupid.

I felt the tension in my shoulders rise and decided to quit after 15 minutes, the maximum that I had set for this round (hoping to do more than one round today). This was sticking to my method, but my brain didn’t care about that.

It got louder and louder: Look at that mess! This isn’t right! Work a bit longer in this, so you’ll reach some satisfaction. If you can’t put those papers away, do more of the easy bits. Find yourself papers you CAN sort and put in the right place. Go to the recycling bin with those papers that can leave the house. Try to… It was frantically ordering me to do anything but take a break now. Go get RESULTS! Make yourself feel GOOD!

Like I wrote before: old patterns don’t die easily, if ever. But I’m learning how to cope with them. So I decided to step away and do some thinking. Who was running the show at the moment?

I encountered some familiar company:
1) My inner schoolmaster: demanding I’ll do too much. Of course this is not how it puts it: please do too much. Instead, it will tell me this isn’t enough yet. “You should do more.” Activiting the other side of my horse shoe: the part that says “I’m not sure I want to”. This part is not strong enough to resist, and let me inner adult do the talking. It means I’ll probably give in to the demands, because otherwise I face criticism.

One way I recognise my inner schoolmaster is when I feel overwhelmed, pressured and a failing. The schoolmaster thinks I have no right to boundaries, I just have to do my job.

2) My inner critic lies in wait, ready to take over if I lean towards not giving into the schoolmaster. Or when I don’t (surprise!). If I decide to take that break, it will claim I’m lazy or unfit for needing one in the first place. If I don’t take a break, it will tell me I’m stupid for doing too much.

One way I recognise my inner critic is because it calls me names and exaggerates: stupid, fail, twat, bad, lazy…

The message of my inner schoolmaster is that I don’t do enough. The message of my inner critic is that I’m no good.

Dear diary,
My brain is mean to me, but I’m not going to be a meany to it in return. There was a time when these patterns were helpful to me, they were part of my survival kit. But now I want to break free (*insert Queen song*). I wonder how I can picture that?

I’ll file a complaint against the schoolmaster, with legal terms and small print any many things that will keep it busy while I go out for a walk and a coffee. I’ll ask my inner critic to make an inventory of all the bad things it calls me, and sort them on how many times they are used AND alphabetical order.

While they are busy, I’ll enjoy a bit of fresh air and sunshine, a small chat with the waiter who brings me coffee, perhaps read a nice book… Self care.

Me and my inner adult are running this show!

Blessed are those who don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. It’s wonderful if you can organise, declutter and work without distracting voices in your own head. I’m not schizophrenic (in case you wonder) I’ve just learned to tune in to my self talk and see where it’s getting me. When my self talk brings me down, I try to realise that and change it.

A pat on the back can be helpful against your inner critic, if you manage to mean what you say. My pats on the back for today are:
– After a lousy morning, I took a break before I started. I listened to my needs.
– I started working on my project without resistance.
– I listened to my body when it told me to stop.
– Managed to not listen to the voice that urged me to do more, more, more!
– I took the time to find out what’s going on inside of me and learn from it.
– Changing patterns takes an effort. A pat on the back for being dedicated.

I’ll add some visual proof to show how out of line my brain gets. These were the ‘piles’ that caused all that stress:
Mini piles

I could have told myself they weren’t that scary, but my brain wouldn’t have believed it. This half mocking dead serious dear diary post, did help. And it got me #NaBloPOMo done for today. And if anyone wonders why I’m sharing such private stuff: I hope it can help other people.

Eating a frog with gusto

I’m slowly getting into a routine with my November project, and it works. I hate routines, and I don’t work on my project on a set time. The routine is simply to work on it every day. Whether a lot or a little, both count. I just want to make headway everyday. It looks like my inner adult has kicked in. That’s a relief.

The first time I felt that green zone of my have-to – horse shoe was after I took the time to think my project through. The planning was done – and I felt eager for action! My energy was gone, so I had to wait until the next day. But the next day I was eager to begin, instead of reluctant and filled with dread. That felt like nothing short of a miracle. I can’t have been a miracle though – I created it myself. Yay me!

The second time my inner adult kicked in was this morning. I didn’t see it coming. I’d had a bad night’s sleep and a frustrating morning with my son. At 8.30 AM I was alone, tired and grumpy.

First thing I did was take a break – I’ve made the mistake to NOT do that so many times that I’ve learned that it really, really, really doesn’t work if I fight my way through the day. When I do I just get a lot more tired, much more moody, highly irritable. I tend to end up feeling like a horrible person because of deplorable behaviour towards my loved ones. So I’ve learned to take some time for myself in the morning before I start work.

I watched an old episode of Navy NCIS to completely take my mind off myself. When that was finished, I wondered what to do about my project today. Drum roll… I got the urge to do it NOW instead of later! I realised I was curious where my administration was hiding, since I hadn’t found it in Mount Doom yet. So I decided to set a time limit, dive into one of my piles and search for relevant stuff I could archive.

I self managed. I let myself be guided by my goal instead of whatever I encountered. No scope creep. No distractions. When I found stuff that was easy to throw away or easy to put away within my set time limit, I sorted it – and put it all in the right place before I reached my limit. Now I (already!) have a concrete, visible and satisfying result:

  • Some stuff archived
  • Some stuff in the recycling bin
  • Some stuff put away in the place where it belongs

My reward is on my lap now. I’ve taken the time to cuddle with the loudest purring creature I know. Her sounds of satisfaction make me feel I’m a wonderful person. (There was a time when I tried to do daunting tasks without a reward, but since rewards can help against procrastination, I use them consciously now.)

What my inner adult did, was want something that I normally have to trick myself into: eating a frog. A metaphor that stands for doing the thing you’re most likely to procrastinate on first. It’s a favourite trick for a number of my clients.

I love how I don’t even have to trick myself into writing the #NaBloPoMo blog posts. I like it and I’m happy to do it. My inner adult finds it easy to get this done. It’s more a reward than a frog 🙂

Poes mapPoes schoot