Break free – Learn to beat procrastination for good

Reading time: 2 minutes and 51 seconds

career change, career coaching, find work you love

Time to get moving...

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I’ve been meaning to write about procrastination for ages, but I never seem to get round to it…..

Procrastination is nothing to be ashamed of – almost everyone gets a bout from time to time.  I realized it was time for me to get off Facebook and share some powerful ideas to help you kick time-wasting for good.

Beating procrastination can buy you more time, increase your sense of accomplishment and take away the frustration of feeling stuck.

Learning how to  kick start work projects, do what really matters and sieze the day can have a huge impact on your happiness and success.

What is procrastination?

Psychologists define procrastination as something “counter-productive, needless and delaying” – and that is no fun at all.

We all have some great techniques for procrastinating – some of my personal favourites include:

“I’ll start doing that this afternoon / tomorrow / next week / next month…”

“I’ll just clean the house / bathe the dog / take out the recycling / check Facebook / cut my toenails first….”

“Every time I’m about to start, the phone rings / my boss comes by / I get an urgent email….”

What makes us come up with these fiendish avoidance tactics?

Check your Head

According to the Mind Gym, procrastination is typically driven by our deeper beliefs about the world.  If we can identify the underlying assumptions and motivatiors, we can start to understand and beat our procrastination.

They suggest some common beliefs that lead to time-wasting:

  • Perfectionism – do you strive for absolute perfection in everything you do?  Perfection is such a high bar to reach, this creates a huge amount of pressure to perform.  Trying to write the perfect CV, create the ideal Powerpoint, have the perfect call with that customer is such a daunting task.  It is easy to understand why starting such a task feels scary and is easy to put off.
  • Certainty – “Before I take my dream trip to Australia / start this project on marketing to pharmaceutical companies / go to that yoga class, I need to know all about it”.  The need for certainty can push us to spend years in the research phase and never pull the trigger.  We fear that unless we’re an expert, we’ll be exposed as a fraud, look stupid and everything will go wrong.  So we never start.
  • Fear of failure – starting is the first step on the downward spiral to failure, public humiliation and destitution.  The demonic spectre of failure has stopped many great ideas and projects in their tracks.  This is probably the single largest cause of procrastination.
  • I’m not good enough – when we don’t believe we can do something, we’ll find every reason and excuse in the world not to do it.  The most debilitating thought in the world is “there is no way I can do this”.

Next time you find yourself cleaning out the cellar or re-tweetig that latest fascinating post, take a second.  What are you putting off and why?

Changing Minds

To beat procrastination, start by changing your thinking. Once you’ve identified what is behind your procrastination, try this approach:

Step 1 – Redefine your belief

Start to take the pressure off yourself by rephrasing your beliefs in a less harsh way:

I must get a perfect result” becomes “I’d like a perfect result

I must know everything about this” becomes “It would be good to know everything about this

I’m terrified of failing” becomes “It would be better not to fail

I can’t do this” becomes “I’m not sure if I am ready for this

Immediately, these beliefs become less imposing and less of a barrier to getting starting.

Step 2 – Create a safety net

Now to further crumble your belief.  Add in a get-out clause that makes the belief even less daunting.  For example:

I’d like a perfect result but if I don’t get one it doesn’t matter.”

It would be good to know everything about this but I already know enough to start and I’ll keep learning as I go along.”

These statements take away the terrible future consequences we’ve already imagined for the task.  It is fine if we try our best and we don’t quite reach perfect.  If we do fail, we may learn more than if we succeed.

Step 3 – Go for it

With the newly minted belief in place, it is time to launch in and get started!  When I’ve used this technique, it often feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  I always find that just taking action is the best way to beat procrastination

Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” Johann von Goethe

Penny for your thoughts

What are you procrastinating about?

  • What beliefs are holding you back?
  • How can you rethink those beliefs?
  • How do you beat procrastination?

Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Brilliant ideas on beating procrastination

Positively Present on 5 ways to amp up your morning

Farnoosh at Prolific Living on finding focused intensity

Practical Ideas to avoid distraction from the Art of Great Things

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver (Flickr Creative Commons)

Spring Clean your Mind

Reading time: 2 minutes and 49 seconds

Career coaching, career counseling, find work you love, do what you love

Spring Clean your Mind

A five part series to find clarity, focus and the energy to be your extraordinary.  Click here to subscribe and have every post delivered fresh to your inbox!

Spring is in the air!  Nature is waking up.  The earth is blooming with fresh buds, blossom on the trees, a whiff of hope in the air.

Spring is a time of renewal, new life, new possibilities, new hope, new beginnings, fresh thinking.  It’s a time to emerge from the shadows of hibernation, shake off the lethargy and face the future with joy.

An important tradition at this time of year is spring cleaning.  This is the ritual of cleaning house, sprucing up our dwelling, clearing away the clutter.  We cast off the baggage we’ve picked up over the winter.

This year, I’m planning to take the opportunity to spring clean my mind.  I want to sort through some of the dusty old boxes I’ve been storing in my mental attic.  I’m pretty sure that there are some hidden treasures I can polish up and enjoy.  I also know that there is a lot of junk up there that I no longer want to hump around with me.

My Mental Spring Clean will cover four areas:

Stories

We all spend a huge amount of time and energy creating stories about our identity.  We tell the outside world all about ourselves – what we do, our social status, how we interact with others, our expectations from the world around us.

We also tell ourselves stories about who we think we are.  I know that one story I was telling myself was that I had to do everything myself because there is no-one out there who would want to collaborate with me.  Since I recognized this story and started to change it, I’ve found that suddenly people are starting to want to get involved with my projects.  A simple change of story and led to a big difference.

Our stories are usually based on some simple facts, however we choose how to weave these facts together.  We also have the choice of which facts to select in creating the story.  Understanding the power of our personal narrative and how we communicate it can hugely change our lives for the better.  Change our story and we change our life.

Games

The psychiatrist Eric Byrne wrote the seminal book Games People Play in 1964.  He identified the human need for attention and the need to fill the unstructured void of time.  Byrne identified that human interaction is based on conversations and analyzed these transactions in more detail.

He found that almost everyone plays games to get attention from others.  Often we don’t realize what we are doing.  Some of the games Byrne talks about include “See what you made me do”, “Ain’t it awful”, “If it weren’t for them” and “Stupid”.  Any of these sound familiar to you?

I know that I’ve spent most of my life playing “Just good enough”.  In this game, I try just hard enough to get the result I want without standing out from the crowd by being the best.  It is a game to keep me safe from unwanted attention, yet it also stops me from taking risks, really going for it, or feeling fulfilled.

In this mental spring clean, we can assess the games we are playing, figure out which ones are helpful and which ones are holding us back.

Gremlins / The voice in my head

This one is an old chestnut.  I have that horrible voice in my head that tells me;  “you’re not good enough, you can’t do that”, “who would listen to someone like you anyway”, “get over yourself, you’re no-one”.

These gremlins are powerful forces.  Typically we created them in our childhood to protect us from a situation that would have been detrimental.  Perhaps to overcome a fear of being embarrassed, we created a gremlin that stopped us answering questions in class.  The gremlin was there to keep us safe.

Often, this voice in our head has long since stopped being useful.  It stops us from taking action and being our best self with the old warnings.  In this mental spring clean, we’ll look at how to gracefully retire some of these gremlins and free ourselves to be whatever we want to be.

Habits

As children, we sponge up huge amounts from the world around us.  We learn routines about how to live our lives.  We pick up habits about how to behave from our parents, peers and everyone we meet.

Habits can be extremely positive, like a regular exercise routine, the process we use to keep ourselves organised or taking 10 minutes each morning to plan our day.  They can also be unconstructive – procrastinating, avoiding using the telephone when we know we should, drinking to relieve stress.

To some extent, we are what we do, and these habits become a large part of our identity.  We can understand more about how habits form, identify which habits to change and apply some of the rules of change to create positive new habits.

Get Cleaning

This Mental Spring Clean will look at each area in more detail and give practical advice on how to change for the better.  I’m planning to use the journey to create a mind that feels shiny, fresh and new  – ready to face the renewal of spring.  Please join me and enjoy some mental sorting, dusting, cleaning and polishing.  Let the Mental Spring Clean begin.

How to Keep Going

Reading time: 3 minutes and 23 seconds

career change, career coaching, find work you love, do what you love, find your passion, find your vocation

Keep Climbing Life's Mountain

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You catch yourself staring out of the window daydreaming.

What challenges are you thinking about?  Finding work that feels worthwhile?  A happier life?  An exciting project?  A big life change?  Finding love?  Getting fit?  More balance? Turning your passion into a living?

Daydreaming means Thinking Big about the future – then we need to take actions to make that dream a reality.  Getting going is tough, keeping up the momentum is even tougher.  I’m sharing six powerful ways to keep going once you commit to a big project and make your dream into a reality.

Eighteen months ago I was daydreaming about making a living working for myself as a professional career coach.  The vision was exciting.  When the dream became a reality, everything changed.

Suddenly I was faced with a big mountain to climb.  I felt a combination of intense excitement mixed with deep nausea.  I was climbing my own Mount Everest – what an amazing undertaking.  Looking up at the top, I saw the sun glinting on the mountain top, a beautiful peaceful place.  I knew that I had to get there.

Getting started wasn’t easy, and in the end I just had to cross my fingers toes and everything else and just go for it.   As several of you pointed out, the challenge is how to keep going.

Once the novelty wore off, I sometimes found myself slogging through the foothills.  After weeks of hard work, the peak only appeared a little closer, and my starting point teasingly close.  The temptation to call in the rescue team and go home teased me.  No harm, no foul.

I’ve learned a lot about how to keep going during the last 18 months. It has been a steep ascent, with some rocky patches.  Yet there have been some breathtaking vistas and milestones that have kept me striding slowly forward one step at a time.  On reflection, here are six big lessons I’ve learned about how to take on any or challenge and keep going:

  1. Keep the dream alive – I’ve kept that glinting ray of light at the top of the mountain burning bright in my mind.  My motivation is to make a living helping others find satisfaction, peace and happiness through meaningful work.  When the going gets tough, remembering this re-energizes me and keeps me going.
  2. Break up the journey – when I started out, the mountain looked huge.  I set up some intermediary targets along the way.  Creating this blog was one of the legs on my journey.  These camps on the mountain provide short-term objectives – to make it to the next station.  Breaking up my dream into achievable chunks makes it seem realistic.
  3. Get support – no one in their right mind would climb a huge mountain alone.  I’ve assembled a great support team of supporters, mentors, advisers, collaborators to help me on the climb.  They carry my pack for me when the going gets tough, share their oxygen when the air is thin, give me a pep talk when I’m despairing.  Without this team, I know I’d have no chance.
  4. Stop and enjoy the view – at first I often saw the climb as an endless trudge without end.  I felt tired and drained.  I’ve learned that to stay motivated I need to enjoy every step of the journey.  I try to do things that I love as much as possible (still have to do the admin though!).  I regularly stop and enjoy the view along the way – looking back on what how far I’ve come and reflecting on how the world has changed already.  Enjoying the climb makes it worth continuing.
  5. Prepare for setbacks – Setbacks are inevitable on the climb.  I’ve had my fair share of challenges – workshops with no attendees, prospects who aren’t interested.  Now I think ahead to try and see what pitfalls may be ahead and try to plot my path to avoid these.  I also have learned to prepare myself mentally for these moments and to find the good or opportunity in them.  The setbacks don’t stop me in my tracks and bring the doubt that they used to.  I can reflect, find the lesson and move on up the hill.
  6. Be flexible – there are many routes to reach the top of most mountains and they may be more or less difficult depending on the conditions.  I’ve realised that doggedly following the planned path doesn’t always work.  I’m more flexible and open to different directions as long as they keep me moving toward the summit.

So where am I on the mountain now?  I’ve helped lots of people to find work that they love and am making a living doing work I love.  The summit of the mountain is much closer than base camp now.

After all the climbing I’ve done so far, I’m starting to become a life mountaineer.  I’ve got through many days when I didn’t know if I could keep going.  I know that I’ll reach the summit now.

Are you a life mountaineer?  How do you keep going?  What motivates you to climb your mountain?  How do you maintain progress when the going gets tough?

Viktor Frankl – Lessons from a Concentration Camp

Reading Time: 3 minutes and 1 second

less ordinary living, find your purpose, enjoy life, enjoy your career

Find your Purpose

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What can we learn from a man stripped of all his worldly possessions and dignity?  The psychologist Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning spent four years in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.  He survived some of the most inhumane treatment in modern history.  As a doctor, Frankl focused his energy and strength on studying those around him during this deprivation.  He learned a huge amount about the importance of living a life of meaning.

Everyday Life in Auschwitz

Frankl interviewed hundreds of inmates he treated in camp hospitals.  He identified that those who survived the illness and mistreatment almost always had a deeper meaning or purpose in their lives.  In Frankl’s own case, he was determined to survive to be reunited with his wife, the love of his life.  This drove him to dig frozen earth, endure countless beatings and fight off the scourges of malnutrition and tetanus for four years.

What Makes Us Give Up?

Frankl watched fellow inmates succumb to what he called “giveupitis”.  One day, they would simply lie in bed and refuse to get up, ignoring beatings and abuse from the guards.  At this point, Frankl sadly noted that they had given up their reason for living and their death was usually came within a day or two.  Without purpose they had no reason to go on.

The Power of Purpose

Frankl’s groundbreaking work has huge significance for your life. Without meaning, life can be tinged with a deep seated feeling of futility and emptiness.  Frankl saw this manifest in “giveupitis” amongst his patients and fellow inmates.  Today this lack of meaning can lead to a lack of motivation, energy and excitement.  It can hold you back from chasing your vision and goals and keep you stuck in the ordinary.

Finding a deeper purpose provides the motivation to strive for success.   It helps with springing out of bed in the morning and providing the energy to push for what is really important.

How to Find your Purpose

Ask yourself the following questions to identify your purpose:

Overcoming Challenges

  • Think about your toughest situations when you’ve been closest to giving up. What was the spark that kept burning and got you through?
  • What did you continue to believe in?

Greatest Days

  • Think about your greatest and most fulfilling moments in life where you felt most proud?
  • What was your driving force to achieve these amazing feats?
  • What makes you feel proud about what you did?

People Power

  • Who are the most important people in your life?
  • What do they mean to you?
  • How do they inspire and motivate you?

So, what is your purpose?  How do you plan to make the most of that today and every day?  What have you learned from Viktor Frankl’s experience?  Please share your passion with the LOL Community by leaving a comment. And if you have time, pick up a copy of Man’s Search for Meaning, a truly inspiring read.

Photo credit: Studio 494 from Flickr Creative Commons

Achieve More – Find your Natural Rhythm

Reading time – 2 minutes 24 seconds

Find your focus

Find your rhythm

Continuing our series on Finding Focus in 2010 – click here to subscribe and never miss another post.

I have sincere apology to make.  This is for anyone who has ever come into contact with me in the morning before my first cup of coffee.  You may know me as the “live life to the full” writer of Less Ordinary Living, however before 8.30am when the caffeine kicks in, I look and act like a bedraggled plane crash survivor who has spent 3 years surviving on berries in the jungle.  If you’ve experienced this I am truly sorry.

The serious side of this it that we are all subject to natural body rhythms that control our energy levels each day.  During our development we find our unique pattern that works with our metabolism, lifestyle and preferences.  By adulthood, the Circadian Rhythms we have developed become deeply ingrained.  Understanding and working with these rhythms can have a huge effect on our ability to focus and be effective every day.

I only recently became aware of my patterns.  I find that I start the day with fairly low levels of energy and these slowly pick up during the morning.  Typically by 9am I start to get into the zone and am in a good place to focus (after the coffee kicks in!).  The energy levels pick up and continue rising until about 1.00pm.  At this point, my energy drops off a cliff for most of the afternoon.  However weirdly (but not uniquely) a second wind start to kick in late afternoon and I get another power surge that can last until 8 or 9pm.  After that, things tail off to the end of the day.

So what is your daily pattern?  Take a minute to draw a graph on a piece of paper and put time on the X axis (starting from when you wake up and ending when you hit the sack).  You can then map energy levels on the Y axis.  Think through a typical day and your relative levels of energy during the day and start to map this on the graph.  Most people have varying levels of energy during a day and so you will probably get some kind of curve or wave.  If you’re not sure, take a day or two to watch yourself and your energy levels throughout the day until the pattern emerges.

The key now is to use this information wisely by matching activities to energy levels.  When you are putting together your daily plan, try to schedule your highest priority activities which require the most energy and concentration in your times of peak energy.  It is much easier to focus and avoid distraction when we our energy is at its highest.  Likewise, if you have an obvious lull during the day, this is a great time to either knock off some of the tedious, easy chores that need to be done, or to schedule in some personal care time (exercise, mediation, reading).  Much better to use this time productively than to waste an hour looking up America’s Next Top Model on Wikipedia (not that I’ve ever done this, obviously).

Experiment with what works best for you each day.  Because of my pattern, I have deliberately moved my lunchtime back to about 1.30pm to take full advantage of my first high energy peak.  I’ve also found that scheduling meetings and phone calls for my traditionally “low energy” times forces me to concentrate and can make this formerly dead time much more productive.  As you get more confident you can guide others to make sure that meetings happen at times that work best for you.

So apologies again to anyone who has met the Phil “pre-coffee” monster!  For the rest of you, please do give this a try and leave a comment to let me know how this works out for you in becoming more focused.