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overcoming procrastination

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about people struggling with procrastination. The pandemic has taken a lot out of us, and we are all a bit worn down. When we put off doing what we “need” to do it makes us feel undisciplined and lazy.  The self-compassion experts tell us that just makes things worse.

Instead of beating yourself up, it is much more effective to figure out why you procrastinate. Then you can take positive action to overcome the obstacle. Procrastination is typically NOT about discipline!  When the system is right and you understand what is happening then it takes much less willpower to move into action.

Procrastination Strategies

If simply intending to do the task worked, you wouldn’t be reading this. There are a number of less-typical strategies you can try to see what will help YOU blow through YOUR procrastination obstacles.

Figure Out Why You Procrastinate – There are many reasons people procrastinate. Figuring out your reason(s) is the first step to overcoming them.  Is it self-doubt or do you just need more information?  Do you need more time for the information to percolate in your head, or do you simply need the stress of the deadline to activate?  Are you unclear if the task is important? Or do you just hate doing it?  Understanding the cause of our individual brands of perfectionism helps us move into action.

Make the First Step Small – focus on getting started. Don’t worry about finishing. Set one mini-goal to get you to sit down and start.

Trick Your Brain – Start with an easy task to stimulate your brain. Take advantage of the “pleasure seeking” chemicals and as soon as you finish the easy/fun task move to one of the “harder to complete” tasks.

Identity Motivation –Use a character trait you like about yourself to help you activate. i.e. – I am a learner, I have perseverance, I am a problem-solver. Then ask:

  1. What kind of situation is this?
  2. Who am I?
  3. What does someone like me do in a situation like this? If you consider yourself to be thoughtful – then you’ll ask yourself – what does a thoughtful person do in a situation like this? If you consider yourself to be a problem solver then you’ll ask yourself – what would a problem solver do in a situation like this?

Body Doubling – Body Doubling is having a partner share your space to help keep you on task. They don’t need to do anything in particular. Their very presence helps move you to action.

  • Meet a friend at the coffee shop and work on your “hard” project alone – together.
  • Meet a colleague in the conference room and set your Pomodoro timer.
  • Ask a family member to sit with you while you are getting started.
  • Hire a NAPO Professional Organizer or other consultant to work on your project with you

Change Location – A unfamiliar space can provide just enough stimulation your brain needs to move into action. Weather permitting try working outside, a new coffee shop, or even a new location at work or home. Simply changing chairs at your kitchen table may be enough to shift how your brain is processing the environment.

Freak Yourself Out – Creating controlled stress can help. Make a list of the top 3 consequences of not doing this project. Now make another list – top 3 consequences of not doing this project on time. Not failing can help move you into action.


This is a combo repeat blog post with information from Chapter 4 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon.  Next post we’ll look at the burden of procrastination.

Why Am I Procrastinating

Why Do You Procrastinate? You aren’t the only one asking yourself that question! Without an understanding of why you are procrastinating, it’s hard to figure out what to do about it.

I realized this when I studied my own procrastination tendencies. I learned I usually procrastinated when I needed more information for the next step. Once I understood that behavior, it became easier to figure out how I could learn what I needed to know. Procrastination would also occur when I need more time to think before moving into action. Now that I understand my “why,” my procrastination is manageable.

Read through this list and consider which of these causes explain why you procrastinate. It is often more than one.

What Is Your Why?

Self-doubt — Lack of confidence is a real stopper. It makes sense that it is hard to move into action if you don’t believe in yourself, or you don’t believe what you’ll deliver is going to be good enough. You are probably really hard on yourself. It can be helpful to realize everyone has a degree of self-doubt. It’s what you do about it that drives outcomes.

Need more information — It’s hard to do something when you don’t know how to do it. On the other hand, doing too much research is procrastination in itself. The goal is to find the right balance of information to move you into action. Awareness and asking yourself “what else do I need to get started?” is helpful.

Need processing time — Sometimes you just need time for things to percolate. That good idea you had in the shower this morning? It probably wasn’t a new idea. You were creating the space for that idea to come to fullness. Do you do a better job solving the problem after you “sleep on it?” That is good procrastination!

Need stress — Many people use deadlines to create enough stress to move into action. In last month’s blog post on stress and productivity, we learned about the correlation between stress and performance and that without enough stress, we don’t move into action. Deadline stress can be your solution to getting work out the door. If this is your choice, stop beating yourself up and accept who you are. One warning here: Do you hear yourself saying, “I just didn’t have enough time to do the job I wanted to do?” Some people use procrastination to self-handicap. Delay becomes an excuse for not turning in their best work, or even a way to avoid feedback.

Lack of clarity  —When you’re not clear what is important, you end up spending time on low-value tasks and putting off or not doing important work.

Distaste for the task — It’s hard to be motivated to do a task that you hate doing. If this is the case, consider alternatives. Can you delegate this to someone on your team? Can you pay someone else to do it? Can you take it off your list?

Perfectionism — Does the need to be perfect keep you from doing what needs to be done? We’ll look at this in more detail in future blog posts, but remember – perfect is the enemy of done.


This is an exert from Chapter 4 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon.  Next post I’ll share strategies to help overcome procrastination.

overcoming procrastination

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about people struggling with procrastination. The pandemic has taken a lot out of us, and we are all a bit worn down. When we put off doing what we “need” to do it makes us feel undisciplined and lazy.  The self-compassion experts tell us that just makes things worse.

Instead of beating yourself up, it is much more effective to figure out why you procrastinate. Then you can take positive action to overcome the obstacle. Procrastination is typically NOT about discipline!  When the system is right and you understand what is happening then it takes much less willpower to move into action.

Procrastination Strategies

If simply intending to do the task worked, you wouldn’t be reading this. There are a number of less-typical strategies you can try to see what will help YOU blow through YOUR procrastination obstacles.

Figure Out Why You Procrastinate – There are many reasons people procrastinate. Figuring out your reason(s) is the first step to overcoming them.  Is it self-doubt or do you just need more information?  Do you need more time for the information to percolate in your head, or do you simply need the stress of the deadline to activate?  Are you unclear if the task is important? Or do you just hate doing it?  Understanding the cause of our individual brands of perfectionism helps us move into action.

Make the First Step Small – focus on getting started. Don’t worry about finishing. Set one mini-goal to get you to sit down and start.

Trick Your Brain – Start with an easy task to stimulate your brain. Take advantage of the “pleasure seeking” chemicals and as soon as you finish the easy/fun task move to one of the “harder to complete” tasks.

Identity Motivation –Use a character trait you like about yourself to help you activate. i.e. – I am a learner, I have perseverance, I am a problem-solver. Then ask:

  1. What kind of situation is this?
  2. Who am I?
  3. What does someone like me do in a situation like this? If you consider yourself to be thoughtful – then you’ll ask yourself – what does a thoughtful person do in a situation like this? If you consider yourself to be a problem solver then you’ll ask yourself – what would a problem solver do in a situation like this?

Body Doubling – Body Doubling is having a partner share your space to help keep you on task. They don’t need to do anything in particular. Their very presence helps move you to action.

  • Meet a friend at the coffee shop and work on your “hard” project alone – together.
  • Meet a colleague in the conference room and set your Pomodoro timer.
  • Ask a family member to sit with you while you are getting started.
  • Hire a NAPO Professional Organizer or other consultant to work on your project with you

Change Location – A unfamiliar space can provide just enough stimulation your brain needs to move into action. Weather permitting try working outside, a new coffee shop, or even a new location at work or home. Simply changing chairs at your kitchen table may be enough to shift how your brain is processing the environment.

Freak Yourself Out – Creating controlled stress can help. Make a list of the top 3 consequences of not doing this project. Now make another list – top 3 consequences of not doing this project on time. Not failing can help move you into action.

 

Managing Over

This week I’m sharing content from an another article I was featured in. Thanks again to Kathyrn Vasel, of CNN Business for the great article on How to shut down an over-talker at your next meeting.

 

(CNN)Meetings can be a bore, but they can really drag on when someone is talking too much or going off topic.

If one person dominates the conversation, it can deter others from speaking up and mean missing out on new ideas and getting a variety of opinions.
“I’ve never led a team where there isn’t some degree of someone who is an over-talker,” said Ellen Faye, a productivity and leadership coach.
Leaders need to learn how to manage a meeting. They need to take charge when someone goes off the rails, but they also need to tread carefully when it comes to reining the person in.
“You want meetings to be useful, and if you have someone who goes on and on — that meeting has become non-productive,” said Faye.

Set a firm agenda

It’s easier to keep people on track with a comprehensive agenda that includes topics and time frames. It provides a blueprint to what will (and won’t) be discussed, which can help people stay on topic.
Set the tone of the meeting from the start: Telling attendees that you plan to keep things moving and on topic can make people more aware of their speaking time and make it less awkward if you have to step in.

Create time limits

Setting parameters can also help curb over-talkers.
You can request that people keep their comments to around one minute or two, or that they share their top thought and then move on to the next person, Faye recommended.Another option is to outline that you want to hear from each participant at least once, but no more than three times.
“That way, everyone is compelled to speak up and participate, but the over-talkers will be more limited,” said Faye.

Steer them back on track

We can all get into the weeds sometimes and risk getting bogged down with details that aren’t relevant.

If that’s happening, Faye suggested saying something like: Those are great details to work on. Let’s keep a note of that for later.
“It takes a leader with confidence to know when enough is enough,” she said.

Create a ‘parking lot’

Making sure participants feel heard is important, but sometimes their ideas just aren’t relevant to the topic at hand.

Those ideas can be sent to a “parking lot,” which is a list you create, either on paper or for everyone to see.

This validates an idea, but keeps the conversation on topic. Just make sure to circle back to the parking lot at the end of the meeting.

“The actions in the parking lot need to be forwarded in some way,” advised Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach. That could mean moving an ideato the next meeting’s agenda, assigning someone to look into it, or dealing with it via email.

Politely interrupt

If there’s a serial over-talker or someone has been going off on a tangent for several minutes, it could be time to interrupt — just be polite about it.
If someone is being verbose and not getting to their point, Crawford suggested saying something like: “Joe, if I can interrupt, I think that is a great thought. Do you have any recommendations of how we can implement that plan or strategy?”
She also said phrases like: “Sorry to interrupt, but in the interest of time” or “bringing us back to the agenda” can also get people back on track without coming off as harsh.

This week I’m once again sharing content from an article I was featured in. Thanks to Kathyrn Vasel, of CNN Business for the great article on How to Make Meetings More Effective.

You’re running your meetings wrong. Here’s how to make them more effective.

Meetings often get a bad rap. We have too many, they’re too long and they prevent us from being as productive as we could be.

“People don’t hate meetings, they hate meetings that waste their time,” said Ellen Faye, a productivity and leadership coach.

But sometimes meetings are necessary, and can be useful tools for getting things done, brainstorming new ideas and tackling problems at work.  You just have to do them right.

Keep the invite list exclusive
Only invite people to whom the subject matter of the meeting is relevant. “People don’t often really think about who really needs to be at the meeting,” said Neal Hartman, a senior lecturer in managerial communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “Lots of people get invited and if the topic isn’t relevant to them, they feel like they have nothing to contribute and they are sitting there thinking of all the other things they could be doing.” Limiting the size of the meeting can also spur better conversation, said Paul Axtell, author of “Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations.” “The quality of conversation is dependent on quality of the relationships that walk into the room. Fewer people are more likely to connect.”

Have a clear agenda
Make sure all attendees have a good sense of the subject and goals of the meeting before they walk into the room. When you send the calendar invite with the time and location of the meeting, it helps to also include an agenda with the intended topics of discussion. “It’s particularly useful to put a suggested timeline for each agenda item.” said Hartman.  Give people adequate time to review and digest any complex data or documents before the meeting to avoid putting anyone on the spot and to keep the meeting moving. “If you are expecting your meeting to be effective and productive and you want to be able to make a decision, you need a certain degree of information and data,” said Faye. And if you expect some participants to run part of the meeting, give them advanced notice and a time limit.

Get broad participation
Now that you’ve invited only the necessary players to your meeting, make sure you get input from everyone. “If you have done a good job selecting the participants … it’s useful to hear from everybody to get a nice range of insights and perspectives,” said Hartman. The meeting leader should make sure everyone feels comfortable contributing and rein in any conversation hogs who tend to dominate meetings. There are different ways to encourage everyone to speak up. Some implement a rule that everyone needs to speak once, but no more than three times. Others will simply make sure to call on everyone in the room at some point. “The people who are quiet have good information and if we skip them and don’t hear them we aren’t making the best decision for the team and aren’t getting the best outcome,” said Faye.

Limit your own talk time
While meeting hosts play an important role in the effectiveness of the meeting, they also have to be careful with how much they are talking. One of the biggest problems that leads to unnecessarily long meetings is the leader talking too much and not asking questions or listening, according to Bob Sutton, an organizational psychologist and Stanford professor. “You have leaders who talk to allegedly show off their knowledge, when asking questions helps make everyone feel engaged and recognized,” he said.

Have a call to action
Too often if you ask participants of the same meeting what was accomplished or discussed, you’ll get different answers. To avoid that, the meeting leader should take a few minutes to review what was decided on, any deadlines and the next steps to move forward. “If you don’t leave with specific commitments and timelines, then for the most part you didn’t accomplish anything,” said Axtell.” Most often the missing piece is not nailing down who is doing what and then not following up.”

Limit tech
Technology has made our lives much easier, but it can also be a major distraction in meetings. “If you are texting or emailing during a meeting, you aren’t engaged,” said Faye. “There is no way your brain can be doing that and listening and following the conversation.” Meeting leaders should set expectations and ground rules on what technology will be tolerated and they should practice what they preach. Some companies have even banned technology in meetings or make people turn in their devices at the start of the meeting.

Avoid lip-service meetings
Managers can run the most well-run meetings, but if there is no execution afterward, it can cause friction with employees. “Some leaders seem to believe that if they have meetings and are just listening to people and don’t follow up on the opinions or advice, that will make employees feel better,” said Sutton. That’s not the case. “People get really frustrated,” he said.

If it’s daily, keep it short and try standing
If a daily meeting is deemed necessary, keep it moving and keep it short — no more than 20 minutes. “If it’s a daily meeting where you are reviewing actions … I would do a standup meeting where everyone is eye level and everyone moves on,” said Faye.

Track how much time you spend in meetings 
Some job roles require multiple meetings a day, but Faye recommends aiming to have only two hours of meetings a day with four at the most.
“This gives you enough time to follow up, react and do other work,” she said.

Most people rely on their internal compass to get their important tasks done. But what happens when that internal compass doesn’t motivate you ENOUGH for you to get started?

Sometimes deadlines or bosses exert enough external pressure to complete the task, but other times even that isn’t enough. Add to this, that the more time passes, the worse the incomplete tasks make you feel, and the task becomes even more daunting.

How can you get those daunting tasks done? (more…)