From PROcrastination to PROductivy

I recently went to an event where my friend and fellow life/ADHD coach Amy Falk gave an excellent presentation on overcoming procrastination. With her permission, I pass on a summary of her talk in this week’s newsletter.

Amy uses the following definitions of procrastination:

  • An attempt to cope with tasks that are boring, overwhelming or anxiety-producing.
  • Doing one thing to avoid doing something else.

Tongue planted firmly in her cheek, she then quotes a definition of “tomorrow” as “A mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored.”

“Productive procrastination” is where we do everything else on our to-do list than the item we are avoiding. True, we get a lot done, but not the most important one. “Activity” does not equal “productivity.”

People procrastinate for many reasons, which one(s) of these are yours?

  • Overwhelm
  • Perfectionism
  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Success
  • Rebellion/Passive Aggressiveness/Resistance to control
  • Lack of Clarity
  • Lack of Self-Efficacy
  • Lack of Self Confidence
  • Biology/Neurology (ADD/ADHD)
  • Nature’s Ritalin (“I work better under pressure.”)

Before you can overcome procrastination, you need to really understand where it’s coming from. Sometimes just sitting down and reflecting, journaling, talking to a trusted friend or co-worker can help. Sometimes you’ll need to go deeper with a coach, a psychotherapist, or other trained professional. The list above can help, but it’s really just a start, and it’s not all-inclusive.

“Just Do It” is a great slogan for Nike, but can be a terrible phrase for those who are stuck. “Just Start!” is much more realistic.

Here are Amy’s suggestions.

  • Break It Down – create a list of each separate step in a larger task.
  • Use a Timer – work on something for a small increment of time, use a timer to keep you from hyper-focusing.
  • Accountability – Let people know what you plan to do. Be specific!
  • Create Real Deadlines – False deadlines rarely work.
  • Body Double – Have someone with you as you work. Having another’s presence reminds you of your plan to work on a particular They don’t even have to be working with you, they can be doing their own thing, but can remind you to stay on track.

Many thanks to Amy for letting me use information from her presentation. If you would like to learn more about Amy, check out her website at www.syndala.com.

If you have come to one of my presentations, or have been reading my newsletter, you will note that many of the suggestions above are familiar. Whether or not you have ADHD, many of the solutions for procrastination are similar. Even so, there’s no “one size fits all” for everyone. Working with a trained and certified life coach or ADHD coach can really help. If you would like to schedule a complimentary session with me to see if coaching is right for you, email me at Linda@JoyofGTD.com.

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Tool #10 – Making Change? Get Support!

Change is hard, there is no doubt about it. Some people can make and maintain a significant change on their own, but they tend to be in the minority. For most of us, it takes the support of others to keep us on the straight and narrow, especially when the going gets tough. There’s a reason that support groups are so popular: it’s because people have a much higher rate of successful change with they have people who will support them, encourage them, and hold them accountable. When you work with a support person or group, you make your plan, then you tell them what your plan is, when you are going to do it, and how they’ll know that you did it. Research shows that when we tell our intentions to others, follow-through increases.

You might want to join an established support group, such as Weight Watchers, an exercise group at your local gym or Y, or one of the various kinds of groups provided at many houses of worship. Or you can start your own group. Find one or more friends who have a common goal and work well together to help each other.

Support can come in many forms, not just in groups. Do you have a friend who you can turn to, who will help you through the rough parts and keep you honest if you start to backslide? You don’t want to use someone who is harsh and critical, but you certainly don’t want what I call a “poor baby” person either – a person who will accept your excuses and unintentionally support your failure. You need someone who will “hold your feet to the fire” when it would be easier for you to “cave in”. Someone who will encourage you, gently nudge you, and see through your excuses.

You can hire support people; professional support can be the most effective at all for many kinds of changes. Nutritionists, personal coaches, therapists and life coaches are all examples of people who are trained to help you in your quest for change. They can function as cheerleaders, educators, and mirrors – reflecting back to you what they observe, helping you learn about yourself and discover the roots of what is holding you back. Life coaches are trained specifically to help people find the obstacles to a desired change. They help people examine beliefs, mindsets, and habits that might be getting in the way. They have no agenda, so can often be more objective than a friend or family member can be.

No matter where you find support, be it a group, a friend, or a coach, don’t be afraid to reach out when you are looking to change your life. It can make the difference between success and failure.

Toll #9 – Know Your Personal Black Holes

We all know what a black hole is: it’s a region in space that has so much mass that nothing, not even light, can escape.  Black holes make a great metaphor for our lives, most of us have activities that suck us in so strongly that once we start them, we just can’t seem to quit.

For some people, it’s the computer, especially Facebook, games and YouTube.  For others it’s the television:  “I’ll just watch this one program, then I’ll get to work.”  One program becomes two, and before you know it, the evening is wasted.  When we indulge in one of our black holes, it’s almost like we gain 1000 pounds and we just don’t have the physical strength to move away from it.

Think about what your personal black holes are, and be aware that if you indulge in them when you have something else to do, you will probably be sabotaging yourself.

Does this mean that you should never engage in an activity you enjoy because it’s a black hole?  Of course not.  In fact you can use your black hole as a reward for having accomplished a goal.  However, beware– there are some black holes that we engage in not because we enjoy them, but just because they are “there”, and we use them for avoidance.  These are the ones you need to be mindful of.  Sometimes you just need to relax with something mindless, and that’s okay.  But if you find that you are often just wasting time with something, it’s a black hole just sucking you in.  Yyou may need to do all you can to stay away from it.

If possible, physically separate yourself from the time killer.  I had a client that would take her iPad to bed with her intending to read, but then end up staying up very late playing Scrabble.  She stopped taking the iPad upstairs with her at night and and that solved the problem.  Instead, she went back to reading good old-fashioned books.

Some Facts About Personal Black Holes

According to a recent Nielson study, Americans spend approximately 2 hours a day on the Internet.  The time was divided as follows:  Social networking/blogs 22.5%; Online games 9.8%; email 7.6%; portals 4.5%; Videos/movies 4.4%; Search 4%; Instant Messaging 3.3%; Software manufacturer 3.2%; Classified/auctions 2.9%; Current events and global news 2.6; All other (including porn) 35.1%.

On an average day, Americans over the age of 15 spend 2.7 hours watching TV – that’s over 41 days/year! (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

How Can Coaching Help?

For some people, staying away from their black holes is easy.  But for many, just knowing about them isn’t enough.  They are too seductive when you are avoiding something.  As a coach, I can work with you to look at obstacles, examine beliefs and mindsets that are contributing to your procrastination.  It’s not always obvious what is holding you back.  Life coaches are trained to look deeper, ask the right questions, and find out why you might be stuck.  “The thinking that created the problem is probably not going to solve the problem.*”  I can help you find new insights and figure out what is in the way of success, thereby helping you achieve your goals.  If you have tried to make a change, but did not succeed, coaching can make the difference.

Email me at Linda@JoyofGTD.com if you would like to set up a time for a complimentary consultation.

Getting Motivated

Tool #8 Reward Yourself

How can you motivate yourself to do something that just doesn’t appeal to you, but that you know is important to complete? Consider giving yourself a reward when you finish it. There are several “flavors” of rewards, here are three of them:

UsePremack’s Principle.” Your mom knew this when she told you to eat your vegetables if you wanted dessert. You can pair activities that you know you’ll do with something that you want to accomplish. The “reward” activity can be something you really enjoy (like reading a book) or something that you just know you will reliably do (like eating dinner). I worked with a client who found that once she went downstairs in the morning in her bathrobe, she tended to stay in her pajamas most of the morning — which was something she didn’t like doing. So we identified going downstairs as the reward activity and getting dressed as the activity for earning the reward. We agreed she could stay upstairs in the morning as long as she wanted, but she wouldn’t go downstairs until she was dressed. This worked for her. I had another client who enjoyed certain television programs, and used those as her reward for accomplishing specific activities. Which leads us into…

Bribe yourself with something small. As stated above, your reward can be an activity you enjoy and do regularly. But you can also reward yourself with something that you don’t get around to treating yourself to. Have you been wanting to get together with someone for lunch? Find a small project, and use the lunch as a “carrot” to entice yourself to complete the project.

Bribe yourself with something big. Is there something really special that you want? Maybe something that you’ve been wanting to buy or a weekend trip you’d like to take? Consider using a sticker chart. We generally think of these as being only for children, but the truth is, they can be a very effective motivators for adults. Draw a grid on a piece of paper with a specific number of squares on it, maybe 25 or 50 or 100. Each time you make a specific amount of progress, check off or put a sticker in a square. It’s a great visual way to chart your progress, and when the squares are filled, you’ve earned your reward. You can use this to help establish a new habit (“Each time I walk for 10 minutes or more, I’ll check off a box.”), or to work your way through a project (“Each time I clean out a drawer in the kitchen, I earn a square.”). Be sure to treat yourself to the reward when the chart gets full! It’s amazing how often people work hard for a reward, then don’t give it to themselves!

Have you been diagnosed with ADHD?  Or do you suspect your might have it? ADHD Coaching with a trained ADHD coach has been shown to be highly effective way to not only manage your ADHD, but thrive with it!  I have an advanced certification in ADHD Coaching and work with ADHD college students and adults.

I am currently accepting new clients for Fall, 2016. Email me if you would like me to contact you to see if working together would be right for you.