Category Archives: Focus

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.

Keeping Those New Year’s Resolutions

10 Tools To Help You Follow Through

According to a University of Rhode Island study, 33 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions have given them up after the first week. By the end of the first month, 45 percent have dropped out, and by the end of six months, that number has risen to 60 percent. Two years down the road, when a resolution should be firmly entrenched as a part of life, only 19 percent have achieved success. That is an 81 percent failure rate!

What makes the chances of successful change so dismal? The main problem is that people don’t know how to put systems into place that will increase those changes of success. If you’ve ever come to one of my presentations, you’ve learned about my “Joy of Getting Things Toolbox” which consists of ten tools for getting those systems in place. Although I will go into more detail in upcoming newsletters about each of these tools, here they are in a nutshell:

Tool #1: Use a timer or some objective measure. Decide ahead of time upon a specific amount to accomplish in a sitting. This makes getting started less daunting.

Tool #2: Start small. If you are trying to incorporate a new habit into your life, starting small and building up slowly can make the difference between success and failure.

Tool #3: Break it down. Always look for a way to “divide and conquer” a huge project.

Tool #4: Make your decision ahead of time. We tend not to make good decisions in the moment when it’s time to do something we’re avoiding. So at least a day before, decide exactly what you are going to do and exactly when you are going to do it. When the time comes, the decision is already made.

Tool #5: Make it a commitment. When you decide to do something, tell a number of people exactly what you want to accomplish and exactly when you are going to do it, and ask them to follow up with you to make sure you did it. The more people you tell, the better your chance for success!

Tool #6: Make it part of an existing routine. Think of something you do regularly. Then couple a new activity with that existing routine, by doing the new activity either directly before or after the existing routine.

Tool #7: Deal with distractions. When you are just about to dig into an important piece of work, modify your environment before you start to minimize distractions.

Tool #8: Reward yourself. Use something you enjoy on a regular basis as a reward for doing something that is difficult or that you are avoiding. Or pick something special you want, and give it to yourself after you’ve made it through that daunting project.

Tool #9: Identify your personal black holes. Most of us have an activity that sucks us in, that once we start, we just can’t seem to stop doing it. Either avoid these activities or use them as a reward for accomplishing something positive.

Tool #10: Get support. Serious change is hard to do without the support of others. This can really make the difference between success and failure, especially when it comes to the maintenance phase of the change.

A complete description of each of these tools, including exercises to help you use them for real change, can be found in my book, The Joy of Getting It Done, available on my website, at the Book Oasis in Stoneham, MA, on Amazon.com and on BarnesandNoble.com.

Are You Just Moving Rocks?

Fred decided it was time to get some hard work done. He had a big pile of rocks in his front yard, which he spent the morning moving to the back yard. He worked quickly to get it all done before noon. After lunch, he spent the afternoon moving the rocks back to their original spot. At the end of the day, he was tired but happy, feeling good about how hard he had worked.

Fred was clearly fooling himself about what he had accomplished – which amounted to exactly nothing. Like Fred, we too can tell ourselves that we did a lot of work all day, when what we really did was a lot of busy-work to avoid the tasks we need to be working on but don’t want to do. Sometimes we spend the day doing low-priority items, crossing them off the to-do list and congratulating ourselves on how many things we did. However in our heart, we know we aren’t doing the important stuff.

There are many reasons we fool ourselves this way. Often the main reason is that we haven’t sat down to think about why we are avoiding the important things. Some of the most common reasons include:

The project is overwhelmingly big – Instead of tackling the entire project, make a list of the separate steps it will take to complete. Concentrate on one step at a time.

The project is overwhelmingly distasteful – Is it something you can hire someone to do? Or, do you have a friend that you can work on it with? Sometimes just having a friend nearby, not even working on it with you, can make it feel a lot less daunting.

You need some accountability – Is there someone you can report your progress to? I recently had a client call me every hour throughout the day to report what she had accomplished the previous hour and what she was going to do in the next hour. It was an amazingly productive day for her. The calls were only 2 minutes long. Don’t start moving rocks by chatting about other “important” things when you check in.

You want to make it perfect – Many a project never gets done because you want to make sure that it is done perfectly. Next time perfectionism is holding you back, remember, “Done is better than perfect.”

Moving rocks can give you a good cardiovascular and strength workout, but other than that, it only provides the illusion of productivity. If you find you are rationalizing what you are doing, then it’s probably time to have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Be honest with yourself. Are you really getting things done, or are you just moving rocks?