Category Archives: Following Through

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.

Make Change a Commitment

In January’s newsletter, I briefly summarized the 10 Joy of Getting Things Done Tools that can help you  succeed with your goals, such as New Year’s Resolutions.  This month I will go into detail about Tool #5, Make it a Commitment.

What is a commitment?  It’s something that you plan 100% to follow through on, that you’ll do despite adversity and hard times.  You make a commitment when you sign that mortgage agreement or when you have a child.  During your wedding vows, you say “I will,” not “I’ll try.”

Abraham Lincoln said it best: “Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality. It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions. And the actions which speak louder than the words.  It is making the time when there is none. Coming through time after time after time, year after year after year.  Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things.  It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.”

When you want to make it a change, it takes a commitment.  It’s something that you’ll do even when the going gets tough.  If everything doesn’t go as planned, you’ll stop, take stock, regroup, and forge ahead.  If you know ahead that things might go awry, you create a contingency plan.  But if you’ve really made a commitment, you’re going to find a way to follow through.

Having supportive friends, and telling them your plan can really help you keep your commitment.  Traditionally, the reason that weddings are attended by friends and family is so that they can both witness the commitment the couple is making, and support them when the going gets rough, as it inevitably does even in the best of marriages.

Similarly when you make a commitment to change, have it witnessed by a group or by at least one supportive person.  When the going gets rough, that person or group can help you see it through.  Create or join a support group, or hire a professional like a personal trainer or a life coach.

One thing to remember, when you make your commitment, make it specific.  Make it realistic, and decide exactly what you are going to do, how much you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and how your support people will know.  Specific, measurable commitments are the most effective.  And you don’t have to start with something big; it is far better to commit to something, no matter how small, that you know you will absolutely do.  Better to commit to walking for 5 minutes and actually doing it than committing to walking for 5 miles and never getting out the door.