Procrastination – Litemind https://litemind.com Exploring ways to use our minds efficiently. Mon, 01 Jan 2018 20:43:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Overcoming Procrastination Instantly Using Self Talk https://litemind.com/overcoming-procrastination-self-talk/ https://litemind.com/overcoming-procrastination-self-talk/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2008 17:28:47 +0000 http://litemind.com/?p=57 Changing how we talk to ourselves is the easiest and most powerful way to overcome procrastination. No other method that I know of disarms procrastination so rapidly and at such a fundamental level: that of our own thoughts. The Voices In Our Heads We’re talking to ourselves all the time inside our minds. Even when […]

The post Overcoming Procrastination Instantly Using Self Talk appeared first on Litemind.

]]>
Overcoming Procrastination

Changing how we talk to ourselves is the easiest and most powerful way to overcome procrastination. No other method that I know of disarms procrastination so rapidly and at such a fundamental level: that of our own thoughts.

The Voices In Our Heads

We’re talking to ourselves all the time inside our minds. Even when you’re not paying attention, these relentless mental debates deeply influence our feelings and, ultimately, our behavior.

The good news is that just becoming aware of such mental dialogues — noticing patterns and turning them into productive statements — is usually all you need to overcome many unwelcome feelings and behaviors.

Let’s see how this can help us when it comes to procrastination.

The Procrastinator’s Motto

Consider the following thought, which for sure has crossed our minds many times in the past:

“I have to finish this long, important project. It should already be done by now and I need to plow through it.”

Now, tell me you don’t have this thought sometimes. For me, no other passage embodies our procrastinator’s mind so well: as we’ll see, this small, seemingly innocent thought contains almost every mental block that encourages procrastination. That’s why I like to call it the Procrastinator’s Motto.

We all use the Procrastinator’s Motto (or variations of it) every once in a while. If you’re a chronic procrastinator, chances are you repeat it to yourself very frequently — daily, perhaps.

But what’s so wrong about the Procrastinator’s Motto? In what ways do these words encourage procrastination so much — and what can we do about it?

From Procrastinator to Producer: A Step-by-Step Self Talk Guide

To understand what’s wrong with the Procrastinator’s Motto, let’s break it down in parts:

“(1) I have to (2) finish this (3) long, (4) important project. (5) It should already be done by now and (6) I need to plow through it.”

Now let’s consider each of these six parts in turn, replacing each of them with an empowering alternative. In doing that, we’ll turn the original motto on its head and create a productive call to action: a “Producer’s Motto”, if you like.

1. I Have To → I Choose To

‘I have to’ is every procrastinator’s favorite expression. It’s also the most disempowering.

Every time you say to yourself that you have to do something, you imply that you don’t have any choice. This choice of words implies that you feel forced or coerced to do the task — that you don’t really want to do it. That perception, of course, elicits a strong feeling of victimhood and resistance towards doing the task.

The solution to this problem is to replace ‘I have to’ with the immensely more empowering alternative ‘I choose to’.

Everything you do is ultimately a choice (yes, even completing tax forms). Using language that expresses choice reminds you of that and brings the feeling of power back.

For an in-depth exploration about the ‘I have to’ expression, check this early article dedicated entirely to this matter.

2. Finish → Start

When you focus on finishing something, you direct your attention to a vague, highly idealized future. Visualizing a finished project is motivating for many people, but from the point of view of who’s having a hard time starting a task, visualizing a hard-to-grasp future can be overwhelming — even depressing at times.

The solution in this case, then, is not to focus on finishing, but on starting.

Forget for a minute about the finish line, just concentrate on taking the first step. Bring your focus from the future to what can be done right now. We all know that if you start something a large enough number of times, you’ll eventually finish any task.

Starting — all by itself — is usually sufficient to build enough momentum to keep the ball rolling from then on. This is what Mark Forster calls the “I’ll just get the file out” technique, and it definitely works.

3. Long Project → Short Task

Constantly reminding yourself how long and challenging the upcoming undertaking is only adds to the feeling of being overwhelmed, and thus of procrastination.

Any undertaking, no matter how daunting, can be broken down into small steps. The trick is to, on each step along the way, focus solely on the very next smallest, doable chunk of work. Ignore the big picture for a while and just tackle that next short task.

Make it in a way you can easily visualize the outcome coming about very soon. Don’t write a book; write a page. If it still looks intimidating, you may try committing to a time box instead.

Of course, keep the big picture in mind, but use it for motivation and direction as needed, and not to frighten yourself before action.

4. Important Project → Imperfect Step

“This project has to impress everyone; I really can’t blow this opportunity.”

Placing such high hopes on a project only adds to anxiety and fear of failure. Perfectionism arises and only fuels procrastination even more.

The way to overcome this mental block is to simply give yourself permission to be human. Allow yourself to be imperfect just in this next small task.

Focus on giving an imperfect step; remember that you can always refine your work later. Better yet, make it in a way that you can’t possibly fail.

If you’re a serial perfectionist, go one step further and commit yourself to make a sloppy job on purpose, at least at first.

5. It Should Already Be Done by Now → I’ll Feel Terrific

The expression ‘should‘ is usually associated with blame and guilt. When you say you should be doing something (instead of what you’re actually doing), you focus on comparing an ideal reality with your current, “bad” reality. You focus not on what is, but on what could have been. Misused ‘shoulds‘ can elicit a strong message of failure, depression and regret.

The solution is to focus not on how bad you feel now, but on how good you’ll feel after you take action. Yes, directed action — even the tiniest of it — towards a goal is the best motivator I know of. The trick is to bring that expected feeling of accomplishment into the present — and know that the real joy of it is only a small task away.

6. Need to Plow Through → Have Plenty of Time for Play

“I’ve got to work all weekend”. “I am trapped in this laborious project”.

Long periods of isolation can bring an enormous feeling of resentment. This feeling generates a strong sense of deprivation and resistance towards the task.

The way to overcome this mental block is to not allow long stretches of work to creep in your activities. Schedule frequent breaks. Plan small rewards along the way. Have something to look forward to — not far away at the end of a long stretch — but in the very near feature. When rewards are small, frequent — and deserved — they work wonders.

Truly commit to leisure time. In fact, go ahead and make it mandatory. This “reverse-psychology” can by itself bring you to a whole different mindset, both more productive and enjoyable.

How Far Have We Come?

Time to check what we’ve accomplished with all the word substitutions. We started with:

“I have to finish this long, important project. It should already be done by now and I need to plow through it.”

And ended up with:

“I choose to start this task with a small, imperfect step. I’ll feel terrific and have plenty of time for play!”

Quite a change, eh?

Every time you catch yourself repeating the Procrastinator’s Motto or any of its parts to yourself, stop and rephrase it. Then check how you feel.

While it may seem just a matter of word choices at first, when you try this simple way to reframe your thoughts, you’ll see how instantly it changes your attitude towards working on your tasks. Moreover, if you turn it into a habit, you’ll be slowly reprogramming your thoughts, leading to a positive, permanent change in your mindset.

The whole idea of using self talk to overcome procrastination first came to me first via Neil Fiore‘s great book The Now Habit, from which I learned a great deal.

While the book deals with much more than self talk (self talk is just one of the many chapters, check a summary of the book if you’re interested), that chapter alone made the most profound changes on how I deal with procrastination today.



(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: Overcoming Procrastination Instantly Using Self Talk.

The post Overcoming Procrastination Instantly Using Self Talk appeared first on Litemind.

]]>
https://litemind.com/overcoming-procrastination-self-talk/feed/ 66
The Now Habit https://litemind.com/the-now-habit/ https://litemind.com/the-now-habit/#comments Tue, 20 Nov 2007 15:53:54 +0000 http://litemind.com/the-now-habit/ Since its publication back in 1988, The Now Habit has become well-known among chronic procrastinators looking for ways to overcome this crippling condition, and for very good reasons. Check out this summary with all ideas from this great book.

The post The Now Habit appeared first on Litemind.

]]>
The Now Habit - Mind Map

In this post, I present a mind map with the full summary of the book The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play.

Despite a cover that reminds me of the “remarkable” Windows 3.1 ‘Hot Dog Stand’ color scheme, I don’t have much to say about The Now Habit other than it’s one of the most useful books I’ve ever read.

Since its publication back in 1988, it has become well-known among chronic procrastinators looking for ways to overcome this crippling condition, and for very good reasons.

The Procrastination Habit

As the title of the book suggests, procrastination is a habit — it’s not caused by lack of organization or lack of time management skills. If you’re looking for time management tools as a way to overcome procrastination, I suspect you may be getting yourself just another set of toys to play while you procrastinate.

Back in 2004, when implementing the David Allen’s Getting Things Done method, I fell exactly in that trap: tweaking my to-do lists, installing the latest software on my PDA and clearing my inboxes all worked as perfect excuses to avoid doing what I knew I was supposed to be doing instead!

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of Getting Things Done and other time management methods — they really work for me today. But if you’re caught in the procrastination habit, time management alone won’t have any lasting effect on your unproductive behavior.

That’s why when someone asks for my advice about implementing the Getting Things Done method, I can’t help but recommend Neil Fiore’s The Now Habit, which, at least for me, was the missing piece to make it work.

Book Contents

I intended the mind map below to be as thorough as possible; it doesn’t replace the book, of course, but you can get a pretty good idea of its entire contents. Also, if you already read the book you can use the mind map to quickly refresh it in your my mind at anytime.

The Now Habit  Book

Get the mind map for The Now Habit:

If, on the other hand, you’re interested in checking a summary in a more “conventional format”, there are many great ones floating around on the Internet. To get a quick glance of the tools and methods available in the book, this article in the MineZone Wiki has a bulleted, easy to read summary. Benjamin Ellis of WOWNDADI has also done a terrific job in a chapter-by-chapter summary.



(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: The Now Habit.

The post The Now Habit appeared first on Litemind.

]]>
https://litemind.com/the-now-habit/feed/ 44
Overcoming Procrastination by Avoiding ‘Have To’s https://litemind.com/overcoming-procrastination-have-to/ https://litemind.com/overcoming-procrastination-have-to/#comments Mon, 20 Aug 2007 12:20:51 +0000 http://litemind.com/beat-procrastination-by-getting-rid-of-your-have-tos/ Procrastinators try to force themselves into action by saying they ‘have to’ do some task. Despite the good intentions, this is the worst expression to be used if you want to get motivated into action. Sadly, it's also the most commonly used.

The post Overcoming Procrastination by Avoiding ‘Have To’s appeared first on Litemind.

]]>
Overcoming Procrastination Avoiding 'Have To's

Procrastination is probably the single biggest success killer out there, as it affects everyone to some degree or another.

At first sight, it may seem something simple to get rid of, but telling a chronic procrastinator to just get on with it is like telling a heavy smoker to just stop: it just doesn’t work that way.

Procrastinators usually already know exactly what they should be doing. That’s why typical approaches such as ‘getting organized’ usually don’t work. Of course, there are several tools that do help, but the fact is that procrastination is a complex psychological behavior and, as such, should be tackled at the psychological level first.

Watch Your Language

We engage in mental dialogs with ourselves all the time. Just like when talking to other people, paying attention to how we talk to ourselves is extremely important if you want effective communication.

When procrastinating, we often talk to ourselves like this:

  • “I have to go to the dentist.”
  • “I have to fill my tax forms.”

Procrastinators try to force themselves into action by saying they ‘have to’ do some task. Despite the good intentions, this is the worst expression to be used if you want to get motivated into action. Sadly, it is also the most commonly used.

Why ‘Have To’ Is So Bad?

1. You Send Disempowering Messages to Yourself

When you say to yourself that you have to do something, there are many implicit messages that go along with it, such as:

  • "I don’t want to do it."
  • "They’re making me do it."
  • "I have to do it… or else!”

These subliminal messages generate negative feelings such as stress, victimhood, resistance and confusion – all of them draining valuable energy from your brain.

2. You Put Yourself in a No-Win Situation

When facing a task you have to do, there are only two possible outcomes.

If you don’t do the task, you will be somehow punished by the environment or at least just by your own conscience. On the other hand, if you end up doing the task, you have the feeling you are making something against your will.

3. You Engage in Non-Productive Dialog

The ‘have to’ script is a behavior learned in your childhood. At that time, you had other people deciding most of your life for you – and in many occasions, the best explanation given when you argued was just “because you have to” – creating anger and frustration.

Now you just repeat those conversations, but playing both roles at once: the authoritarian and the victim. That just serves to drain your energy and drive your attention away from the task.

The Power of Choice

Procrastinators usually try to avoid the negative responses above by telling themselves they “just need more discipline”. That statement only makes things even worse – as it reinforces the fact that they don’t really want to do the task. We should use a different approach instead.

Be honest with yourself. Do you really have to go to dentist? Do you really have to fill your tax forms?

No, you don’t.

Deep inside, you know it’s your choice. You are the one deciding against having rotten teeth. You are the one deciding against having trouble with the government. It’s obvious, but we often forget about it.

So, next time you catch yourself using ‘ I have to’ in your thoughts, just try this instead:

  • “I choose to go the dentist.”
  • “I choose to file my tax return.”

By using this empowering alternative, you show total control of the situation. By rephrasing your thoughts using choices, you take your focus away from the work involved in the task and put your attention back on the benefits and reasons why you are doing it.

Just contrast these two statements, with their implicit explanations that your brain inevitably fills out for you:

  • “I have to go to the dentist (…and because of that I won’t be doing something fun instead).”
  • “I choose to go to the dentist (…and because of that I will have even healthier teeth).”

Suddenly you forget about the negative emotions associated with the dread of the task, and start enjoying the positive emotions associated with its outcome. You focus more on the solution than on the problem. And that alone often brings you back the motivation to immediately tackle the task.

You will also reclaim the energy you were wasting by your old thought pattern and channel it back entirely into the task at hand.

This simple word substitution sounds almost too simplistic to work. But it’s amazing how it can alone break a long chain of negative and repetitive behavior. When it comes to overcoming procrastination, it all starts by being in the right state of mind.

What If I Still Don’t Want to Do the Task?

If even after using this technique you still don’t feel like doing the task, this may be a hint that you shouldn’t bother doing it at all.

Remember, now you’re dealing with a legitimate choice. Using ‘I choose…’ is not just mind trickery – you do really have the power to decide. If you end up deciding by not doing the task – so be it, then!

Live the consequences, move on and don’t worry about it anymore.



(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: Overcoming Procrastination by Avoiding ‘Have To’s.

The post Overcoming Procrastination by Avoiding ‘Have To’s appeared first on Litemind.

]]>
https://litemind.com/overcoming-procrastination-have-to/feed/ 20