Why Procrastinate? Close Your Personal Productivity Gap

We know we all have a lot on our plates in both our business and our personal lives. Some of us can handle it all. But some, even the most organized and disciplined among us, can feel scattered and even lost at times. There are so many distractions! But what’s actually getting in the way of us focusing and being more productive?

Do you procrastinate? Procrastination is one habit that steers us off focus and off course. Besides delaying forward progress, an incidental result of occasional or habitual procrastination can be feeling badly about yourself, which in turn causes its own downside issues, impairing your personal productivity and achievement.

How does procrastination manifest in you? Why are you distracted from achieving what you say you want? Are you responding to emails or posting on Facebook instead of focusing on projects you should be working on? Do you visit the kitchen or make a telephone call to avoid doing or completing the task at hand?

Sometimes, we are not sure where we want to start, whether it’s a given day or a given task. Your internal dialogue can sound something like this:

I don’t know what I should begin with. What’s the most important thingWhat can I do right now?

To confront this problem, the first to do is set your Intention.

This means seeing the project that’s in front of you with more clarity; seeing it in its completeness; and seeing exactly what it is that you are going to do in this moment.

If this is a big project, that in itself can be overwhelming and can lead to procrastination or inefficiency in approaching it. Break the project down into smaller action steps. Otherwise, you risk transforming your focus away from the project and toward an obsession such as “Oh my gosh, I have somuch work to do”instead of focusing on the task at hand.

Ask yourself these questions:

What am I looking to accomplish?

Why am I doing this…what’s the purpose?

Then ask What is the “why” to this action?

When you find yourself looking at the whole project, you become clearer on your intention.

Then ask yourself “What’s next?”

For example, one project I am currently working on is writing my book. There is a lot that goes into a book – writing, illustrations, chapter topics and titles, finding a publisher, and so on. It can quickly get overwhelming, so I begin the times when I work on the book by first choosing one task at a time to confront.

I also give myself a time limit for each task. At the beginning I’ll give myself an hour to write down my creative thoughts. Next, maybe another hour to focus on a list of topics for my chapters.

If you cannot focus after setting your intention and answering the questions I’ve suggested above, you may have to get to work to clear out some internal resistance within yourself. Ask yourself, What might be causing me to move away from my effort. Perhaps there are other things pressing you beside the actual task or project itself.

Thus you must balance your focus and consider what the downside would be to getting the task or project done? This is where self-sabotage (getting in our own way) can come in, and if you discover this is what you’re doing, you’ll need to confront the issue.

Whatever the reason for a bout of self-sabotage, realize that it likely lies behind our habitual and sometimes destructive belief—founded or unfounded—in our own limitations.

For example, thinking I never get stuff done is a negative, limiting belief that, like a recorded message, may actually be running in background somewhere inside your head. In that case, put your focus on the positives that will result from accomplishing the task you’re finding troublesome by asking yourself, What will the experience will be like? Then contrast it with what it will be like if you do not accomplish that task. Most often, you’ll quickly find the consequences here are far worse in the short and the long run.

A long-term defense against procrastination and the negative limiting beliefs that often are the causes behind it is simple. Live your life fully. Don’t let limiting beliefs bog you down or stop you from improving your life or your career. Focus on the positive benefits of success. Lose your old negative story and create a new, positive one.

Step out of history and into destiny!

Can You Hear Me Now?

We can and should improve our communication skills. In particular, we have to practice better listening. This is so because it fosters better overall communication. Listening is important for two basic reasons. First, for the listener: the better the listening, the fuller the understanding.  Second, for the speaker, appreciation of being heard, and acknowledged, is valuable on many levels. It is a human need to feel heard and acknowledged. Most of us don’t like it when we recognize that the listener isn’t really listening.

Do you find it upsetting when you’ve told someone the same things several times and they seem to be hearing it for the first time? Are they distracted? Self-focused? Not interested? Whatever the reason, not listening can lead to major miscommunications.  

One part of communication, talking, is taught early on by parents and then in school. As adults, we find there are many opportunities to improve our speaking – so we can become more effective, clearer, and perhaps persuasive.  Listening, however, the other part of communication, is mostly not taught anywhere.

Interestingly the communication skill we use most is listening. Yet, many of us have not really developed this crucial skill.

The average person spends about 80% of their awake-time communicating and more than half of that time is listening. Improving this skill benefits both parties to the conversation.  (Lee and Hatesohl, 2018)

A client once told me he was having communication issues and asked if could I help. We did some role-playing and I determined that his communication process was more a monologue than dialogue. It went like this:

He listened to the first couple of sentences I spoke, and then what was to be a conversation shifted to him mostly speaking.

We then practiced and it looked like this: he spoke and I listened. Then I spoke and he listened. There was more dialogue and interaction, and both more enjoyment and learning from the conversation. Did this take time to do? Yes, lots of practice. Most people ‘listen’ a certain way and have been listening that way for a while. I gave him the tools in order for him to create a healthy conversation style; one without interruption and monologue.

We should understand the difference between “hearing” and “listening.” Hearing is an awareness of a recognized sound. Listening is an ongoing process that involves perception, interpretation, assimilation, association, and reaction. Since listening is an on-going process, here are several steps you can follow:

  • First, you hear the information.
  • Second, select the information on which you want to focus.
  • Third, give the information meaning.
  • Fourth, determine how you feel about it.
  • Fifth, decide how you want to respond; and
  • Lastly, respond. (©Management Concepts)

 

It is also useful to ask questions that provide clarity and sharpen our listening skills. When you ask from a place of genuine curiosity, rather than making assumptions, you build trust.

Finally, listening has three different levels:

Level One: listening is a surface approach and is more self-focused. While the speaker is talking, at a certain point the listener stops listening and begins to think about their response or their thoughts focus so internally they feel they must interrupt because what they have to say is so important it can’t wait. This can leave the speaker feeling discounted. You should be aware of your self-talk (your inner dialogue) and shift your listening back to the speaker as soon as you realize it.

Level Two: listening is also known as laser focused listening. The listener is attentive and focused on the speaker’s content, but not truly “tuned in.” At this level the listener is still listening to respond. The listener isn’t tuned into the feelings and thoughts of the speaker.

Level Three: listening is where “presence” takes place. The listener pays attention to the speaker in order to hear the real content of what the speaker is saying. There is effort to understand the feelings and values behind the speaker’s words. This is a deeper level of listening.  While it is not possible to be at this level all the time, raising your awareness can help you focus in on being as present as possible.

In summary, remove as many distractions as your can; listen to what is being said and what is not being said; summarize what the speaker is communicating; verify and reflect, or restate what is being communicated; and pause and think before you respond to get the desired outcome.

If both parties did these things, all conversations would have sensational outcomes.

Transitions in Life Don’t Have to be Daunting

Here we go again. Just when we thought things wouldn’t change, they did. Change seemingly always happen, despite the many times you heard or said they would not. Like death and taxes, transition in life is a guarantee.

How are you with coping with change?  Do you face new beginning trepidation? How are you with endings?

Throughout the different stages of life – life’s transitions – we all have to face them, deal with them and get through them.

A transition can mean daunting change

Whether you are going through a job change, separation or divorce, a health change, the loss of a loved one, succession planning, change can be daunting. Our brains are wired to resist change, and the majority of us choose to resist even when the change is positive. We like to be in our comfort zones. Staying there is, shall we say, “comfortable!”

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that what you resist persists. While other societies prepare people for change and transitions, we need to do a better job preparing ourselves instead of it feeling like we face a daunting task. Life transitions do not have to be daunting. Know that every transition begins with an ending.

During life’s transitions, it is important that we let go of the old before we pick up the new. Dealing with things both outwardly and inwardly has to occur for a healthy transition period to follow.

Outward changes can be made, such as moving from one home to another, a new job, and new relationships. Inward changes are harder: in the example about moving, we must deal with what comes along with a move, such as our connections to people and familiarity with the new location.

Another example: I’ve been working with people going through life (separation, divorce) and career transitions. People feel they can adequately prepare by having their finances in order, choosing a place where they want to live (outward), and developing new interests (inward). There are challenges along the way that can be eased when we understand a three-phase process of transition.

Three areas of transition

According to William Bridges, author of Transition, Making Sense of Life’s Changes, all transitions involve the following three areas:

  1. An ending;
  2. A neutral zone (where we can go through periods of confusion); and
  3. A new beginning.

Recognizing these will help everyone with change.

Another important element in this area is learning to differentiate between change and transition. It seems these terms are often confused. Change is situational. It is external. For example starting a new job, moving to another city, getting a new boss, experiencing the birth of a baby or the passing of a loved one are all changes.

Transition requires change, but change does not mean transition

transition is an internal process, such as actually accepting or incorporating any of the above.

Transitions take time. Typically people are looking for new beginnings. But they haven’t let go of old situations. Be aware that beginnings and endings come with bumps in the road. Resist being thrown off by those bumps.

Even though you may be heading in a positive new direction, this doesn’t mean that your changing situation will happen without challenges. But remember that they can be managed. Just knowing that is helpful.

As Bridges puts it, “we are not comfortable in the confusing nowhere of in-between and of launching forth again with a new situation.” During transitions, many confusing or disorienting what ifs can and do arise.

Life equals growth

Throughout life we grow. This natural process involves periodic accelerations and transformations. Time goes by and nothing seems to happen. But then we begin to glimpse the signs of change. Change is the new norm. To be healthy today we will have to figure out ways of dealing with change productively.

The process of going through transitions is based on a theory of personal development and not just a manual on how to cope.

Going into a transition with a positive attitude will help with the associated processes of disorientation and reorientation.

Successful transitions can also help with unexpected losses.

According to Bridges,

“we come to identify ourselves with the circumstances of our lives. Who we think we are is partly defined by our roles and relationships, those we like as well as those we don’t…. transitional situations bring this paradox to the surface and force us to look at negative and positive aspects of our life situations.”

While changes and transitions all have their ups and downs, having rituals to work through them seems to help. We all have rituals. They are helpful no matter what change or transition we are going through. But when our lives are in a state of disruption by changes or transitions, there is a resulting feeling of disorientation.

The importance of meaningful rituals

Individuals feel comfortable with things that are familiar and actions that are practiced consistently, particularly when other things around them are changing. Our self-talk (our internal dialogue, the things we say to ourselves) is impacted by change, and reacts by getting louder and faster.

This happens because our ego is doing everything it can to keep us safe and because it doesn’t like change.

The ego likes the status quo. Therefore, another impact on our self-talk is that our status quo ego makes the process of change and transition more challenging.

Some rituals can help us to better cope with change and transition.

For example, I begin my day with meditation, setting my intentions and writing down three things I am grateful for. No matter where I am, I begin my day this way so that I feel centered and grounded. Because I know the impact of self-talk. Having my morning rituals helps make things go more smoothly. Performing my rituals is something I know I can count on, and it always makes me feel better, no matter what is going on in my life.

Since change and transition are a definite part of our lives, what can you do for yourself, what rituals can you perform to make it smoother sailing no matter which way the winds of change and transition may blow?