Is Your Style of Procrastination Working For You?

I bet you thought I was going to curse procrastination in this blog. Au contraire!  Not all procrastination is bad. As a matter of fact, putting off a major undertaking may give you time to consider the risks. On the other hand, you may have a style of procrastination that works very well for you. According to Mary Lamia in her book What Motivates Getting Things Done, procrastination is a problem when styles collide or when the deadlines are missed or met with unreasonable stress.

Before I talk about different styles of procrastination, let’s clarify the difference between good and bad stress. Good stress is excitement or intense curiosity, like the jitters you may experience before doing a talk. Bad stress is anxiety provoking, panicky, self-sabotaging and physiologically unhealthy for us and those around us.

Lamia distinguishes between Deadline-Driven and Task-Driven procrastination styles, DDPs and TDPs respectively. DDPs note the deadline and begin mentally planning the task in spurts without taking any overt action. They may let the idea incubate for several days and weeks. Come the last day, it all comes together. Many successful DDPs report a surge of “good stress” and a heightened state of focus within hours of the deadline. They often deliver their best work under pressure. If you’re DDP, and the fallout doesn’t take a toll on your health or the well-being of those around you, it’s a safe and effective strategy, so go with it.

TDPs will start tasks almost immediately, but not complete the tasks until later. They may be perfectionistic and postpone task completion until it meets a high level of quality. These folks have a hard time being satisfied with “good enough.” Yet the successful TDPs will manage many tasks at once and eventually meet their deadlines with a minimal amount of bad stress.

Since procrastination, the bad stress variety, is such a common complaint, I find it easier to help my clients become more efficient within a style that suits them versus trying to switch horses. It’s also good advice to share your style for meeting deadlines with co-workers and partners, as both styles can be unnerving to the non-procrastinator.

Would you like to make your style of procrastination more efficient or rid yourself of procrastination for good? Happy to help! Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com        

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The (10 +2) x5 Rule?

A February 2017 Inc. Magazine article by Dan Scalco titled Four Ways to Stop Procrastinating Right Now provided some helpful tips for managing procrastination such as creating false (earlier) deadlines, donating $5 to a charity for every hour you waste, and moving tasks to the afternoon if you idled away your morning. His first suggestion, however, was the (10 +2)x 5 rule.  This process reportedly makes a work task “less intimidating.” The (10 +2)x 5 rule goes like this: do 10 minutes of focused work with a 2 minute break and to repeat this interval 5 times which results in 50 minutes of work. The (10 +2)x 5 rule will keep you on your toes, but it is flawed.

This rule feeds your distractible nature and discourages concentration on a task. The (10+2) x5 rule may come in handy for folding laundry or doing yard work, but not for work that requires analysis, processing, or integration of complex information. Here’s why:

  • As clock ticks closer to minute #8 there’s the tendency to start looking forward to the break or rushing the work to beat the clock, again wasting time.
  • If most of your work involves the computer, your 2 minute break will likely be spent on the Internet or on your phone (Good luck keeping those breaks to 2 minutes!).

The (10+2) x5 rule also assumes that you will make nice, clean transitions from the break to the task. Unfortunately, research shows that your brain will continue to reflect on the entertainment from break time for at least a few minutes before you can steer your concentration to the task. Therefore, if you factor in transition time, time needed to re-engage in the task, and time anticipating your break you may end up flipping those numbers – it’s more like 2 minutes of work and 10 minutes or more of break time!

A better system is to keep your phone and any other controllable distraction in another room. Allocate 30 minutes of work and 5-10 minutes of a break. Do that interval 5x and you’ll get close to a good 2 hours of work. Make your breaks screen-less – a brisk walk or some stairs will make the mental transition time shorter. Physical exercise will help you process the portion of the task you just completed, improve your focus and your attitude about the task you’re trying to complete. This (30+10)x5 is much more productive way to get things done.

Just as there are different brains, there are different ways to avoid procrastination. To learn more and to come up with a system that works for you, contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com                   

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“After the holidays…” Seriously?

Attention: Self-starters! Yes, you with projects on the table − this “after the holidays” excuse ranks Number One on the Procrastination leader board. It’s getting old, and it’s obsolete. It worked well before online shopping, when writing Christmas cards took two full evenings to complete, and when you felt compelled to write those long-winded, egocentric letters telling people about your fabulous year. Come on. You’re going to hold off doing anything productive until “after the holidays?” It’s almost laughable.

Friends, the holidays are a great time to hunker down away from distraction and get work done. You can still have family time and take a few days to hit the Mall, the slopes or the beach, but to postpone your personal and business progress because of the holidays is slacker-speak!

Two more reasons I cringe when I hear this refrain (my older clients know not to utter that phrase in my presence)  is that the holiday excuse gives people license to fudge on the habits or disciplines they’ve cultivated over the last couple months. Those nascent circuits (more productive behaviors and habits) trying to get a foothold in your brain start to break down. After a week or so of letting your efforts slide, you’ll have to start from square one again!  The other problem with this excuse is that after the holidays it takes days, and for some weeks, to get back into the swing of things.

Here’s how I follow my own advice: I’m 100% family on Christmas Day and the first night of Hanukah. Then I take a holiday week and go ski. I ski from 8:00a.m to 3:00p.m., followed by an hour of après-ski until 4:00. By 4:30 I’m back in my room writing, researching, responding to emails and checking in with my clients. Other family members have a separate room so my husband and I can work distraction free. Come 7:00 it’s dinner− quality,guilt-free time to focus on my family.

So, go ahead and carve out some hours of fun and relaxation with your family, but figure out how you can keep honing those new skills and routines you’ve started. After that first week in January, you’ll emerge on schedule and ahead of the game compared to others who are just getting over the holidays.

If you want to get started building your core skills and routines before or during the holidays – don’t delay. Visit www.MindfulCommunication.com or write me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com and we’ll get going!

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A Down Day? “GOOD!” says Jocko Willink

Are you a fair weather worker? Can you only be productive when the sun is shining? I have many clients who dread a gray, overcast day. Perhaps there are other gloomy things going on in your life – oversights, lost opportunities or rejection?

Here in West Newbury it’s 29 degrees and cloudy. As I get older, I find my moods are tainted by the weather too. Living out here in the countryside the weather is right in my face big time; no tall buildings to obscure the truth.  It’s my challenge then to open doors, make the calls, send those emails, write a chapter or two for my manuscript and do my workout. So, when I look outside and see the fog and drizzle, before I let the weather color my world, I follow the advice of Jocko Willink, a retired Navy Seal Officer, author of the awesome Discipline Equals Freedom — I proclaim a loud, resounding “GOOD!” I feel an immediate physiological change – I feel taller, lifted, I’m smiling and ready to take action. If you shout “BAD” instead, notice how terrible that feels! Language is very powerful in this way.

So, when things aren’t going so well, when you feel frustrated or overwhelmed shout  “GOOD! Now, let me take a step back and see how to solve this situation.”  This moves you right to problem solving mode before you slip into the slow, low doldrums of hopelessness. Speak aloud your solutions and intentions of the day too! Turn that bad mood on its head. Got it? GOOD!

What do you think? Try it out and let me know! Together, let’s power up your Core for 2018! Read about my Core Four Coaching at www.MindfulCommunication.com

 

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Four Points for Follow Through

Whenever I feel like stalling on a project, telling myself that I have plenty of time to finish it, or that today is not a good day for that sort of thing, I consider four points:

  1. the value I place on the project (respect, money, time-sensitivity, etc)
  2. the outcome I need to produce; what does “good enough or “near-perfect ” look like?
  3. how lousy I’ll feel if an emergency pops up that stalls this project even more, and
  4. the satisfaction I’ll experience when it’s completed.

As you approach the New Year, take a look at what project or projects you have in queue and consider these four points. Take your highest value project and parse out the steps needed to complete it, or to make greater headway on it, over the next 2-3 weeks. Schedule a reasonable amount of time every day to put in some effort toward this valuable project. It may be 15 minutes, it may be 2 or more hours a day, but consistent attention to it will bring you closer to the finish line.

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