Tag Archives: procrastination

Change Your Thoughts, Stop Procrastinating!

Victory over procrastination is possible. I speak from recent experience. This past weekend the weather was warm enough to work outside. It was a perfect time to offer to help my neighbor prune a grape vine that was threatening to engulf his forsythia. Why would I want to do that? The forsythia bush is in my direct line of sight from my kitchen window. Watching that vine overtake that lovely forsythia was very disturbing to me, bad feng shui! I didn’t want to face another season of observing the forsythia succumb to an out-of-control weed.

When I returned from doing errands and considered what to do next, I contemplated the task of tearing out the grape vine. Immediately my brain began to formulate excuses for not doing it:

  • It would be boring.
  • It would be overwhelming.
  • I would get dirty.
  • I could encounter poison ivy.
  • I hate making phone calls (I needed to call my neighbor).

As I processed each thought I noted that my energy and enthusiasm for tackling the task diminished. Fortunately I recognized the familiar voice of the way I procrastinate and chose to stop those thoughts mid-stream. In their place I thought of reasons why it was important that I offer to help my neighbor evict the grapevines that day:

  • The branches and vines are completely visible now before new growth appears. In a few weeks the job will be much harder to do, much easier to procrastinate doing, and would probably not get done.
  • The weather is warm for February (60’s F). Not too cold and not too hot.
  • My house cleaner is in my house, so it is not completely comfortable to be there.
  • I enjoy yard work and always feel better physically after doing it.

It was the perfect time to go to battle with the grapevines! My hibernating winter self wanted to resist the call to go outside and do the task. However, weighing my excuses against the importance of getting the job done right away, because it would be easier to do and weather conditions were ideal, I picked up the phone. As the phone rang I wondered if  my neighbor would be up for the chore. He could decline my offer and that would be that. He answered, and after a pause (probably doing battle with his own reluctance to leave the comfort of his arm chair), agreed to accept my help.

The result: the task took much less time to do than I thought it would, especially with two of us doing it; we cut out the offending vine that I now know came from just a single root; I cut out and put an herbicide on the poison ivy I found; I now know where the poison ivy vines originate, so I know where to continue to apply herbicide; I cut back the forsythia that had spread into my garden; I enjoyed and was energized by the process of rescuing the forsythia and working outside, and, I now love the view from my kitchen.

What thoughts block you from taking action on important tasks? Change them and take action!

Income Tax Prep Without Procrastination

Do you dread getting ready for taxes? If you have a paper clutter nightmare to address in order

Don’t let paper clutter keep you from getting your taxes done!

to gather together the papers you need to complete your taxes, the task of getting ready for taxes can feel very heavy. For those of you with ADHD, it ranks right up there as not only a very heavy task, because keeping your papers organized is not your strong suit, but also as a VERY boring task. If you fear of the IRS or find the task anxiety provoking and too complex to face, this time of year is also much dreaded.

Procrastinating tax prep is very common. If you identify with scenarios above, I highly recommend you invest in support to get the task done. It will be money well spent!

Support can be asking a friend or family member to be with you while you gather your papers together. Or, it can be hiring a professional organizer to help you complete the task. An organizer will get the job done about four times faster than you could do it yourself. Plus, being in the presence of the organizer, a productivity and paper-sorting expert, will make the job seem far less daunting.

With the support of a knowledgeable, caring person you will find it much easier to manage feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, embarrassment or shame, common feelings that emerge at a time like this. The whole process becomes more of a social event than a dreaded task.

I help one of my ADHD clients find and organize the papers she needs to submit to her accountant every year. We’ve been doing it for 10 years or more. Together it only takes about 30 minutes at most to gather all the information she needs. She is then ready to submit her information to her accountant or knows exactly what to do to acquire any remaining documentation. If we didn’t tackle her taxes together she could easily procrastinate doing the chore right up to the deadline.

If taxes are your nemesis, a task associated with high anxiety, embarrassment or shame, get help! Gift yourself with the peace of mind that comes from getting that important yet dreaded task done. 

SPECIAL OFFER!!! Contact me at 804-730-4991 by April 15 to receive 25% off the cost of two hours of hands-on paper clutter clearing and organizing to get ready for taxes.

Procrastination: Normal vs. Problematic

Not all procrastination is created equal. We all procrastinate, probably every day. It is very normal to put off doing tasks for a variety of reasons: you don’t feel like doing the task; you’d rather do something else; the task will take longer than the time available; you don’t have enough mental energy for the task; the task is too hard to do on your own; the task is not the most important thing to do at the moment, etc. The list goes on and on.

It is normal to procrastinate. You can’t do everything at once. You must make choices about how to use your time and energy. I might put off taking the garbage out tonight or put off taking suitcases to the attic. If I wait to do those tasks for a day or two, there will only be a minor inconvenience. That is what I call “normal” procrastination.

If those tasks are not accomplished for a week, and other tasks are put off as well, what began as minor visual and perhaps olfactory disturbances could grow into a more serious problem, one that will take much more time and energy to address. What started as normal procrastination then becomes “problematic” procrastination.

Normal procrastination is usually short-term, involves small, less important tasks, and results in few serious consequences. It becomes problematic procrastination when small tasks are postponed more frequently and for longer periods of time or when important tasks (e.g. those that affect finances, job, relationships, health) are put off to the point of crisis. The price for problematic procrastination can be very high — loss of reputation, job difficulties or loss, relationships challenges or divorce, deterioration or loss of residence, financial difficulties (problems with the IRS, bankruptcy, ruined credit), and health deterioration to name a few.

We all procrastinate. Do you procrastinate in a way that has no serious consequences or does it lead to challenges in many areas of your life? If you would describe your procrastination as problematic, your procrastination could be caused by ADHD. ADHD is a mechanical problem in the brain whose symptoms include difficulty with starting tasks (procrastinating), particularly those that are boring and uninteresting.

If you have ADHD or think you have it, treatment for the disorder can help you procrastinate less and get more done. Schedule a FREE 30-60 minute Back on Track phone coaching session today to discuss your procrastination challenges and options for help to procrastinate less and be more productive.

Procrastination = Attempt to Feel Good Now

I’ve been reading articles on procrastination to prepare for speeches I

Who is winning?

Who is winning?

will give in March 2017. I was particularly fascinated by “Procrastination: A Scientific Guide on How to Stop Procrastinating,” an article by James Clear, which suggests that procrastination is a result of our present and future selves being at odds with each other.

Our future self plans and sets goals. It can see the benefit of taking actions with long-term benefits. Our present self is actually responsible for taking action. And, guess what? It really likes instant gratification. It seeks pleasure in the moment and tends to make choices to avoid discomfort, thus is likely to procrastinate tasks that could cause discomfort in the moment.

Clear says that we value long-term benefits when they are in the future, not in the present moment. You can vow to go to the gym to get it shape and lose weight when you set your annual goals. Getting in shape and losing weight are in the future. Having to go to the gym or stop eating ice cream, tasks that are necessary to achieve your goal, are in the present. It’s easy to lose sight of those laudable future goals when your bed feels so warm and comfortable in the morning or you have a tasty treat in front of you. Thus you procrastinate getting regular exercise and making healthy food choices.

According to Clear, your present self is not likely to be motivated to avoid long term consequences because we aren’t connected to our future selves. That self seems so far away and impervious to current benefits and consequences of actions taken today.

One answer to the future/present self conflict offered by Clear is to make the rewards of taking action with long-term benefits more immediate. When the benefits of long-term choices are more immediate, you will be more motivated take action now.

Clear suggests that you can achieve this with “temptation bundling,” a concept that came out of behavioral economics research performed by Katy Milkman at The University of Pennsylvania. Temptation bundling involves combining a behavior that is good for you in the long-run with a behavior that feels good in the short-run. Some of his examples include: only listen to audiobooks or podcasts you love while exercising; only get a pedicure while processing overdue work emails.

Clear’s information offers a very plausible explanation for why so many people have great difficulty starting and sustaining an exercise program, losing weight, and accomplishing many long-term goals despite the best of intentions. Is your present self running the show? Is the result undue stress and failure to accomplish important business and life goals?

Task Inflation Procrastination

I’m writing a speech on procrastination. I procrastinate. We all do to15873280_10208316588022928_397351164930254615_n varying degrees. As I’ve watched myself, my husband, and my clients procrastinate, I’ve learned that there are different reasons for procrastination. I thought I’d heard them all until today when a coaching client spoke of what was keeping her from completing a task that was not difficult or even time consuming to do.

I’ve known for some time that my ADHD clients can paralyze themselves by looking at the whole task to be done instead of focusing on the next step to take in the completion of a task. I call it the “looking at the forest instead of the trees” problem. It happens when the enormity of a task shuts down mental processes. It’s a very common cause for procrastination. It can be addressed by breaking a task into a series of smaller steps (eat an elephant one bite at a time) and taking one step at a time. If you do that you can avoid shutting down your brain and keep making progress. 

What I hadn’t heard before was procrastination caused by viewing a task as too overwhelming because you’ve added a much larger task onto a smaller task. In this case my client needed to complete putting Christmas decorations away in order to reclaim her dining room. That task would normally have taken 30-45 minutes to complete if she simply put things the decorations where they belong.

However, in my client’s mind the “Christmas decoration task” became connected to the “organize the garage” task. She saw putting the Christmas decorations away as an opportunity to also tackle organizing her garage since that’s where the decorations are stored. Those two tasks were then glued together in her thinking.

In her mind the task was no longer a 30-45 minute, fairly simple task. It had become a time-consuming, complicated task that could take hours and perhaps several days to complete alone.  Putting the Christmas decorations away was just a minor part of that big task.

Because putting the Christmas decorations away had ballooned into a garage reorganization project, it became so big that the “looking at the forest” problem kicked in and led to procrastination. What is exciting about the coaching process is that we had the opportunity to unearth the block that kept my client from completing the task.

As we talked and explored her reluctance to finish putting Christmas decorations away, she became aware that she was thinking of the Christmas decoration cleanup as part of the much larger garage organizing task. That awareness helped her realize that her expectation that she reorganize the whole garage at the same time that she put away Christmas decorations was keeping her stuck. She was then able to consider ways to disconnect the garage reorganization project from the Christmas cleanup so she could finally be done with Christmas.

Look at some of the tasks you are avoiding. Are you stuck because you’ve made a simple task into a much more complicated project in your mind? If so, you too have the option to change your mind to get unstuck and moving.

If procrastination is a recurring problem for you, coaching is a great way to make changes necessary to reduce procrastination. I offer a free 30-60 minute Back On Track phone coaching consultation for anyone who wants to experience coaching first hand and explore options for addressing challenges that interfere with their productivity. Start your New Year on the right track! Schedule a free coaching consultation now! 

Christmas Prep Procrastination

What’s blocking you from putting up your Christmas decorations and buying Christmas

Christmas decorationgifts? Here are some common blocks:

  • an overcommitted schedule
    • feelings of overwhelm at all that must be done
    • dislike of the process of decorating
    • dislike of the process of gift purchasing, wrapping and mailing
    • feelings of sadness over losses — the death of a loved one, the death of a marriage, the end of a way of being due to life changing events like death or divorce
    • a reluctance to ask for help when you are not physically able to do the above tasks
    • a belief that the season is too commercial
    • a belief that there is more to do than can be done
    • finding no value in the holiday season
    • a family crisis
    • resistance to the expectations of others
    • too much clutter that blocks motivation and action

There are probably many more reasons that  people procrastinate preparing for the holidays. Blocks are as personal as physical appearance.

What’s blocking you from taking action to make your holidays happy days? Awareness is the first step to removing a block. For example, once you realize that your overcommitted schedule is making it difficult to get your house decorated or gifts purchased, you can eliminate optional meetings and tasks. Or, if you dislike or get overwhelmed by any part of the process, you can ask for help from family members and friends. After all, ’tis the season to be giving.”

Remember, what you do at Christmas is a choice. Choose to take actions you enjoy instead of staying stuck in procrastination. That is a recipe for peace and joy!

Change Your Thoughts, Procrastinate Less

Procrastination is a choice fueled by convincing thoughts. I became fully aware of this recently

When a task seems too big, take your focus off the forest and start with a tree!

When a task seems too big, take your focus off the forest and start with a tree!

when a coaching client told me that in her effort to procrastinate less she’d begun to watch her thoughts prior to procrastinating. 

As expected, certain thoughts showed up time and time again. Her thought repertoire included: I’m too tired; it will take too long to do; I don’t know how to do this; I don’t want to waste time trying to figure out how to do this; it’s too big; and I probably won’t finish it anyway. Sound familiar? 

Did you notice the energy of those words? Primarily negative and energy draining. Of course you are going to procrastinate if limiting thoughts and beliefs predominate! Negative thoughts breed stagnation.

Becoming aware of your procrastination thoughts is the first step to reducing procrastination. What are your procrastination thoughts? Once you recognize the thoughts that lead to procrastination, you can counter those negative thoughts with a dose of reality and with positive thoughts that encourage taking action. Following are some examples.

Countering Procrastination Thoughts

“I’m too tired.”

Dose of reality: Who hasn’t used this thought to put off sorting mail, starting a new project, etc.! The truth is that intentionally taking action to accomplish any task can give you energy. When you are not taking action, your energy stagnates. When you step into action, you break the stagnation and free energy that is available is then available to you.

More helpful thoughts: “Am I really tired or am I procrastinating?” “I can always take one step.”

“I don’t know how to do this.”

Dose of reality: It’s amazing how long this thought will keep people stuck. You may not know how to do the task, but I’ll bet you know someone who does know how to do it. Or, you probably are capable of seeking out resources to help you accomplish the task. What if you ignored that shut down message and spent a few minutes considering what needs to be done? Perhaps you might even be able to figure it out on your own. 

More helpful thoughts: “I may not know how to do it, but I can ask for help.” “ I have been successful figuring things out in the past. I can do it now.”

“It’s too big.”

Dose of reality: This statement reflects shut down due to overwhelm. Some people can only see the forest, not the trees. The forest is daunting. A single tree is manageable. Any task can be broken down into small steps if you take your eyes off the forest and look at the trees that make up the forest. If you take a tree (small step) at a time, you can get a big task done. Some tasks really are to big to tackle on your own. That’s when it’s time to ask for help.

More helpful thoughts: “This task is too big to do all at once. I can do it one step at a time.” “I can do this task with help from _____________ .

Watch your thoughts! Notice which thoughts keep you procrastinating. Look for and use new positive thoughts to motivate you to get unstuck and moving in the direction you want to go. As you procrastinate less often, you’ll feel the weight of procrastinated tasks lift, you’ll be more productive, and your self-esteem will grow.

ADD/ADHD and Procrastination

“I’ll do it later” is the mantra of many an ADD/ADHD client. Postponing action is a habit. At the time they say they’ll do it later they may fully intend to do it. But, because time is fluid for people with ADD/ADHD brain wiring, no particular time is set to do it, and often the task vanishes from awareness. “I’ll do it later” is a process that can build a nightmare of incomplete actions on a desk and or a brain packed to the brim with to do items of varying importance. Either state can lead to overwhelm and paralysis.

144What’s the “I’ll do it later” mantra all about? People with ADD/ADHD have executive function deficits that make decision-making, consistently engaging in action and completing tasks difficult. Their frontal lobes are under-stimulated. Urgency and bling (things that are new, exciting or crisis-driven) motivate them to act. The “I’ll do it later” tasks typically are those that have no urgency, or are boring or overwhelming. They don’t hold enough emotional charge to ignite the frontal lobe of the person with the brain-based disorder of ADD/ADHD. So, non-urgent tasks are set aside until some type of urgent need brings them back into focus. Postponing tasks until they absolutely have to be done is a way to create urgency, to create the condition that the brain needs to engage. 

Last week I was helping a client pay his bills and manage the paper flowing across his desk. As we worked he set aside two folders of bills to review. “I’ll do it later,” he said. He has ADD. I wondered if he would remember to do the task and be able to accomplish it alone. Since it had been delegated to the amorphous “later” category, I feared it would slip from awareness.

When I returned a week later, the folders were still there. He may have lost sight of the folders in his busyness. Or, looking at the reality of money flowing out of his company may have been an overwhelming task he’d rather avoid doing. Completing the task also required a kind of focus that is difficult for people with ADD, especially an emotionally charged task like reviewing bills.

When I returned this week to find my client’s desk overflowing with paper plus those folders I suggested he review them while I was working beside him. In my company, with my support, he was able to focus and complete the task. My being there provided the stimulation his frontal lobe needed to be able to As soon as they were off the desk he was able to get traction on other actions he needed to take. He was able to get re-organized.

The lesson? If you have ADD/ADHD, know that “I’ll do it later” really means “My brain is not up for this now” or “I don’t want to deal with this now because it’s too boring, overwhelming, etc.” It is also a good way to plant the seeds of negative energy. Tasks that are incomplete, especially those that you tend to avoid doing, are sources of negative energy. That energy becomes a block to being able to complete other tasks. You may not be conscious of the negative energy blocks you’re building, but their energy keeps you distracted and feeling lost in having too much to do. The energy of those “I’ll do it later” tasks gets more overwhelming with time, making them even harder to face and complete.

Most professional organizers advise “do it now!” But, that can be hard for people with ADD, especially for those boring, overwhelming tasks. Tasks like that are best done in the presence of or with the help of a supportive other. “I’ll do it later” can then become “I’ll do it with Debbie” (or some other person). Listen for your own “I’ll do it later” tasks with curiosity. What tasks do you postpone? Which ones can you make yourself do now? And, which ones are best done it support?  

Remember, “I’ll do it later” is not your friend!

Procrastination’s Cure: Awareness & Support

Are you dragging your feet about getting a task done? What’s the barrier to forward movement?

What blocks your from taking action?

A few years ago I was dragging my feet about taking action to begin the legwork to shift my business from a hands-on organizing/feng shui model to a coaching/writing model with hands-on organizing and feng shui as components of coaching and writing. I was committed to the shift, but could not make myself take steps to move forward to put my vision into reality. My plan was to offer my services as a coach who can move clients from stuck to moving and then thriving. And, there I was. Stuck!

By chance while on a road trip with my husband I told him that I was considering experimenting with group coaching as an alternative way to offer coaching to people who can’t afford one on one coaching. My husband is a therapist, so I asked him to describe how he ran group counseling groups, thinking that perhaps that information could help me develop a group coaching process. I was delighted to discover that there is a distinct possibility that the group counseling process could work for group coaching.

As we talked, I noticed that my energy level around jumping into action to integrate coaching in my business skyrocketed. It was such fun to explore the possibilities of group coaching, to consider doing more than one on one coaching. With that conversation the prospect of integrating coaching into my business shifted from a scary, daunting task to a creative opportunity.

I had been stuck because something about the task at hand wasn’t motivating. The thought of doing just one on one coaching as the main activity in my business did not float my boat. I was trying to get started on creating something that wasn’t quite the right fit for me, but it wasn’t until I reached out for support from Bob that I gained clarity about that. By making a connection with Bob, a knowledgeable resource, and exploring a new possibility with him, I was able to expand my vision for my business. When I did that my creative juices kicked in, and I was off and running.

My learning from this experience? Sometimes the task I’m trying to make myself do with no success is not the right task to be doing. When I get stuck reaching out for information and support can get me going again. I learned that I am more likely to take action if I can find a way to view a task as a creative challenge. When the work I need to do meets some of my basic needs, like having fun and being creative, I am more likely to engage in it.

When you’re stuck, stop and see if you can determine the barrier to action. What is blocking forward movement? Be curious about your inaction. The awareness that may emerge could shift your energy from stuck to moving.