Counteracting The Dread of Procrastination

So you’ve got a task to complete. It could be anything from a simple daily chore to a long-standing commitment. Maybe it’s a necessary step towards something you long to achieve, or perhaps it’s more of a duty that you know you need to perform. But no matter how desirable the end result, or how desperate you are to have it out of the way, you dread getting started. Nothing will make you confront that dread, and thus, the will to procrastinate prevails.

We all know the feeling. But how well do we understand it?

It’s a classic procrastination scenario. You expend valuable time and energy avoiding the job until you can’t possibly avoid it any longer and yet within moments of starting, it suddenly dawns on you: it really isn’t so bad after all! So why did you dread it in the first place?

Break yourself out of the cycle and take some time to reflect on that dread. Sit with it for a while and get to know it. Get curious about it. This might sound bizarre or even unpleasant, but it’s an extremely effective way of dealing with ‘negative’ emotion and much like the scenario above, it’s not so bad once you get started. You may find that the dread has been misinterpreted. Was it really about doing the actual task? Or was it about the anxiety of knowing that you should be doing it but are still not doing it? Perhaps what you are anxious about is procrastination itself.

Of course this isn’t always the case, but it often is. It certainly explains why we immediately feel better after getting started (and then berate ourselves for not having done so earlier!).

So the next time you find yourself procrastinating, take some time and courage to sit with the anxiety instead of trying to squash it. What is it really about? Is it the dread of doing, or just the anxiety of not doing?

And what are you going to do about that?

Emotional Motivation

One the most common things you will hear a procrastinator say, is something along the lines of “I know I have to do it, but I just can’t make myself”. Therein lies the problem; motivation is very little about doing and very much about feeling. And yet, the hallmark of the procrastinator is that they focus solely on the action itself, how much time it will take, how boring or difficult it will be and ultimately how unappealing it is. No wonder we have such a problem with motivation!

One of the most reliable motivational techniques you can use is emotion. This is often overlooked as many modern cultures look down on emotion, and the fashion being to stymy or belittle our feelings. However, your emotions are powerful things and can be used to help you to overcome procrastination. So how does this work?

Instead of asking yourself “what do I need to get done?” try asking “how do I want to feel at the end of the day/week/year?”  Stay with that question for a while. Really explore it. Try to resist the urge to leave the answer as “happy” or “better”. What sort of feeling would make you feel better? A sense of greater control in your life? A feeling that you can give yourself permission to relax properly? Undeniable pride? Whatever it is, track it down and explore it as much as possible. This sort of internal motivation is so much more powerful the vast majority of external pressures we try to get ourselves going with and because it focusses on the outcome you are less likely to get bogged down in the specifics of the process.

What Nobody Tells You About Losing Weight

In these days of increased national obesity and high pressure to constantly examine one’s body image, many of us are consciously trying to lose weight. Most of us know the basics here; exercise regularly and stick to a healthier diet. So why do so many of us fail to reach our weight loss goals?

Having healthily lost over 3 stone myself, I decided to share my top tips for anyone out there embarking on the journey.

  • Buddy up. The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, it is far easier to hold yourself accountable for your own success or failure when you are sharing each moment with someone else. You stop hiding your slip-ups, and you can easily share your successes with someone who is interested. Secondly, you are going to find a lot of resistance to your weight loss goals from some people in your life. They probably do not mean to be disruptive, but by God they are! From colleagues constantly offering you snacks to family members expressing their concern over your new lifestyle; people will get involved. Usually, this is about their own insecurities. They might be feeling guilty that they aren’t treating their bodies as well as you are, or they might even be mourning the ‘you’ they used to know. It can be hard for people to deal with these changes. You need to remain strong. And this is much easier if you have a confidante to offload to! If you can’t find someone to lose the weight at the same time as you, find a friend who is already healthy and happy with their body. Generally, these people will be extremely supportive.
  • Find an exercise you can enjoy. This is so simple, and yet nobody ever talks about it! Do not force yourself to pick a random form of exercise, or the one you feel you ‘should’ be doing. Take your time feeling out the options. There are so many and they are all so different. Take some classes, go jogging, try some exercise programmes on your games console or an app on your smartphone. Find at least one form of exercise that you don’t hate or you can never expect to stay motivated. For me, it was Zumba that made the difference (and the occasional showtune-fuelled freestyle dance around my living room when nobody was looking!).
  • Be honest with yourself. This is crucial. People who overeat often lie to themselves about just how much they are eating and the reasons for it. It is all too easy to tell ourselves that we are only eating because we are stressed, anxious or it was for a special occasion. Don’t fall into this trap. Give yourself the simple, achievable goal of being honest with yourself. You don’t even have to commit to making different choices. Just commit to being truthful. Once you can do this, your decision making will change naturally.
  • Find other ways to reward yourself. For many, the appeal of food is a sort of ‘treating yourself’. It might be a reward for an achievement or a stress reliever at the end of a difficult day. You can’t expect yourself to just withdraw these comforts with no replacement. So brainstorm ways to treat yourself that don’t involve food or drink. You may be surprised by how little you know about how to reward and comfort yourself effectively.

The overall lesson of my weight loss experience was that it requires a great deal of emotional development for success to be possible. So if you’re serious about losing weight, give yourself the emotional nourishment you need.

 

Are you a thinker, a planner or a doer?

When tackling motivation problems the solution can come from knowing a bit more about your skills and natural focus in any task. By this, I mean identifying which stages of tasks you naturally excel at and which you tend to fall down at. These stages can be boiled down into 3 distinct sections; Thinking, Planning and Doing. So, let’s take a look at what these involve:

Thinking

Thinkers excel at exploring the initial ideas. They spend time brainstorming and examining all of the possibilities. Thinkers are often creative, reflective types with good imaginations. They tend to be positive people who don’t rule out options easily, preferring to explore them sufficiently before making any judgements.

Planning

Planners are strategists. They take pleasure in figuring out how best to execute a particular idea. Whilst planners may also have a creative streak, this is paired with a strong instinct for logical thought. Planners are rationalists who enjoy dissecting a problem.

Doing

Doers are the masters of action. Utterly practical and non-nonsense, doers value results and take responsibility for getting them. Paradoxically, doers are not necessarily highly motivated people. They may find that they lack focus in areas that really matter to them because of the level of fore-thought required.

Have a look at the definitions above and think about where you fit in. You will probably find that you have one strong tendency, one average and one low. Once you have identified these, use your observations to help break the cycle of poor motivation. Simply being aware of these stages and which ones are harder for you will help overcome them.

When you have a task to complete, stop and consider the different phases. Relish the parts you find easy and take the time to appreciate the fact that you have those skills. For the rest, just being able to identify what you need to do at each stage is enough. Don’t torture yourself – just because it doesn’t come naturally doesn’t mean you have to struggle through or worse, give up. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself, check out my article on motivation techniques for some ideas.

Dealing with Self-Doubt

Do you find that your life choices are constantly affected by your self-doubt? Does that voice in your head talk you out of taking action, speaking up or just generally being authentic? Join the club.

One of the best life lessons I have learned from my clients is that self-doubt is the biggest pandemic in our society. It has become human nature to talk ourselves out of doing what we desire or what we think is right and the way we treat ourselves would generally be considered inappropriate and potentially abusive if we began treating others the same way.

If you’re suffering from this mass-affliction, take some time to truly look around you and examine people. Start noticing the layers of doubt stacked upon each one of us; as soon as you shift the focus from yourself you will start to see just how prominent this is.

Make an effort to change the way you talk to yourself: be kinder, more compassionate and stand up to that voice in your head that tells you that you’re not good enough!

If you relate to this article, why not book a free chemistry session with me to discuss?

Give Yourself a Gold Star: Visual Motivation Techniques

How do you self-motivate? Perhaps you talk yourself into the right mood. Or maybe you talk yourself out of the wrong mood. Maybe you’re the type who uses schedules to try and persuade yourself to get going.

These are all good ways to motivate yourself, but the human mind is fantastic at talking itself in and out of things at a moment’s notice in order to suit our mood or circumstance. This is why setting up visual cues for motivation can work even better. Once you put a cue in place, you cannot argue with it or talk yourself out of it, you have to make a concrete choice; do I follow through or not?

So, that being said, what do we mean by visual cues? Below are some good examples of effective tools you can use to motivate yourself:

Stars

This one can feel a little silly when you first begin, but it may appeal to the child in you and work a dream! The idea is to use star stickers to track your progress on a calendar or chart. For example, if you have a goal to get fit or lose weight, you can use different coloured stars to log different accomplishments (eg green star = healthy eating, gold star = trip to the gym, blue star = walked to work etc). This works best if you can share a calendar with someone else who is also working towards a goal – the competitive edge when you see your partner’s stars racking up is a fantastic motivator!

Scales

Susan Jeffers in her book Feel the Fear and do it Anyway, talks of the tension between fear and power. She theorises that we have a choice between the two, and that when we choose the path of power we enable ourselves to move forward and achieve our potential. She suggests putting up a sign on your wall, showing a scale with fear on one end and power on the other. The idea is to use a pin or some form of moveable marker to track where on the chart you feel at any one time. As soon as you feel you are slipping in to fear – take that power back!

Vision Boards

These come highly recommended by many coaches and self-help gurus. The aim is to produce a board of pictures that show what you want to get out of life. They should cover all areas and be ridiculously optimistic! Have fun with this; go through magazines and cut out anything that really speak to you, from an image of friends having a good time to a £1million house for sale in the Algarve. If you’re a dab hand with computers, use the internet to find your images and produce an e-vision board to use as your desktop. Remember when you do this – nothing is off limits.

Quotations

Hunt for quotations that really inspire you. Include song lyrics or dialogue from that powerful monologue at the climax of your favourite film. Write them up separately and pin them in places you often look at; just in front of the toilet or your desk are great places for this!

Equipment

A client of mine was determined to get fit by going swimming in the local pool but somehow couldn’t find the get-up-and-go to achieve it. By simply hanging his swimming costume in plain sight, he managed to create a visual cue that made him accountable for his actions. He could either follow through or look at the costume and actively say no. Guess what he chose?

Give them a try or come up with your own ideas!

Resolutions; New Year vs New Month

Many of us are already thinking about our New Year’s resolutions, even if we don’t end up making any, let alone keeping them!  At this point, it’s all still very exciting, thinking about the life we might create for ourselves in the next year. We’re feeling festive, ambitious and hey, we don’t have to start till January, so it’s easy to think big! But how many of us have actually kept a New Year’s resolution? I’d be willing to bet very few.

Part of the problem is that a year really is a long time to keep that promise, and knowing that we’ve signed on for a whole year can be extremely intimidating! By the time we’ve gotten through half of January, the rest of the month seems like a challenge, let alone the year!

Another factor in our yearly failure is that actually choosing the goal that is the most important to you is extremely tricky. It is hard to stick to just one, and we intimidate ourselves if we pick more than one. So it is easy to end up with either 5 big goals that we cannot maintain at once or just one goal that we can’t commit to because it’s only part of the larger story.

My solution is this; New Month’s Resolutions. Set yourself a new resolution for each month of the year and mark them on your calendar. Spend a month focussing down on one goal without the intimidation of the whole year. Knock that goal in the head, and then start the next one.

The goal of course is to snowball the achievements instead of letting one go each time you change months. But don’t intimidate yourself by insisting it be so. Stick to the monthly targets, and any carry-through is a bonus. You will likely find that by the end of one month of focussing, your lifestyle changes have turned from goals to habits.

You can use the example below to help create your calendar. Remember to make your goals realistic, measurable and most of all; compelling!


Tips

  • Think carefully about the order of your goals. For example, don’t place all of your health related goals consecutively.
  • Make each goal measureable. Ask yourself, how will I monitor this? How will I know I have achieved it?
  • Try to get a good mix of different areas and make sure some of them are fun. It shouldn’t all be a slog, and your personal care and wellbeing is just as important as money or fitness.
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Single and Introverted

Being single is always a mixed bag. On the one hand you have the freedom to find yourself and explore the world uninhibited by the responsibility of a significant other, and on the other hand feeling the isolation and longing that inevitably emerge intermittently. But of course the aim is to embrace being single, to enjoy it and to thrive in the freedom and the potential for self-exploration. And to help us to embrace this independent lifestyle, we have many sources of inspiration in the media. Mostly, these emphasise the fun lad or lass on the town sort of lifestyle that we seem to associate with being free and single. We are constantly told of the benefits of being “young, single and ready to mingle”, we are told how to relish the partying lifestyle and how to plan the perfect night out. But what about those who are single and introverted?

A friend of mine recently told me of her own personal tensions in this area. As a single woman she felt an enormous pressure to conform to the socio-cultural expectations, arranging nights out whenever possible. Ultimately, as a natural introvert, she found herself unable to maintain the kind of lifestyle that she felt was expected, and started engaging in guilt-tripping behaviour. She felt that if she couldn’t be an extroverted single, not only was it a sign of her natural desires being somehow defective, she would also be unable to find a new partner. This is the struggle of the introverted single.

It seems that if you are not the stereotypical single person, you are encouraged to fall into this kind of distorted thinking. And this kind of thinking neglects the very best thing about being single; you don’t have to fit in to any mould, nor do you have to preoccupy yourself with the pressure to settle down. Realistically, you are not defective. You are not in danger of being forever single unless you want to be. You do not have to go out every night, nor should you feel bad if you don’t.

Being single is all about embracing who you are. Introvert, extrovert or something in between, this is the time to accept and nurture your authentic self, unashamedly.

 

 

 

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The Stress of ‘Me’ Time

If you’re someone who prefers to be occupied or achieving all the time, it can be very hard to find moments of guilt-free relaxation. You may find that taking some time out becomes more of a stressful experience than your day-to-day tasks and chores. So how do we just ‘switch off’ for a while when engaging in a truly passive activity such as watching a film or listening to music can make the mind run riot instead of letting it rest?

Simple; work with what you’ve got. Fighting your natural impulses isn’t likely to help you relax, so try multitasking your relaxation. Instead of battling to focus all of your mental energy on that film you’ve been meaning to watch, pick a simple physical activity to accompany it. You could choose something to do with personal grooming such as painting your nails or giving yourself a foot massage. You might pick something creative such as painting, knitting or scrapbooking. Or you might pick a tedious chore that can be done sitting down like peeling vegetables or sorting through old documents.

Whatever you choose, if you are the sort of person who suffers increased stress whilst attempting to take time out, this might be the perfect solution for productive, guilt-free ‘me’ time. You may even find that making a habit of multitasking your free time enables you to create a more fulfilling relationship with relaxation, and that eventually, you are able to switch off effectively without the aid of a simultaneous activity.

The most important thing is that you spend your free time doing whatever feels right for you. If you prefer to focus on one activity then go for it. If it isn’t relaxing for you to remain passive then don’t force yourself to.  Make the most of your ‘me’ time – embrace it, cherish it, and come away feeling fulfilled and refreshed.

 

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The Myth of Self-Love

How many times have you heard people emphasise the need to love oneself?

It seems we are constantly being told that this is the pinnacle of self-worth, that we cannot fully and wholly love another until we love ourselves. Whilst this holds some water, I cannot help but feel that the real issue is about how we treat ourselves, and quite frankly, what’s love got to do with it?

After all, many of us have experienced or witnessed sincere love that is highly dysfunctional. Controlling behaviour, paranoia, emotional blackmail, neglectful tendencies and even physical abuse can be found in all sorts of close relationships where love still plays a large role. Indeed, most of us will have experienced at least some of these behaviours on a minor scale with friends, family and partners all of whom we may love very dearly.

So if love can be so dysfunctional, why are we placing such importance on loving ourselves?

Love alone probably won’t help us to fully appreciate ourselves. So take a moment and think about how you treat yourself on a day-to-day basis. Where can you see dysfunction in this relationship? Perhaps you are emotionally blackmailing yourself or engaging in guilt trips. Maybe there are physical issues such as substance abuse or unhealthy relationships with food. You may find that you are exercising the kind of controlling behaviour or lack of trust that would swiftly push you away from a friend or significant other.

We all remember the ethic of reciprocity; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. And what a great maxim it is. But I’d also like to see more doing unto ourselves as we would have others do unto us!

To love oneself is a bonus. To be kind to oneself, to treat oneself with respect, care and understanding is perhaps the more appropriate (and more challenging) aim.

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