Lie 3: “I don’t have the right tools.”

This is the final post addressing the three lies we believe that lead us into procrastination. See the introduction post here and you can find the first post here and the second here.

I clued into this one a few weeks ago. I had been putting off doing a task because I had no idea what I was going to use to do the task that needed doing. Then the task was “magically” done (thanks, Willy!). When I asked him what he used to do it, I was a little shocked and embarrassed. I was making this thing to be overly complicated and it really didn’t need to be. I really believed that I didn’t have the right tools to get the job done, when that was totally false.

I think there have been many cases of this in my life that meant something just didn’t get done. In my head these things require a super elite and specialized tool to get the job done.

This is the exact reason why a toddler’s forehead print is still on my TV from 11 months ago. Half the time I can’t see it because the light hides it, but when I do see it, I think “oh yeah, I should wipe that off.” Then I think “with what? What won’t streak, or mess up the TV screen etc.?” And then the moment is over and a year passes. Last week I went to clean it off in a surge of cleaning enthusiasm and I found that this forehead smudge was no longer just a smudge. It was hard thanks to 11 months of dust mixing with the toddler forehead oils.

“What should I use to clean that off?” I asked Willy.

“Windex.”

Life is so simple for that man. In my head I needed a microfibre cloth and a specialized cleaner. When I think about it, I can’t decide how much it’s me being a total idiot or it’s my brain exploding the situation to be 1000x more complicated than necessary so that I can sit on my couch a little longer. I think it’s probably 60% me being an idiot and 40% my brain being crafty.

What’s your excuse?

I’m sure you can think of various ways this works out in your life. You don’t start keeping an agenda because you haven’t found THE PERFECT ONE. You haven’t started taking pictures of pretty things because you don’t have your super expensive DSLR that you’ve been dreaming of. You’ve only worn your favourite outfit once because you’re afraid you’ll ruin it when you clean it because it’s some fancy material. You keep putting off starting your (mythical) home work out because you don’t have a yoga mat. You keep putting off starting to run because you don’t have good shoes or you don’t want to go out in public in the only workout clothes you have: your husband’s T-shirt and shorts that ride up with every stride (read: what I wear to the gym. I’m always the ugliest dressed person there but at least I’m going!).

So how do we combat this?

  1. Think about it. Do you really need it? If you still think you do. What are the ways around this specialized tool? How would you do it if you were poor (rather than just too lazy to buy it)
  2. Ask someone. If you’re too embarrassed to ask your mom, friend, brother, workout inspiration, do what everyone else since the history of the modern internet has done: google it.

Lie 2: “X is more rewarding right now”

This is the second post addressing the three lies we believe that lead us into procrastination. See the introduction post here and the first post in the series here.

 

lie2-bucket-list

When it comes to procrastinating, I think this is the most familiar problem. How many times have procrastinators chosen TV, movies, video games, Facebook, or Netflix instead of doing their essay for class? More insidious is when we do good things instead of the task we should be doing. At work I always have tasks I prefer over others, and sometimes the only thing motivating me to do the crummy jobs was the fact that I was being paid to do them. This doesn’t apply as well at home or in our personal lives. Even the idea that we’re paying for our courses isn’t motivation enough for us to do our work sometimes. This is all because of the lie we believe that this other more fun thing is more rewarding than doing the crummy task.

I was starting this lie in the face last week. Jack was down for a nap and I could watch TV or clean. The day before I felt AWESOME after doing some cleaning. As I was tempted to watch TV I remembered that this idea that I would feel better if I watched TV instead of cleaning was totally false. TV would be fun right now, but then I’d be left with the icky feeling that I avoided what I really needed to do AND left with the mess.

Until you’ve learned through experience that Doing The Thing is, in fact, more rewarding than Not Doing The Thing, it’s so much harder to believe that not doing It isn’t better. It’s also easy to quickly forget.

The way I deal with these lies is to remember the times I Did The Thing and felt GREAT. It’s an exercise that requires intentional thinking, but I find is fairly useful. The other thing that helps (I talk about this in my ebook) is building momentum.

How do you battle this lie? 

Lie 1: “It will take too long to do right now”

This is the first post addressing the three lies we believe that lead us into procrastination. See the introduction post here.

Original photo by William Warby

Original photo by William Warby

How many times have you thought, “I need to do _____” only to “realize” you don’t have enough time. Let’s be honest with ourselves: 9 times out of 10 that is not true in the least. When I first started attacking this idea that I didn’t have enough time, I started timing myself. I would stare at the pile of dishes and think, “I should do this but I’ll be late if I start now.” After I timed it, I realized it was a 3 minute job and I often had 5 to spare. This was such a freeing  realization because I sincerely believed both things: that I needed to do the job and that I didn’t have enough time. Soon I realized that this part of my brain was broken and I needed to acknowledge that the thought “it will take too long” should be treated as an unreliable calculation.

I’m not sure how this lie started worming its way into brains everywhere but it really needs to stop. If you think you don’t have time – try anyways and see how far you get. Half done dishes are better than never done. After you time yourself doing several activities that will “take too long” my guess is you’ll notice that they were a 10 minute job, not a 30 minute job your brain exploded the situation into.

Stresshacker.com affirms this and explains:

Learning to better estimate time to task completion is a skill that needs to be developed by procrastinators who, for whatever reason, seem to fall short of its mastery.

There you have it. Next time you think, “I don’t have time to do that right now” call your own bluff and give it a try!

 

The 3 lies that trap us into procrastinating

Original Photo by  Paul Swansen

Original Photo by Paul Swansen

In the last little bit I’ve been needing a refresher on some of the stuff I’ve previously blogged about on  the topic of productivity. These days I’m learning what it means to not procrastinate around the home. My problem at home is that I’m not a cleaner, and I’m rarely tidy for longer than a few days. I just slink back into my old slobbish ways. Growing up my parents called me Messy Jessy for obvious reasons: my room was always total chaos, but it was a chaos I understood. I could always find whatever I was looking for UNTIL I TIDIED.

Now that life with baby has mostly fallen into a recognizable routine it’s time I figured out how to keep this place in order. Thus the return to all the things I’ve learned about decision fatigue and habit development, productivity, and everything else. But before I remembered to pull up those old blog posts, I found myself Googling something like “help! I’m a slob” and found FLYlady.net which is a frightening website but a really good system. As I read through it I could identify elements of keystone habits, combating decision fatigue, and a whole range of other things I’ve blogged about. Basically, I was in heaven. In reading through the website and adopting (and adapting) the plan for myself, I noticed a few mental traps I always fall into when it comes to getting things done.

Over the next few posts I’m going to address each one individually. I’ve talked about some of these in my e-book and definitely in previous blog posts, but never as specifically as this. I hope it will be as helpful to you as the realizations have been for me.

Dissonance

The last few months have been obviously abnormal for me in certain ways. As my dad put it, “Your lack of blogging is very obvious.” He also proceeded to assume that I must be a lot less stressed by blogging less.

Not exactly.

I’ve realized that my life is a lot more together when I’m busy. There’s this sweet spot where I’m quite busy actively working on my priorities. This point exists right before I’m freaking out because I haven’t done laundry or grocery shopping for weeks. This fall, as I have focused on work and getting my laundry done on time and having food in the house, I’ve also watched a lot of Netflix.

I am mostly OK with these things.

I’m mostly OK with having not really moved forward much in reaching some of these goals listed on this website because I know there’s more to life than blogging and running and reaching goals. I’m mostly OK with having been a bit of a blob on my couch because it’s OK for me to not have everything together at all times.

But I was also partly not OK with this fall because I don’t like being a blob. I’m not a very great person when I’m a blob. There’s this ugly spot on that same imaginary chart where if I don’t have enough challenge I revert to laziness. This was me in my personal life this fall.

There was a distinct dissonance in my life and I didn’t know what to do with it. I was unmotivated, yet I understood that this was not the end of the world, even if I didn’t like it. My SAD wasn’t really a big deal recently, which was incredible. And yet, something was still off.

This morning when I woke up the sun was shining. We cleaned the house and I did all kinds of things I had put off. I scrubbed the tub, I cleaned the shower curtain, I did laundry, tidied the house, I walked to Café St. Henri and here I am. Blogging. Getting Things Done.

There’s something about December that motivates me. It’s the anticipation of a new beginning in January. So here I am, turning my back on that weird fall and facing forward.

p.s. I’m putting out another newsletter soon! Sign up (on the right) to make sure you’re going to receive it.

The UnSchedule

It’s Day 3 of my giveaway of The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. It’s outrageously helpful in battling procrastination. Click here for rules on how to enter the draw. Good luck!
fran

Example from the book of an Unschedule.

One of the many things I found helpful in The Now Habit was The Unschedule. Fiore developed this over about 10 years on clients until he felt it was perfected and used it in his book. It’s a concept that will surprise many because you start by filling in your schedule with your non-work activities. Why? There are a few reasons: 1) to show you how busy you actually are with other things so that when you think “oh, I can do that later” the reality is is that there probably isn’t a later because you’re busy with other life activities; 2) often procrastinators isolate themselves from other people because they aren’t getting their work done. They live in a cycle of procrastination and unintended social punishment, which generally makes life miserable. Here’s the complete guide to how to make your own Unschedule (without all the background information which is actually very helpful):

  1. Schedule only non-work activities
    This includes:

    • Previously committed time such as meals, sleep, meetings
    • Free time, recreation, leisure reading
    • Socializing, lunches, and dinners with friends
    • Health activities like going to the gym
    • Routine events such as commuting, classes, appointments
  2. Fill in your Unschedule with work on projects only after you’ve completed at least one-half hour of uninterrupted work
  3. Take credit only for periods of work that represent at least thirty minutes of uninterrupted work.
  4. Reward yourself with a fun activity after each period of work
  5. Track of the number of quality hours worked each day and each week.
  6. Schedule at least one full day for fun and small chores.
  7. Before doing something fun, do thirty minutes of work on your projects
  8. Focus on starting and the next action (rather than finishing the whole project)
  9. Think small
  10. Keep starting
  11. Never end “down”
    Never take a break when you’re stuck or ready to give up. Always stay with a tough spot for another five or ten minutes, trying to come up with a partial solution that you can pursue later.
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