Procrastination

When are you most productive?

  • Are you one to plan your work schedule and stick to it?
  • Or do you prefer a deadline, but wait till the last minute to complete your work?

I do not think that there is a right way of doing things, as individuals, we all function and work differently. Some of us like to wake up early, whilst others are night owls are more productive during the evening. Yet, there is a lot of tips and tricks out there to help us build “good” habits to eliminate our desire to procrastinate because it is thought to be a sign of idleness or laziness. In this day and age, the focus is always on productivity. From squeezing more output from one individual to using more technology to bring efficiencies. People are becoming stressed out, where they are “always-on” and love to talk about how busy they are at work.

Though I would like to pose to you – is this necessary? I am not saying that one shouldn’t focus on their goals and be driven; that is why many people choose to have a coach. However, are we not doing ourselves a disservice to step back, pause a little – procrastinate a little? Potentially it might be a positive thing!

Originality

In Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Change the World it explores the premise whether procrastinating can cause creativity. They found that people who procrastinate moderately are viewed by their peers as more creative. However, those who are chronic procrastinators did not have any new ideas. Those are in a rush to get things done first, they also have less original thoughts.

From the research, they found that if you are not intrinsically motivated to solve a problem, then procrastination, unsurprisingly, just sets you behind. However, when you are passionate about coming up with new ideas, putting off the task a bit can lead to more creative solutions.

There is a sweet spot.

Procrastinating is a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity.

Adam Grant

The Discipline to Delay – Zeigarnik Effect

In 1927, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik demonstrated that people have a better memory for incomplete than complete tasks. I have certainly experienced this! Once a task is completed, why do we need to think about it? However, when something is incomplete then it is in the forefront of your mind. For example, the dining room in my house needs a light, it is one of the unfinished tasks in my home. Though there is no rush for a ceiling light, especially during these times. However, I am always finding myself thinking about it, especially when I am mindlessly scrolling through Instagram.

Great originals are great procrastinators, but they don’t skip planning altogether. They procrastinate strategically, making gradual progress by testing and refining different possibilities.

Adam Grant

When you have to stop procrastinating…

Eventually, the task will need to be completed, so there is a fine line when it comes to procrastination, it is very easy to tip it into something negative. If the incomplete task makes you worried or anxious because it will mean you are likely to miss a deadline or you know that there are more serious consequences down the line, if you do not complete the task, then there are ways to help you get started.

  • Start with a small win then move onto the toughest task – a lot of people start with the toughest task first, however, I think this stops me from wanting to move forward as I am freaked out! My suggestion is to start with something that will ease you into the task. Once completed, you will feel good and in control, thus giving you courage to start on the trickiest/toughest task next.
  • Set small goals – break the task down, let yourself have mini wins along the way
  • Pomodoro – I have mentioned this method in another post and I think it is really helpful to break things down. Set the timer to work for 25 minutes distraction free. When you hear the beep you have to take a 5 minute break, even if you are mid sentence. Be disciplined and you will realise that you will get a lot done in a short space of time.
  • Reward yourself – once you have broken it down into mini wins/milestones, recognise a job well done. Something small so that it is easy for you to return to the task at hand
  • Be kind to yourself – It is okay if you slip, we are human after all. If you find yourself procrastinating, just recognise that you have and just stop and go back to the task at hand. Start with a small win again and keep on going.

Happy procrastinating!

https://unsplash.com/photos/XzUMBNmQro0

Motivation

As I write this, it is the second week working from home due to the Coronavirus. I think for many, there is a struggle to get up in the morning and building that routine that feels worthwhile. My poor grandmother, who has is not used to being told what to do, especially not leaving the house feels defeated. Another conversation with my sister has sparked the creation of this post. Why are you not working on your blog and other ideas, now that you have more time on your hands? Why are you spending watching your free time to watch Netflix?. I replied, You are right, despite my free time, it is frustrating that I can’t seem to find the motivation to do anything.

Motivation is the desire to act in service of a goal. It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining one’s objectives

Why do we need motivation?

There are no clear answers as to why we need motivation but boiled down, we need it to get things done; whether it is to get up in the morning to start your day or to start a business. It is the thought process which leads to action towards a particular goal. The keyword I believe is goal. Goal setting is fundamental to getting the right level of motivation.

Many of you are aware that there are external and internal forces that would impact our levels of motivation. I find that motivation can be elusive and fickle. At times it can give me laser-like focus, other times when I want it the most, it is just not there. Procrastination is king.

Systems

If motivation can be fickle, is there a way to minimise our dependency on that and just get s**t done? This is where systems are so important – routine and discipline. There are two ways to think about it: prevention focus or promotion focused. Below are a few tips that I have found useful and helpful as I tried to crack the whip and get things moving.

M.I.Ts

A few years back, I was inundated with things I had to complete, both work and personal life. It was just a long shopping list of things that was not categorised or sorted. A list of things that I translated from my thoughts to paper. However, the 100 or so items in physical form was incredibly daunting. There was no motivation to complete it because it was just too big of an ask.

This is when I came across the concept of MITs – Most Important Tasks. Turns out that this is used a lot in the design world. Unfortunately, this had not translated to my side of the corporate world. The concept is incredibly simple. Each morning before I start my day, I put down a few (c.3) tasks that I have to complete. If I complete those things, I know that if someone called it a day, I would be happy with myself and that it was enough.

This helped with my motivation because the little post-it note on my desk became achievable. It drives to me to act now and think about motivation later, if at all. It forces you to focus on what is most important. Time is precious, what is worth doing? What is the One Thing you want to achieve in the long term and does that task on the piece of paper get you there? Be brave – be brutal.

Protecting your time

This is incredibly important, you need to identify when you work best. I am a morning lark, so if I wanted to get anything done, then I need to do it between 6AM to 12PM; as I know that I would not be as effective after that. After I have achieved my key tasks in the morning, I can do less mentally intense tasks, such as laundry or reading papers/documents for work. I reward myself later in the evening by winding down, reading and watching TV, but only after I completed by MITs. However, I would never be able to do that or build a routine if I did not protect my time. Be brave – be brutal.

Don’t Break the Chain

Now that you have started doing things, it is important to not break the chain. This stems from the idea of momentum. Once you start, it is easier to continue. Form the habit/routine and keep at it. After that, it will be like riding downhill.

Best of luck!

Survive Working from Home during Coronavirus

It is tumultuous times we are facing; in the UK, we have been told to work from home (“WFH”) as much as possible as we have reached the “fast” phase of the virus; as well as other measures that is important to reduce the number of people contracting the virus.

Though I am going to be honest, WFH is something that I am not particularly good at. There has been a plethora of information on the web on how to be productive and better at it, so I thought that I would share what I found to be most useful. There will be some links at the end of this post for those who want to read more about it. I would also love your suggestions as well so please leave me a comment below!

Tip 1: Setting a routine

This is a great opportunity to sleep a little longer for those who don’t have to commute anymore and reset you body clock. However, it is also important to maintain and routine (and I have also been told to keep to complete my contracted hours at work). Currently, I still wake up at the same time, even if means I am rolling around for longer than usual. This is because I enjoyed the commute time to work as it is one of my opportunities to read and I wanted to maintain that. Therefore, I have my necessary sleep, cup of tea and reading time before starting my day to work.

Importantly, I also get up and change. Not necessarily into what I would normally wear at work (which is pretty chilled anyways) but this is just courtesy to your fellow colleagues who might have to see you on webcam (see further below) and also just to “mentally” prepare that you are “going to work”.

For lunch, block out time in your work calendar so your colleagues know when you will be away from your desk and use that time to relax and rest your eyes from staring at the screen. If you are as lucky as me, my partner and I are both at home together, we don’t speak much during working hours but we will connect during lunch and dinner.

Most importantly, make sure you know when it is necessary to stop. It is easy to become engrossed with what you are doing but just like you would leave work at a certain time, it is important to manage your work life balance.

Tip 2: Tidy Up

Tidying up your space and making a dedicated space for work is important. During this time, it is important to keep surfaces clean and disinfected, so use this an opportunity to create a calm space for yourself.

In addition, make sure that you have all the right equipment so that you are able to work. Push for your employer to provide you with the right equipment or subsidise you buying items to complete your work, such as an additional screen or keyboard. I get really distracted from a cluttered desk; so tidying up and cleaning up is a great way to take a break, which brings us nicely to the next tip!

Tip 3: Take regular breaks

In your normal working environment, your day is broken up by chats with colleagues/managers, meetings and just chilling in the kitchen when making a cup of tea/coffee. When at home, you have much more “deep work” time where you can work without being distracted by the usual hustle and bustle of a full open plan office.

This can become “too much” very quickly. The day has to be broken up, so build in that stretch time or making a cup of tea – zoom / slack/ call a colleague for a quick chat before returning to your work. I also try to use the Pomodoro technique which means that I set a timer for 25 mins to work and then I ensure I have a break of 5 mins before starting again.

Tip 4: Try to build in social time

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that quarantining could lead to loneliness and depression and as humans are social animals it is necessary to work on this. As an introvert, not having to interactive with a lot of people is great, but I still need that social connection. One great way is to have Whatsapp Web on your computer so that it is possible to have group chats with my best friends. As we are all now working from home, the little sidechats we have is extremely uplifting.

Why not set up a virtual buddy system where a group of three call each other once a week, even if it is just five minutes to check in on a social level. If you have Slack or other ways to communicate with colleagues, why not engage in the group chats or set up a new channel yourself to talk about something outside of work? Be creative, I am sure you would be surprised

Other Resources

So there are my top tips for now, as I said before, would love to hear your thoughts and here are some other resources for you to peruse. Stay safe everyone!

Protect your dreams

This weekend, I had a conversation with a family member which has inspired me to write this post. Have you ever had those conversations where the individual has an agenda and don’t have the capacity for listen to anything you have to say? Sigh…it completely drains you and my natural reaction to this is to completely shut down and become indifferent. It induces hair pulling and much frustration, but family is family, right?

My partner and I are looking to purchase a property together and has become an all-consuming process and has been on the back of my mind every single day. I tried to share the good news with said family member that we have found a place. The said individual then fires questions in machine gun-like succession:

  • Have you showed your mum?
  • Have you asked her approval?
  • Have you asked anyone else’s approval?
  • Is it a good area? It doesn’t sound like a good area
  • Do you know what you want?

They then ended their soliloquy with a dismissive, well do whatever makes you happy. -DEEP BREATHE-

With every dream, you will have to face the non-believers and others with their opinions. Some individuals have good intentions, though some would inadvertently project their fears and insecurities onto you. Others may have not so good intentions, some may be jealous of you pursuing your dreams and would try to hold you back where they can’t handle you getting ahead. Whatever it may be, it is important to recognise their opinion for what it is and then move on. Use that energy to refocus on yourself and gather information to make a better decision for yourself.

Whether it is trying to set up your own business, make a major purchase or quitting your job; take the time to know your why. As a performance coach, some of the key questions I ask individuals are, what do you think will be the challenges going forward? And, how do you think you will be able to overcome them? I have found that it is easy to identify technical difficulties when it comes to dreams, such as, I need to ensure I have this licence to set up this business; but not necessarily the emotional or relational difficulties.

What do you need to ask yourself?

After the conversation with said family member, I felt defeated. I started to lose focus and started asking irrational questions about myself and my dreams. Upon reflection, it is because I had expectations of what the individual should have said and feel. This is exactly where I went wrong – this is the wrong way to have conversations about your goals and dreams. We are incredibly social creatures and it is understandable why we would want to share them with others, but to ensure you don’t lose focus on the end goal.

I have narrowed it down to the follow options:

  • Either keep it to yourself, though this is not always easy
  • If you share your dreams, be objective when listening to others and only process what is worth processing.  
  • Better yet, share it only with select individuals who have the right experience and you think will be able to assist in your dreams or decision making.

It is natural to think about others and their opinion, but ultimately, you are the only person who would have to live with the decisions you have made. Stop worrying about others and what they have to say or what they are doing. Focus on your why and you will get there.

Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

Discipline

The start of January is always the start of something new, but how do you keep up the momentum for the rest of the year. Many of you have heard of the astounding statistics about the gym, where 80% of individuals do not go after 5 months or 14% who signed up in January drop out by February. Keeping disciplined and motivated is hard work; though I know that some individuals find it easier than others (lucky sods!). My partner has tunnel vision when he has an idea in his head. He is an absolute force to be reckoned with; he just lives and breathes the project – constantly researching and working at it. I, on the other hand, would get distracted by the latest Netflix series (Have any of you watched Messiah yet?).

2020 is a year of discovery; I start a new job in February and I want to make sure that I have enough time to develop my coaching skills as well. How can I be a good performance coach if I do not test theories/advice of others? I read a lot of blogs and books on self improvement. The only way to know what works is to test them out. Hence, this blog will log my journey of discovery and I would encourage you to join in with me and share your experiences with other readers too! Sharing is caring 🙂

It is very timely that I have decided to talk about discipline. It has taken me a whole day to write this post because I spent 6 hours of my day house hunting with my other half, instead of dedicating time to write this blog. Self-discipline is partially a mental battle and the development of a habit. I understand that discipline is intrinsically linked to motivation but that doesn’t help much either!

 “Motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing.” – John C. Maxwell

Jari Roomer wrote that building strong habits and creating a supportive environment would help with motivation and making the right decisions. I think this is better than solely focus on self-discipline. It seems more practical, so here is a list of a few tips that seemed to make some sense.

Tracking progress towards a goal

You have a goal or project. You know the end result, but you need to know how you are tracking towards your goal. If not, it is easy to lose sight of what is required. I really like the idea of getting a diary/calendar and marking it off. Each day you have worked towards the goal, cross it off NICE AND BIG. Enjoy the process – exaggerate it! If you didn’t work towards the goal, leave it blank and set a target on how many days you are allowed off. E.g. you can’t have two consecutive weeks without working towards the goal. You will feel guilty when there are too many blanks – that is exactly what you want! Feel the guilt and start working towards the goal again.

Journaling

Let me be honest, I am rubbish at journaling but others really swear by this. Similar to tracking above, writing your thoughts and recording your memories and feelings is a great way to reflect. Honestly, I feel like this is a lot of hard work, so my shortcut is to use the Daylio app where it gives me smiley faces to rate my general “feel” of the day and you can log the activities with easy to click icons and a SMALL box to write a couple of notes. Simple and it takes me about a minute to record the day – perfect. I have been doing this for a few months now. How it helps is that I can assess my moods and what activities are associated with a positive mood. The more positive you are feeling, the easier it is to be disciplined.

Meditation

Before you roll your eyes, this is a habit that I have tried to develop and I genuinely think that this has done great things for my patience and emotional consistency. I can’t say that I have noticed any significant changes to my focus. However, I am at the beginning of my journey with meditation and once I have completed more sessions I will let you know whether I note any other changes. When many successful individuals preach this practice, there is no harm in giving this a go and I really encourage it – truly one of the best things I did in 2019.

Working Distraction-Free

Being on my smartphone is the worse thing for my productivity. Whatsapp, Telegram, Instagram, YouTube & Netflix are my worse culprits. I moved Instagram from easy access from my phone and just that simple move did wonders to changing my habits. I didn’t spend hours aimlessly scrolling through posts and stories. I had so much more time to read and learn. Social media detox is one of my most recommended tips for self-discipline.

Dopamine Fast

Similar to working distraction-free, one level up is to have a “dopamine fast”. No internet/electronics, no books, no sex, no food, no talking, no music or coffee. Let’s be honest, there is not much more left for someone to do. However, it has been suggested it is possible to go for a walk, writing with a pen, meditate, sleep and drink water. No stimulation whatsoever – how horrifying! I have yet to try this, but I will let you know when I plan it. Personally, this seems really daunting, but I believe a detox from time to time is necessary for the body and mind.

Let me know how you get on and share with me any tips for me to try out and “review”!

Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most – Abraham Lincoln

Past Year Review

As we enter a new decade and year, many of us would start thinking about how we want to change the habits of 2019 and start January 2020 with a bang. There is pressure to be productive and to achieve a list of goals, though it is great to start the year right, it is also important to remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s be honest – 1 January is an arbitrary date.

Past Year Review

I had previously set out my new years resolutions that cover three areas: health, mind and wealth. Given that this has worked well for me previously, I thought I would continue to do this, but add another layer. Tim Ferriss, on his website, talks about completing a Past Year Review instead. The methodology is pretty simple. Looking back on 2019, and splitting down the middle of the page to positive and negative, note down for each week any

  • people
  • activities
  • commitments

that triggered strong positive or negative emotions.

Positive Triggers

Once you have noted it all down, ask yourself “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”, highlight these and then make sure you book these into your diary now! As an accountant by trade, I live my life through a spreadsheet, so for transparency (though I have removed people on my list for privacy reasons), you can find this sheet here.

In summary to cover off the positives:

For health, I should continue going to the gym. I have a personal trainer and I always feel better after a session, so this year I am going to make sure I attend all 8 sessions a month which I have already paid for!

For mind, I should go to art galleries every two weeks like I use to and blog about them on the Pineapple Chicken Blog. I love blogging and want to spend more time developing my coaching practise so this will be the key focus this year as well. In addition, continuing to read books and daily mediation.

For wealth, I am going to focus on my finances this year, last year, I started off budgeting but did not stick to the habit. This did not help my situation at all. I will have a change in income this year, so I need to focus on other income-generating activities and save. Luckily, I have been able to find a financial advisor last year, so I will be working closely with them to understand what is achievable.

Having looked at the list, I also recognise that I need to consider relationships as a key area to focus on the year. There are some people who bring positivity in your life, whilst others, are like energy vampires – where interactions have to be minimised as much as possible. This year a key focus will be to spend more time with my grandmother

Negative Triggers

Once you have repeated the same exercise for negative triggers. Looking at the list, write on a sticky note and title it “NOT TO DO LIST”. This should be somewhere you can see all the time, whether it is a list on your phone or on your desk, in your wallet/purse. Wherever it is, you want it visible and clear. Don’t fall into the trap of obligation, guilt, FOMO – your time is precious so don’t do it. It is not worth it when you look back in a few years time.

Give it a go, what positive commitment and actions will you focus on for 2020? Please do share it with me and others on the comments below!