If you’re procrastinating—or procrastinating more—these days, there are reasons.
I talked about those reasons in this week’s Facebook Live:
(Please be kind about my hair. This is what it does when it doesn’t get cut in waaaaaaaay too long.)
First, stress is taking a toll on everyone right now. And the energy you use to deal with your stress gets taken away from the actions you would like to be doing now, whether that’s creating an online program, cleaning out a closet, or learning a new language. Understanding this dynamic can help you take some of the pressure off yourself.
Beyond that, more than the usual amount of stress in your life “raises the bar” so that the usual ways you use to get around your procrastination simply are no longer enough.
So, if you haven’t completely gotten rid of the subconscious blocks that lead you to procrastinate (which is what I do with clients), they will definitely be more powerful now.
For these reasons, I encourage you to give yourself grace during extra stressful times like these when you aren’t getting as much done.
Also, try tapping along with the 1st of the 3 free videos you get for signing up for my newsletter. (If you haven’t done so already, get the 3-video series How to Stop Procrastinating Without Having to Push Yourself So Hardhere.)
Here’s a tap-along video based on the group tapping we did in my first Tapping Circle for Pandemic Stress. It touches on a lot of what we’re all dealing with these days.
Tap along to get started releasing some of the stress and overwhelm you’re experiencing. Then come to my Tapping Circle to go deeper to release stress and overwhelm caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s free to anyone over 18.
That page includes two videos: one teaches the mechanics of tapping and contains a tap-along for basic stress; the other shows you the Zip Up, an easy move to use now to avoid getting overwhelmed by the energy of everyone around you.
Use the Zip Up and some basic tapping now, then come for as many circles as you can. See you there!
The news is alarming, I know. Wherever you are, know that I am sending thoughts and prayers for the health and safety of you and your loved ones. I also want to send you something more concrete to help you in these times.
I don’t know about you, but I spent last week freaking out as all the changes I’d been hearing about around the world went from distant to my backyard. First the Seattle public schools closed, sending my almost-thirteen-year-old home for two weeks. The next day we heard schools would be closed for at least six weeks. Then the libraries closed. Then all the cafes and restaurants. Each change shrunk my world a bit more.
Now, I understand the need to close these spaces and am more than happy to do my part to slow the spread of the disease, keep my neighbors safe, and limit the impact on our medical communities. But last week I found myself scattered, spending a lot of time on Google News, unable to focus on most things.
The one thing I was able to focus on was my clients, who were also struggling with the changes brought on by this pandemic. Many are business owners who were worried, unable to think of how to keep their businesses afloat. So we tapped on what they were experiencing, lowering their stress so they could access their creativity and find ways to get their businesses back on track.
By Friday, I realized I also needed to lower my own stress levels so I could stop procrastinating and take action in my business. Which I did by Tapping, which is a great stress reliever—when I remember to use it on myself! I also realized that it was important to share tapping with you in whatever ways I can.
So if you are finding your stress levels going up, whether you are a business owner or not, here are some things you can do now to help you lower your stress.
Watch this recording of a Facebook Live I did last week right before everything in Seattle started shutting down. In it I demonstrate two straightforward ways to tap to lower any stress you are feeling from the current situation (as well as some non-tapping actions you can take).
Watch this second recording from a Facebook Live I recorded this week after I had worked with some clients and tapped down my own stress. You’ll not only see how to do an even simpler third way of tapping for stress, you’ll hear exactly why it’s important to be tapping every day, given what’s going on, to prevent future problems.
Finally, attend my Virtual Tapping Circle (which will be delivered via Zoom). I’m opening it up for all comers—no-charge! We’ll tap together on what people are experiencing (emotionally, mentally, economically) in the midst of this pandemic to lower our stress starting Friday, March 27th, from 8:30 am to 10 am Pacific time (which is 11:30 am-1 pm East Coast time) and meeting Fridays through April 17th. I’ll have more details next week, but I wanted you to clear your calendars now for as many of the Circles as you can attend. Tapping together can be more powerful than tapping alone.
So—right now—try out the resources listed above, and mark your calendar for Virtual Circles at 8:30 am-10 am PDT (11:30 am-1 pm EDT) on the four Fridays starting March 27th.
Please share this post with anyone you think could benefit from these resources. We all need a little extra help now.
You feel like you’re head is full of fluffy cotton,
You’re brain seems like it is set on “slow,”
You know that feeling like you just can’t think, can’t make decisions, can’t get anything done? It’s actually a solution.
Watch the video to find out how brain fog can possibly be a solution to anything—and what to do if it’s not the solution you want anymore.
When you’re ready to clear away your brain fog, stop procrastinating, and create the life you are meant to live, email me. We’ll set up a call to talk about what’s going on with you and see if I can help.
As kids we’re all taught to get our work done first before . . .
• playing with friends
• watching TV
• having dessert
• really, doing anything fun.
It’s called delayed gratification, and it’s not only a sign of maturity, it’s a skill that’s essential to accomplishing most anything that is important in life.
Most of us have learned to use this approach as an incentive to get ourselves to finish those things we would rather avoid. It makes sense. But, when taken too far, it can actually cause us to procrastinate.
This happened to a client of mine who had been trying very hard to be a good, mature adult who did her chores before going out to play. It backfired and ended up causing her to procrastinate on the very thing she was trying to get herself motivated to do.
Watch the video to see why that happened and how to know when you should chuck delayed gratification in the trash and just Go Out and Play!
If you would like some help figuring out what’s causing your procrastination, email me. We’ll set up a call to talk about what’s going on with you and see if I can help.
“Elizabeth” had a big block. Lately she had been unintentionally sabotaging her relationships with her big clients She was worried that it was jeopardizing her business, and she was right. She needed to get rid of her block. But her block wasn’t quite what she thought it was.
Elizabeth works hard at everything she does. When her clients say they need something, she always takes on the project immediately no matter how unreasonable the time frame. Then she knocks herself and her staff out getting it done. She has taken that old adage to “underpromise and overdeliver” and thrown away the “underpromise” part. She promises her clients everything they want in record time, struggles to make it happen, and then finds that they don’t appreciate how hard she works. Of course, she rarely tells them how difficult it will be to meet their deadlines, so how could they?
She also overdoes things at home. Despite having a successful business making more than enough money, she does all the cleaning and cooking at home. She manages her seventh grade son’s schedule, personally making sure he gets to all his after school activities, attends his games, and hosts his friends at home at least once a week. And when he started struggling in math, she researched geometry books, got the one with the most recommendations, and tutored him herself. When her husband complained about their outdated kitchen, she hired the general contractor then made all the decisions and dealt with the inevitable problems on her own.
I’ve been realizing lately how many of my clients have been struggling with sleep issues due to all their stress. I know how hard it is not just to get the work done but to even think when you haven’t slept well the night before from personal experience, so it’s something that I work on with my clients. A lot. And now I’ve made a decision.
I’m going to create some sort of product that uses all the tricks and techniques I use with my clients to lower their stresses so they can sleep. It’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for awhile. And since I’m constantly advising clients to share their goals with someone else to really get motivated to make them happen, I’m sharing this goal here.
There, now I’m motivated.
I’ve got a lot of details to work out, but it’s important so I’m going to make this happen. It’ll take some time to come up with my . . . book? Video training? Webinar? Well, I have a few things to decide, and a bit of work to make it happen. I’ll let you know as I get closer to having . . . something to share about this new project.
Time for a confession: I get blocked, too. In fact, I had some serious internal blocks to marketing my business in the past, and I had to work very hard to figure out what they were and root them out. As I worked on my own blocks, I found it easier and easier to do things like write my newsletter, talk to others about what I do, take on more clients—all the things I had been planning to do but dragging my feet on.
Since getting rid of these blocks, I even thought of a plan to share what I do to help clients with sleep problems with a lot more people. I was very excited about creating my manual with supporting video and audio aids. I got off to a good start outlining what would go where and making a start on the manual. Then I stalled out. Whenever I thought, “I should do another section for the manual,” I would find myself doing something, anything else. What was going on? I thought I’d taken care of all my blocks already!
Hey, I’m a coach who specializes in helping people get rid of what is holding them back. Surely I should be able to figure this one out. Was I holding myself back by trying to be perfect? No, that didn’t match what was going on. Did I need to get rid of the usual timewasters? Well, I tried and that didn’t work. I just found other, more creative ways to waste time. I wasn’t even wasting time, really. I was just working on things that weren’t as important. What if I cleared out some of the impediments to working on the manual? Nope, that wasn’t it.
I tried everything I could think of. Nothing worked. So I gave up and asked my coach. Yes, I have a coach. Two, actually. We coaches have realized that, no matter how good we are at helping our clients, it can be impossible sometimes to figure out our own problem. It’s like that old adage, you can’t see the forest for the trees. So when I really want to get moving I call one of my coaches. I called.
In about twenty minutes, Rebecca showed me that I was falling into a trap that many, many people are falling into these days. There is so much to do. If we aren’t working all the time, we feel like we’re falling behind. So we work later, eat lunch at our desks, stop taking breaks, start working on weekends, anything we can do to get more work done. But the reality is we get less done, not more when we do this.
Why should this be? Rebecca has done the research and tells me it’s because the adult brain cannot work for more than ninety minutes at a time. After ninety minutes, it just can’t take in any more information. It needs to take a break for something like twenty minutes before it can get back into high gear. That’s why my schedule of trying to get it all done without coming up for air was backfiring. I would hit my ninety-minute limit, then go into mental puttering mode, doing things that didn’t take much thought. The more I pushed, the less I could think clearly. I wasn’t taking any breaks, so my brain wasn’t coming back online. As Rebecca pointed out, I was being neither strategic nor smart by working constantly.
I spent a bit of time arguing with Rebecca. Well, sure, that’s true for other people, but I should be able to work through the pain. I have too much to do to be weak like that. I can take a break in a few months, after I’ve finished my project. Rebecca listened patiently to me rant, only smiling a little at my efforts to avoid physiology. We both knew that trying to ignore reality wasn’t working and wasn’t going to work. I needed to change my approach if I wanted to get more done. I had to take breaks every ninety minutes or so. Everyone does.
Once I caved and admitted that I was human, we got to work figuring out what the most effective way for me to work was so that I could get more done with the less clock time I would be using. Rebecca reminded me of the Pareto Principle. You’ve probably come across this at some time or other. The Pareto Principle holds that around 80% of results come from around 20% of efforts. To get the best results, then, I needed to schedule my most important “efforts” into the 20% of my time when I was most productive.
For me, this means scheduling ninety minutes to work on my sleep manual at the beginning of the day, when I have the most energy and focus. No more “clearing out the easy stuff,” like emails, when I sit down at my computer. That can wait. I have something important to do, and that is going to get done in my most productive time.
So your tip for this week is to figure out the times you are most productive. First thing in the morning? Right after lunch? The last hour of the day when everyone leaves you alone? Schedule your important projects for those times. And, yes, schedule breaks every ninety minutes or so. Run up and down in the stairwell a few times. Go get coffee with a co-worker and talk shop. Go for a walk. Take a real break so you can get some real work done.
I love helping clients uncover and get rid of those internal blocks to their success that go very deep. It isn’t always easy, but it can be pure joy to start with, say, what they have been doing to sabotage themselves, follow it back all the way to its source and get rid of it. However, not all blocks are complicated issues that need serious detective work with a coach to untangle. Some blocks to doing what we need to in our career or business are simply “reflex reactions” built into all of us that can be avoided with some easy techniques—when you know the techniques.
In the past two weeks I’ve described two ways to get around those kinds of blocks, first, by making it a little bit harder to procrastinate and second, by making it that much easier to start the activity you want to be doing. Today’s tip is another way to get yourself going on something that you just haven’t been getting around to in spite of all your good intentions. (All three of these techniques and the research behind them are explained in detail in The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. I highly recommend reading or listening to it on your commute.)
Making choices can be exhausting
Science tells us that making choices lowers our physical stamina, our persistence, and our overall focus, and it lowers them a lot. (Each choice also lowers our ability to do math problems, if that is relevant to you). Each choice doesn’t have to be complicated or have enormous consequences resting on it to have those effects, either. As Shawn Achor puts it, it can be as simple as “chocolate or vanilla.” When we’ve used up our “choice energy,” we start making the easiest choices that take the least amount of effort, whether or not they lead to the results we want. Then it just takes time and rest to replenish our choice energy.
I recently read about a study that showed this choice energy being used up. The study looked at the parole system in an Israeli prison and found that the earlier in the day a prisoner’s parole hearing came up, the more likely he was to get released. The researchers concluded that because it was easier and safer for the members of the parole board to deny parole than to grant it, they were more likely to make the hard choice—to grant parole—early in the day before they had made many choices, and more likely to make the easy choice—denying parole—later on after they had already made a number of choices. The only exception was for the hearings that happened right after the board’s lunch, when there was an increase in paroles granted. Apparently eating can replenish your “choice reserves” somewhat, too.
Just this week a client gave me another example of what happens when you use up your choice energy. A few years ago she took a standardized test to get into professional school and didn’t do very well. The test takes over five hours to complete, with five multiple choice sections. The questions are tricky, designed to weed out those who don’t think the way that is required in school. By the time my client got to the fifth section, she was exhausted. She couldn’t keep her focus on the questions long enough to reason them through, so she just started filling in the bubbles randomly. Her stamina, focus and persistence were gone because of all the choices she had already made in the previous sections.
Granted, one of the reasons she got to this exhausted stage was a deep-seated fear of taking tests, which dragged her down and made the first four sections of the test that much harder for her than for others taking it. But even after we finish rooting out her test anxiety, when she re-takes the exam she will still have to contend with using up her choice energy. So we’ve made a plan. To make sure she has as much “choice energy” as possible going into the test, which is on a Saturday, she is going to limit the choices that she has to make for at least twenty-four hours prior to that. She’ll do things like lay out her clothes for Friday and Saturday on Thursday night. She has already picked out what she will order at lunch with her co-workers on Friday. She will ask her partner to choose Friday’s dinner without her input. He will drive her to the test site. Any choice she can make before that twenty-four hours, or give to someone else, she will.
Save choice energy by getting rid of choices—prepare in advance and make rules
You can use a similar strategy for any project that you haven’t been able to get going on. Let’s say you’ve been meaning to make some cold calls but never get around to actually doing them. Instead of just saying to yourself, “I’m going to make some calls tomorrow, without fail” and relying on your willpower to make it happen, make all the decisions you can the night before. Write them down and leave the plan on your desk. How many calls will you make? When will you make the first call? Who will you call, and in what order? Don’t leave anything to decide on the day you make the calls that you could decide the night before. Then, when you arrive in your office the next day, there is your plan sitting right in front of you. The decisions are already made. You just have to implement them.
Another way to get around draining your choice energy—and therefore your stamina, focus and persistence—is to make rules for yourself. When you’ve made a rule, you’ve already made your choice in advance so you aren’t drawing on your choice energy when it is time to act.
Example: Jessie’s big slump at work
A good illustration of these techniques was the situation faced by my client, “Jessie,” who wanted to get more productive at work. She liked her job and her boss, but she found she was doing less and less each day, coasting on her reputation from past successes. She knew she couldn’t keep going this way much longer.
Jessie recognized that a big obstacle to her getting anything done these days was her conversations with her co-workers over coffee when she first got to work. They had turned into b- . . . er, kvetch sessions about all that was wrong with the co-workers’ managers and their jobs. By the time she got to her desk, she was unmotivated and looking for the easiest thing she could do to make it seem like she was working. The problem was compounded at lunchtime when she would join these same friends for another complaint-filled conversation that would sap her energy for the afternoon. Making herself choose anything challenging from her To Do list under those circumstances was just too much.
The answer Jessie and I came up with was to implement three rules. The first was not to have coffee with her co-workers until after 10:30 am. That way, she had at least two hours to get some work done at the beginning of the day. The second was to do first the one thing on her To Do list that she least wanted to do that day. (Of course, she picked that item out the night before.) The third rule was to turn the conversation to something more positive whenever a co-worker started in on a complaint, like what they could do next to find a better job, or where each was going to go on vacation. (Again, she picked out what the topic would be the night before.)
Two weeks after she implemented these three rules, the change was dramatic. Jessie reported that she was getting a lot more done throughout her workday, not just those first couple of hours. She had already finished two of the projects she had been dreading and avoiding. And her co-workers were also enjoying the change in their conversations. Apparently they were tired of the never-ending complaints, too.
Pick out a project and try it!
You can use this technique on anything you have been avoiding. The day before you plan to work on it, write out your plan—what you are going to work on, when, in what order, anything that you will have to decide. Put your plan front and center on your desk so that the next day you can just do it. If your problem is long-standing, or, like Jessie’s, it seems to cover a lot of activities, then come up with a rule today that you can follow tomorrow, and the next day and the next. That way the decision is already made and you won’t have to whittle away at your stamina, focus and persistence by making choices each day before starting on your project or projects.
Next week, I’ll put this technique together with the two previous techniques to show you how to implement a new, more productive habit. Until then, enjoy the extra stamina, focus and persistence you’ve recovered!