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The bad news about the future (DW#569)

Have you ever told yourself that you don’t have time this week to do what matters but you will for sure next week? Next week you will be organized and have more time. Next week, things will magically work out and what distracts you today, will surely sort itself out next week.
 
It turns out that this is a very common human tendency. We tend to overestimate the time that we will have in the future.
 
The line from the musical Annie comes to mind: Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow. You are always a day away . . .
 
As lovely and positive as that thought may be, the reality, it turns out, it quite different. We are no more organized the next day than we are today. Tomorrow is likely to be just like today. We will be busy and distracted and have a long list of urgent things that will crowd out the important.

So our future will be just like our present. Unless we do something different. And start taking action on what matters. Not tomorrow and not...

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You can take action despite your fears. (DW#568)

Can I tell you a little secret?

The most successful people in the world have the same fears that you and I do. Fears regarding failure, criticism and not meeting standards set by themselves and others. 

Really and truly. 

The only difference is that they take action despite their fears and their anxiety. 

The strength of their purpose is greater than the fears and the doubts that they experience. 

Really. 

You and I can also choose to act despite how we feel. 

Repeat after me: 
Feel the fear and take action anyway. 
Feel the fear and take action towards your goals. 
Feel the fear and take action towards your goals. 

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The anxiety of taking action (DW#567)

I really like how Neil Fiore explains our tendency to procrastinate in his book The Now Habit.

He says that procrastination is our way of coping with the anxiety that accompanies starting or completing any task or making any decision. 

According to him, we procrastinate to deal with feelings of low esteem, perfectionism, fear of failure (and of success), indecisiveness, an imbalance between work and play, ineffective goal-setting, and negative concepts about work and ourselves. 

It makes sense right? Think about something you are procrastinating about. And check in with yourself. What are the underlying feelings you are trying to deal with? 

Are you concerned that the task or project will not be done perfectly? Are you scared that once done, people can criticize your work (or worse, YOU)? Are you concerned that you will not measure up to your own (perhaps unreasonable?) standards of perfection?

Naming your fears and concerns is the first step to taming...

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Taking action is rather risky (DW#566)

One of the risks of completing any task or project is that once it is done, we realise that it is not perfect. Despite our best efforts we may still not succeed fully at what we tried. Moreover, people may criticise our efforts or our project. Putting ourselves out there makes us very vulnerable. 

Also, when we are in the process of doing one thing, we cannot do other things. Once we start taking committed action on one thing, we are losing the opportunity to do other things. At least at that time. We can experience major FOMO (Fear of missing out).

In other words, if we do not take action and we do not complete projects we save ourselves from the risk that accompanies any action. We are safe from failure, criticism and from having to decide on priorities. 

The ship of our life is safe in harbour. 


But here is the thing about ships: yes, ships are safest when they are docked in the harbour. 

But that is not what ships are built for, are they?

When we are out there in...

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Have you heard of procrasti-pain? (DW#565)

Did you know that you can feel physical pain when you think about doing something that you are procrastinating on?

Barbara Oakley shares some fascinating research about procrastination in her book A mind for Numbers.

She claims that you can take people who hate doing math and scan their brains and actually SEE their pain centers light up as they contemplate having to do math! In other words, when they think about math, they feel physical pain. Weird right?

But it gets very interesting. When her research subjects actually start doing the math (rather than thinking about it) those pain centers turn themselves off!!

In other words, the anticipation of doing a task which they thought was unpleasant caused the pain. But the pain went away when they actually started doing the task.

This point is worth reading again and again and memorizing:

PROCRASTIPAIN IS THE ANTICIPATION of doing something unpleasant. And the cure for procrastipain is to start doing the task.

...

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The ultimate cost of procrastination (DW#564)

Let’s talk about our tombstones.

Imagine that you are walking in the cemetery and you come across your own tombstone. The cemetery has certain rules about what you can put on your tombstone. The choices are:

Full of potential. Had many talents and gifts. Had very good intentions of using them. Ran out of time. Died while planning.

OR

Spent. All used up. Tried (and failed many times). Played full on. Did what s/he could. Died while engaged with life.

Which would be yours right now? Which would you rather have?
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The cost of procrastination (DW#563)

Some of us thrive on the adrenalin rush that comes from doing things last minute. We tell ourselves that we work best under tight deadlines.

Research shows however, that procrastination comes with many costs. 

University of Calgary psychologist Piers Steel’s studies show that procrastinators perform poorly, experience low self esteem, make poor economic and financial decisions and suffer more medical problems than their non-procrastinating peers. 

And sadly, procrastinators don’t just delay completing unpleasant tasks. They also end up procrastinating on opportunities to enjoy themselves, such as waiting too long to buy tickets for vacations, concerts or sporting events and either miss out on these or end up paying a lot more for them.

Think of a recent time when you procrastinated on something. What did it end up costing you? Was the cost financial, relationship-based or a reduction in self-esteem? 

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What is procrastination (DW#562)

Before we go any further, let’s define what we mean by procrastination.

Here is how Piers Steel (among the world’s foremost researchers and speakers on the science of motivation and procrastination) defines it:
Procrastination is the act of needlessly voluntarily delaying an intended action despite the knowledge that this delay may harm the individual in terms of the task performance or even just how the individual feels about the task or him- or herself. 

In other words, procrastination is not rational. We fail to act even though logically we know that delaying this action is not in our own best interests. 

Timothy Pychyl in his book Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change defines it as a failure of self control. 
"Procrastination is a form of self-regulation failure. We fail to regulate our behavior to achieve our own goals. We make an intention to act, but we do not use the self-control necessary to...

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Let’s talk about procrastination (DW#561)

Most of us know a lot more than we put into action. We may even have a goal or a plan to do something of value to us but we haven’t started on it. We will start tomorrow; next week or next month we may tell ourselves. Or when we have time.

In other words, we procrastinate. We delay or put off something that needs to be done.

If you procrastinate, you are not alone. By some estimates, about 20% of adults have regular bouts of procrastination. Students are of course notorious for putting off things and apparently 70-90% of students chronically procrastinate. I have a theory that students procrastinate about as much as anyone who is engaged in a creative pursuit (writing, preparing a presentation, creating art work or designing anything – anything that will be up for public scrutiny).

For the next few weeks, we will explore the topic of procrastination, why we do it, what it costs us and how we can work around our tendency to delay things that need to get...

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