Archive for the ‘Procrastination’ Category

Every Action Produces a Reaction

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Newton's CradleMost people accept that there is room for improvement in their lives and their behavior. Nobody’s life is perfect, and every unpleasant feeling or uncomfortable situation is a motivation for change. Why then do we often find it difficult to change?

Everybody who has tried to break a habit like smoking or chewing their fingernails knows this paradox. Every therapist who has watched clients resisting the very changes they said they wanted can attest to the strength of this dilemma.

We can often see clearly what we want to change, and yet have a devil of a time actually making those changes. Why?

There is an explanation. The process only seems mysterious because most people fail to realize how interconnected the parts of their life are. We tend to see things in separate pieces, as if they were in categories that existed in a vacuum. We don’t always make allowances for the way we have fitted all those pieces together. Changing one piece can disturb a subtle balance we have achieved. And that disturbance can be enough to derail our attempts to change.

Many people who complain of man unhappy marriage, for example, fail to realize how many adaptations they have made in order to keep that marriage going. People who have developed apparently self-destructive behaviors in order to cope with an abusive or severely disturbed spouse may find their marriage deteriorating as their personal health improves.

People with severe work or stress problems may find that the situation in their workplace is working against their attempts to build a satisfying life. People in families with unhealthy behavior patterns may find the rest of their family complaining as the so-called patient gets better.

We all live in a complex set of relationships. Trying to improve the parts of our lives that cause us pain requires that we also make adjustments in the parts of our lives that give us satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that we can’t change. And it doesn’t mean that we have to choose between old relationships and new ones.

Many people panic and stop making changes because they are afraid of suddenly having to choose between their old life and a new one.

Any program for change, whether done by yourself or with the aid of therapy, requires a careful evaluation of both the good and the bad parts of your life. Don’t expect the people around you to wholeheartedly accept your ‘improvements.’ They may see these changes as threatening to the status quo that they have come to depend on. You yourself may sometimes feel threatened by the changes you thought you wanted.

One reason that long-lasting change occurs slowly is that going slowly gives you time to make adjustments everywhere in your life. You can bring the best of the past with you, even as you build new ways of behaving. Let the other people in your life share in the process. Find out what adjustments they need to feel safer with your changes.

Evaluate your own priorities, and don’t be upset when you can’t change unwanted habits overnight. Working slowly to adapt your whole emotional and social environment can make changing easier and smoother. You don’t have to be a different person to improve your life. Subtle changes can be more rewarding than overnight makeovers!

Weeding Out Guilt

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

In my otherwise bright day, there is one flaw. I look out my office window to a battlefield and the weeds are winning again! I got the garden ready for planting early enough. I just didn’t get around to putting the seeds in. One too many emergencies; one too many deadlines.

I’m trying to decide whether it’s something I should feel guilty about. Oh yes, being guilty is a choice we make. Deciding to make a judgment that we are wrong is a choice, and feeling rotten enough to punish ourselves takes energy. Before I start feeling like a failure, I think I’ll follow my own guidelines.

Am I angry or resentful? Who’s telling me I have to grow dinner’s vegetables anyway? Is anybody else pressuring me to take over this job, or insisting that it be done? No, I guess not. It’s me that telling myself I ’should’ have done it.

Can I develop a sense of perspective about it? Why do I think I should have done it? I’ve been working hard every week. It would take several hours to plant the garden, then several more to weed and tend it daily. Do I really have the time? Is it really worth it?

Why do I feel responsible?

I guess I’m feeling like I’m supposed to do everything. I remember when I was younger and that tape would play ‘A good wife never lets her family down.’ A real woman could work a 60 hour week, clean the house, pamper her husband, spend time with the kids, entertain her friends, milk the goats and still be able to tend the garden. Hey! Wait a minute! Nobody could do all that!

Let’s be reasonable. Even Superman takes a break just to read a book sometimes. I admit that these days, there’s a few less chores and less people to take care of. Still, I do hate admitting that I’m human. Maybe I’m really telling myself that somebody else could do all these things. But that’s just not being realistic.

What would happen if I didn’t feel guilty?

I don’t think my family or friends would stop loving me. After all, they’ve put up with me this long. Besides, they’re not perfect either. And I love them anyway. I wonder if anybody even notice. My friends will take fresh lettuce that’s store-bought, and nobody else likes weeding the garden either. I bet they’d rather I had the time to bake fresh bread and share that and my time with them instead of weeding the silly garden.

One more thing before I let myself feel bad about myself. I can count my good qualities! Let’s see. I do earn enough to buy fresh vegetables. I do enjoy most of the work I do, and I smile a lot. Maybe the garden isn’t neat, but the house is livable and we all had a great time camping last weekend. I guess I’m not such a bad person after all.

Hey! It works! I don’t have to choose to feel guilty at all! I think I’ll go take a break and bake some homemade bread. I can even read a book while it bakes!

[Addition by Webmaster, NOT Dr. Daniels]:

Here are some related articles:

Dr. Daniels’ Break The Procrastination Pattern

This one from Web Worker Daily discusses taking a break without feeling guilty about it: Be Productively Unproductive Online. Without Guilt.

This article from requiem.net.au discusses the source of guilt in Is Guilt Innate?.

An article from WomenOf.com (a site targeted to women, but with useful information for all) has Get Rid of the Guilt, which discusses steps to overcoming procrastination and guilt.

Break the Procrastination Pattern

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Everybody likes the feeling of having finished a job well. But between starting a job and finishing it, there’s a long, hard road of just plugging away. So despite our desire to finish a task, we can find ourselves putting it off until the last minute. Then we have to rush to get it done at all, throwing our already hectic schedule into further disarray.

Procrastinators are easy to spot at any time of year. They tend to look anxious and harassed. They were the ones who were congregating in stores the night before Christmas trying frantically to complete their shopping at the eleventh hour. You may have seen them because you were there too! It’s like a Procrastinators Anonymous meeting!

There may be people who enjoy the excitement and suspense of never really knowing whether they will actually be finished what they’ve started on time. But most procrastinators really wish they could change their habits.

If you’re in the latter category, take heart! Here are some tips that may help you conquer that pile of unfinished jobs. But before you get to work, take a moment to analyze your pattern of procrastination, so you can avoid the trap in the future.

Do you tend to get discouraged at the beginning of a project, when the work looms ahead of you? Or does your energy run out near the end of a project because you’re afraid to accept the finished product? Knowing when you tend to procrastinate can help you plan ahead to gibe yourself extra reinforcement for continuing the work at this point.

Are there particular kinds of jobs that you tend to put off? Some people put off tasks that might bring them closer to other people, especially if they feel ambivalent about the other person. Others put off business tasks because they are afraid to have their finished work criticized. Some people use a crisis-laden schedule to provide an excuse for not dealing with the real problem areas of their lives. What is your pattern?

When you have honestly faced your pattern of putting things off, and are ready for change, here’s a quick way to get started. Get a pencil and paper, and proceed step-by-step:

First, write down all the undone jobs that are worrying you. Don’t worry about the order in which you write them; just get everything down on paper. Be specific and spill all your problems into this list.

Second, underline the five most urgent jobs and note them on a separate piece of paper. Put the first list aside and concentrate for the moment on this second top-priority list. Jot down a quick outline of what needs to be done to accomplish each task, and an estimate of the time needed.

Third, promise yourself a reward, however small, for each step you accomplish. Write it down next to the step. Now, start working through your most urgent items, remembering to reward yourself at each step along the way. (Aren’t you glad you wrote those rewards down?)

Fourth, when you have finished these five items, go back to your original list and begin the process again. As you read over your list, don’t forget to look for items you don’t really need to do, or items you can ask someone else to take over. Do your best on each project, but don’t be such a perfectionist that you exceed your time estimates.

And remember, once you get your schedule back on a less anxiety-filled track, don’t put off your resolution to stop putting things off!