Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Tip for Procrastinators

I’m one of those people who love to get things done. Give me a big challenge or a difficult task to do, I’m on it!

But simple things like deciding what to get for dinner if my partner is home or what to wear? I can mess around for ages on those.

In my blogpost July 2008 I wrote about Procrastination and invited reader’s comments.

Could you live with this person?

Here is one person’s reply that made me think again about when and why I procrastinate.

“I have a close relationship with a person (my partner) however he procrastinates about everything.

If I ask what he would like for dinner he walks away pretending he didn't hear me asking him.

Anything that is in the "too hard" basket for him is left for later with some excuse.

There are broken things in the house that have been broken for years!

He was made redundant from his job a few years back and it took him nearly a year to finally pick a new job after many offers.

We have been together for over 30 years and initially I put this behaviour down to laziness and it was the cause of many disagreements in our relationship.

After a while I got to understand his reasons even though he won't discuss them.

It comes down to this. If he does some of this stuff and it is not right then he is most fearful that someone will criticise him, even though he might be criticised for not doing it.

I believe that some of this is due to the relationship my husband had with his father who was a controlling man - best intentions I am sure.

There was a constant battle of wits in that family, hiding "stuff" from dad so he would not know about it and therefore could not comment. I think this learned behaviour and fear is one of those things that have become part of his nature. He knows about it but can't get past the reliance on blaming his behaviour on his upbringing and what is the "norm".

I have come to terms that he needs gentle coaxing and encouragement and a pat on the back when he does accomplish something - after all we are all babies in big people's bodies!

Thanks for the opportunity to comment. I regularly receive your newsletters and I really do enjoy reading them.”

Fear and perfectionism – the (im)perfect match

Wow – she must be a saint! That behaviour would drive me crazy!

Yet her comments stung me. Why - because I can make decisions and do most things quickly except writing. That’s a whole different ballgame.

I’ll research, get readily sidetracked, distracted, busy, in fact anything except writing and then, well, there’s another day gone and I still haven’t done the writing I want to.

I don’t believe I’m lazy or inefficient. Yet ironically a task that is not that difficult for me once I get going, has me running in search of anything else to do rather than the thing I should be doing.

Lots of reasons for it but in a nutshell, it’s your amygdala

Some authors suggest that procrastination is a time management issue.

Others talk about it coming from fear of failure, fear of success, fear of loss of autonomy, fear of attachment. Whatever it is, there is one common thread, fear.

For me, it is fear of not being perfect. Isn’t that ridiculous? Yet my perfectionism has been (and still is) the biggest personal challenge in my life. it stops me doing things.

It’s The Almond Effect® again. My amygdala believes that somehow if what I do is not perfect, I am in someway a lesser person and won’t be successful. Seems like madness to some but the frustration of procrastination is real.

What to do about it

And just as my wonderful correspondent observed of her partner, my father had a huge role to play in setting up this state of mind for me.

So some of you will belong to the ‘Socks’ school of thought - just pull your socks up and get over it. Easy to say if you’re not a perfectionist!

If only it worked like that. Behaviours built up over decades don’t miraculously change overnight.

In my experience, the best way to deal with it is the Nike approach: Just do it. If your world doesn’t fall in and no one gets hurt, it’s probably safe.

Gentle coaxing and encouragement and a pat on the back

The strategy that struck me in my correspondents note was what seems like a statement of the obvious but often simply not done: coaxing, encouraging, supporting and acknowledgement.

This approach works for change leaders as well as in the family. Set up the opportunity and persuade resistors, recalcitrants, procrastinators to try out the new ways of doing things in the development stage and before you go live. It can work wonders.

And if you encourage, support, and recognize their achievements you often turn your most reluctant participants into advocates.

Just do it

But for me, this quote from a University of North Carolina article sums it up:

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair 
— Mary Heaton Vorse

That’s just what I did to write this CLUES and I think that applies to everything we put off doing!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Daniel Goleman describes The Almond Effect

The August 2011 newsletter from Six Seconds reports how Daniel Goleman describes what I call The Almond Effect. Great description.

He describes the neurological response to stress, or a threat, as a pure survival mechanism designed to guide us through “a short-term emergency” which has evolved into “an ongoing hazard for performance.” This ongoing hazard is the neurological spiral of stress that has us trapped.

Goleman explains that our “attention narrows to focus on the cause of the stress, not the task at hand; our memory reshuffles to promote thoughts most relevant to what’s stressing us and we fall back on over learned habits. The brain’s executive centers – our neural circuitry for paying attention, comprehension and learning – are hijacked by our circuitry for handling stress.”

Thus, we’re stuck until we become aware of our own stress spiral. Those with more emotional awareness and stronger skills in managing feelings are able to turn this cycle around more quickly.

From a neurological standpoint Goleman notes, “people who can manage their emotions well are able to recover more quickly from stress arousal.” Once we recognize that we’re on a destructive path, we can actively work to retrieve the brain’s executive centers from the stress spiral and begin to make better decisions.

As Goleman describes it, our “attention becomes nimble and focused again, our mind flexible, and our bodies relaxed. And a state of relaxed alertness is optimal for performance.” Thus our stressful situation becomes more manageable and the bigger picture is once again visible.

If you are a regular reader of these posts, you will know that using my STAR approach Stop - Think - Act - Rewire develops the skills to be able to manage stressful situations (The Almond Effect) not only while they are happening but also to better handle future triggers. STAR builds self-awareness and confidence and an ability to deal with what life throws at you. That seemed to me to be the best reason to develop it!