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3 Simple Strategies to Fight Procrastination

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Sometimes, all it takes to beat procrastination is a few simple tweaks. You woke up fresh and energized, got your coffee, and have your tasks meticulously listed. Afterwards, you got your “working music” playing through your noise-canceling headphones, and you turn on your computer ready to begin working.

And then…it happens. You glance back and forth at your list and your computer screen. The earliest deadline will not be until later at the end of your workday. You still got time. You want to try out that new restaurant around the corner. So, you go on the Internet to learn more about it.

The next thing you know, half the work day is done, and you have finished nothing! Sound familiar? You are not alone. In fact, the truth is that procrastination is normal. In fact, a study done by Piers Steel, shows that 95% of people procrastinate. The other 5% are probably still in denial.

The dangers of procrastinating

While there are cases when procrastination can do some good at work, it does have its adverse effects. Just take a look at these stats:

  • People who procrastinate reported higher levels of stress and more prone to illness long-term.
  • Chronic procrastinators exhibited poor work performance and made significantly more mistakes.
  • 40% of people that procrastinate report a significant financial loss.

Below are 3 reasons why we procrastinate and how we can fight against procrastinating:

1. Lacking motivation

People crave comfort because it is less stressful and it makes us feel safe. That is why it is so easy to convince yourself to take a nap or go for a Netflix binge even if you got a looming deadline. On the other hand, it takes a whole lot more effort on your part to motivate yourself to get up from that couch and spend time finding your passion.

Why? Let’s be honest: making those sales calls, doing presentations, and writing up reports are hardly things that you would call “enjoyable.” In fact, it can be tiresome, overwhelming, and just plain difficult.

How to fight it: “Motivation has a lot to do with perspective,” says Jim Vernon, CEO of Rockher. “Instead of focusing on the actual task you need to do, shift your focus to what will you get when you accomplish it. Does it mean more time with your kids? Or perhaps a raise?”

One way to do this is by changing the way you write your to-do list. Instead of just listing down one task after another, try listing them down by using an action verb.

Entrepreneur Marie Forleo calls this process as verbalizing your to-do list. Sounds simple, but it is beneficial because as she explains, the presence of these action verbs at the start of each of the tasks on your to-do list serve as a trigger to motivate you to take action.

“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” – George Herbert

2. Fear

Fear can be very crippling. For many people, it is just enough for them to validate why they procrastinate. The fear of failure is the most common reason why people procrastinate, especially among perfectionists.

Perfectionists have the urge that everything should be perfect the first time around. There is always that little voice ringing in their head that keeps telling them, ‘what if you mess up?’ Eventually, they give in to that voice and end up setting projects aside.

How to fight it: Baddeley said that the way he overcame this was by accepting failure. A friend of mine gave me John Maxwell’s book, Failing Forward. In it, one of the principles that he taught was that it is perfectly okay to make mistakes. It is part of being normal. The moment I learned to accept this was when I slowly started beating the procrastination habit.

3. Rebellion

In some cases, procrastinating is one way for a person to show one’s disapproval about something. For students, it can be their way of getting back at a teacher who offended or hurt them. With employees, it can be their way of showing that their resentment after being passed for a promotion or frustration balancing their life at work and home.

How to fix it: The best way to help someone deal with this kind of procrastination is to talk with them.

“Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.” – Theodore Roosevelt

People who procrastinate as a way to rebel feel that they have been wronged, devalued, and short-changed, Having a heart-to-heart talk with them about their concern, I found, helps them let off steam and the shake off that resentment.

Give them some advice and even a challenge on how to reach their goal will help them break away from their procrastinating habit. In some cases, it can even transform them into becoming some of your most productive employees.

How do you fight procrastination? Let us know your tips and suggestions below!

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Swati Ohri

    Oct 4, 2018 at 12:28 am

    divide the tasks into small steps, this increases self-motivation and finally gives us a way to stop procrastinating and doing something in real.

  2. Walter

    Sep 25, 2018 at 4:48 am

    Take activities you like and allow yourself to enjoy them only as reward for doing something productive. Such as “I will allow myself to play some video games after three solid hours of work”. Self-Discipline is key to this.

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

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The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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5 Things You Can Do to Fend off Boredom and Stay Focused

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Curiosity is human nature and it’s only natural that humans will lose interest in a topic after a while. This has been a topic that has been extensively explored among children, teenagers and adults by a psychologist with similar results being reported from each of the categories. Human’s minds are therefore prone to boredom, making it important for each professional to spend some time to understand the factors that drive boredom and strategies the individuals needs to use to overcome boredom and focus on their profession and development. (more…)

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