Think about the task of writing an article such as this one. Imagine the time and energy it might take a writer who procrastinates to: 1) think about starting the article, 2) put it on a ‘to do’ list, 3) talk about doing it, 4) promise themself to start it tomorrow, 5) promise themselves to definitely start it tomorrow, 6) promise…well, you get the point.
As the midnight deadline for the article draws near, imagine the stress the writer must feel as she brews a pot of coffee and sets herself up for a couple of hours to research the topic, organize the information, create an outline, come up with a dynamic opening line, write the article, rewrite the article, rewrite it again, print it out and rewrite it one more time. And, of course, the whole time beating herself up for waiting so long to begin or telling herself she isn’t good enough anyway and the article will be a bust. “If I only had more time!”
Sound familiar to anyone? This is procrastination in full bloom. Delays, broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. Feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem creep in. Worry. Fear. Stress. Overwork. You know the drill.
Procrastination isn’t good for anyone. So why do so many of us do it? We procrastinate on such matters as filing income tax and completing holiday shopping, but also with everyday tasks such as straightening our desk, cleaning out the garage or starting a new project at work.
The more difficult, inconvenient or scary we perceive the task to be, the more we procrastinate. We craftily come up with semi-convincing self-talk that makes the delay appear almost reasonable. But in the end the process is self-defeating and causes all sorts of problems for us, not the least of which is stress.
Fortunately, as with many other self-defeating behaviors, procrastination can be overcome. The following are a few remedies to start you on your way.
1. Set goals. Decide what you want and what needs to happen to get it. Be specific. Create a realistic and attainable timetable.
2. Commit. Make a contract with yourself. Tell a friend, co-worker or coach about your plan. Accountability is a great motivator
3. Set priorities. Make a list of things that need to be done in order of their importance.
4. Get organized. Have the right tools and equipment to do the job. Make lists. Keep a schedule or calendar.
5. Chunk it down. Don’t let the whole of the project overwhelm you. Break it down into small manageable steps and work on one piece at a time.
6. Use positive self-talk. Stay focused on what you do well. Replace excuses with rational, realistic thinking.
7. Reward yourself often and generously for accomplishing even the smallest of tasks. Celebrate your accomplishments
The place to begin is right where you are. The time to start is now.
Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications
“Eventually, everything goes away.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Change is a fact of life. Eventually, everything does change. We grow and age, seasons change, the sun rises and falls. Whether we decide to make changes ourselves, or whether they just happen to us, periods of transition can be incredibly stressful. But there are some practical things you can do during periods of change that could help with the change you’re facing.
There are two familiar things that people do when stressed and things around them us are changing – they race around and trying to get things done. Stress and anxiety can be motivators for any activity, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, too much activity can just end up making us more stressed and not really very effective.
The best way is to stop. Take a moment (or a few moments) doing nothing and just be still. Ypu can lie down on the floor or your bed, collapse in an armchair for a few minutes and stare off into space. It doesn’t need to be short or long, just do it in any time that you can spare.
Doing nothing gives your brain a chance to catch up, which gives you the initiative to start again. You’ll likely be a bit more on the ball and hopefully you’ll feel just a little calmer!
The practice of witnessing or watching yourself, even if you haven’t stopped or slowed down, can be an incredibly powerful anti-stress tool.
Watching can involve many things. Encourage yourself to listen for a moment in your environment – the sounds around you. Notice and examine your hands — are you holding anything in them? What does that object feel like in your hands? Is it cold or hot? Is it soft or hard? Again, listen to the sounds around you for a few moments.
You can continue this exercise for as long as you like. With practice, you might even find you’re able to ‘witness’ your thoughts in a similarly detached way.
Watching yourself, physically or mentally, can help you detach a little from your troubles. During periods of change, this can be helpful. Often, there are things we don’t notice about ourselves and it’s hard to get support if we’re not aware of what’s going on.
Similar to the witnessing exercise, breathing can be an excellent way of both calming yourself and noticing what’s going on for you.
We tend to breathe in a quicker and a shallower way when we’re stressed. In contrast, we breathe in a slower way when we’re relaxed.
The most interesting thing about the breathing is that you can actively change it. We can change it in a way that affects feelings.
Consciously and gradually slowing the breath down allows the working part of your nervous system to relax. This helps you feel more relaxed. This is a good remedy for any stress that comes with periods of change.
4. Be kind to yourself
This is something most of us forget to do! It’s especially important during periods of change or transition. The ‘Be kind to yourself’ approach means something different for everyone.
Some suggestions: let yourself sleep in, treat yourself to a food you really enjoy or go and get a massage. It doesn’t need to be anything big — small acts of kindness to one’s self go a long way.
5. Remember nothing is permanent
As Elizabeth Gilbert points out, “eventually, everything goes away”. When you’re trying to cope with a period of change, it is useful to remember that even change undergoes change. If you’re feeling unsettled, you won’t always be. If you feel like you aren’t coping, that will pass too.
This is an article by Joel Mayer. He writes about business coaching for companies like www.andrewmay.com.
Thank you, Joel, for your guest post to Carla’s Corner. Times of transition can be quite stressful, even when we’re the one inviting the change! Thanks for sharing these five practical tips to help us keep things in perspective as we move through transitions in our life.
Let’s consider for a moment the pesky dandelion. Reviled by many as an insistent, bothersome weed, it nevertheless continues to proudly display its pert, bright yellow self in lawns and gardens everywhere thriving in the face of adversity. Thriving in the face of adversity.
Where, in our own lives, do we face adversity? How do we carry ourselves through it: head down, beating ourselves up, feeling defensive and resentful? Or head up and face open, like the dandelion, sure of our intrinsic worthiness, knowing our gifts to the world, even if the world doesn’t necessarily recognize them?
“Kicking and screaming” or “going with the flow”—this quiz reveals various strategies for dealing with change and offers helpful approaches.
All change carries with it the risk of the unknown and the unexpected. Some find this exciting and welcome the challenge. Others go down the path of change reluctantly, dragging their heels all the way. But, as songwriter Johnny Rivers said, “The only thing that’s permanent is change.” A conscious, developed awareness of our response to change can help us develop better coping strategies.
Answer the following questions to find out how you cope with change. You won’t be scored at the end, but answer true or false to the following questions, and elaborate a bit on those that feel especially relevant.
Major disruptions. We all experience them at one time or another. We get fired, laid off or passed over; a loved one dies, leaves or gets in trouble; a project stalls or gets cancelled. The list, unfortunately, is endless.
For some, the impact of these hard times is overwhelming. Recovery, if it comes at all, can be painfully slow. Others show resilience and are admirably able to glide through these times fairly easily, bouncing back to a normal life again quickly. Resilience—the strength required to adapt to change—acts as our internal compass so we can resourcefully navigate an upset.
When unexpected events turn life upside down, it’s the degree to which our resiliency comes into play that makes these “make-or-break” situations an opportunity for growth. The good news is that each of us has the capacity to reorganize our life after a disruption and to achieve new levels of strength and meaningfulness. Though it’s easy to feel vulnerable in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, life disruptions are not necessarily a bad thing because they help us grow and meet future challenges in our lives. It’s a lot like a bone that was once fragile or broken, and is now strong from being used.
So how can you become more resilient? Here’s a look at seven key characteristics of people who demonstrate resilience during life’s curve balls.
A Sense of Hope and Trust in the World
Resilient people rely on their belief in the basic goodness of the world and trust that things will turn out all right in the end. This positive attitude allows them to weather times when everything seems bleak and to look for and accept the support that is out there. This approach toward the world gives them the ability to hope for a better future.
Interpreting Experiences in a New Light
The ability to look at a situation in a new way (a skill called “reframing”) can minimize the impact of a difficult situation. Resilient people take a creative approach toward solving a problem, and don’t always use an old definition for a new challenge.
A Meaningful System of Support
One of the best ways to endure a crisis is to have the support of another person who can listen and validate your feelings. Knowing that others care and will come to our support decreases the feeling of isolation, especially when tackling a problem alone. It’s important to choose people you trust. Don’t be surprised if it takes several friends, each of whom can provide different kinds of support. Resilient people aren’t stoic loners. They know the value of expressing their fears and frustrations, as well as receiving support, coaching or guidance from friends, family or a professional.
A Sense of Mastery and Control Over Your Destiny
You may not be able to predict the future, but you can tackle a problem instead of feeling at the mercy of forces outside of your control. Resilient people know that ultimately their survival and the integrity of their life values depend on their ability to take action rather than remain passive. Tough times call for you to tap into your own sense of personal responsibility.
Self-Reflection and Insight
Life’s experiences provide fertile ground for learning. Asking yourself questions that invite introspection can open a door to new understanding and appreciation of who you are and what you stand for. Giving voice to your thoughts and feelings leads to insight and helps transform the meaning of a problem into something useful. Resilient people learn from life situations and do not succumb to punishing themselves because of decisions made in the past.
A Wide Range of Interests
People who show resilience in the face of adversity are those who have a diversity of interests. They’re open to new experiences and ideas. Because their lives are rich and varied, it’s easier for them to find relief from the single mindedness and worry that often accompany a crisis.
Sense of Humor
Have you ever had a wry laugh during a difficult situation? The ability to see the absurdity, irony, or genuine humor in a situation stimulates our sense of hope and possibility. Humor has both psychological and physical benefits in relieving stress because it encourages a swift change in your perception of your circumstances—and when your thoughts change, your mood follows.
When you look to improve these seven areas now—rather than when adversity pays a visit—you’ll be able to bounce back more quickly.
Author’s content used under license, © 2010 Claire Communications
Do you have trouble calling it a day after you leave the office? Are you still distracted by work concerns once you’re arrived at home? By continuing to focus on work, we’re likely to bring the stress and mood of the day home with us. This unintentionally creates distance in our relationships and prevents us from enjoying the time we need for rest and recreation.
Eventually, it can take a toll on our physical health and overall well-being, which is why it’s so important to have a good method for leaving work at work and enjoying the rest of life.
If you’re looking for a better way to break out of work mode when you’re at home, try asking yourself these three questions.
1) Does your work-to-home routine support your need for transition?
Commute time can be a great decompression period if used properly. Try listening to music or an audio book to unwind. Perhaps you prefer quiet time to actively transition your focus from work to home. If you’ve had a particularly stressful day, consider an alternate, longer route home to give yourself a little more time to adjust.
For some people, engaging in physical activity is what’s needed to make the mental shift. A quick workout at the gym or another activity after work can be very effective. Exercise is a great way to de-stress while also helping to stay fit. If time is limited, be creative. Sometimes simply changing clothes or a quick shower can help refresh and refocus.
2) Have you set clear boundaries between work and home?
Setting regular work hours with consistent start and stop times assures you don’t shortchange your time at work or at home. This requires discipline, but my guess is you have more control than you think.
Before leaving work, make a list of things to do the next day. This allows you to free your mind of them once you leave the office. If it’s necessary to bring work home, be intentional about it. Determine how much time you’ll spend and stick to it. While at home, avoid constant checking of email and messages just because you can.
For people who work from a home office, setting clear boundaries is paramount. To overcome proximity issues, try getting out of the house for a while. Simply running a quick errand, picking up the kids or shopping for groceries will help to refocus your attention.
3) Does your time outside of work get proper priority?
Give your time away from work the same priority and importance as you give your working hours. Avoid over scheduling weeknight and weekend activities. Make it a point to allow for rest and relaxation as well as time for recreation. Don’t let this be you!
Give yourself permission to call it a day. It’s OK to have a life outside of work. Your inbox will never be empty and your ‘to do’ list will always have another task. Ultimately, that’s a good thing. So enjoy yourself, your friends and your family. You will be far more productive at work and home when you create balance in all areas of your life.