I have been performing at a low level recently, and then I had a great session with my coach yesterday, and realized a few things.
I was procrastinating, but I wasn’t taking time to examine why I was procrastinating, because I was so busy trying to force myself to work! I should have taken an hour to examine my thoughts towards the work that’s on my plate right now; which I did yesterday and today.
My coach let me know that she spends at least 30 minutes every morning examining her thoughts and getting psyched up, before she starts working. And here’s the key point: it’s not the same thing every morning. It’s not a routine or a static mantra. It’s different every day. She often starts with doing some writing, to get her thoughts down on paper, and aims to finish by creating an affirmation statement for the day: a battle cry, a declaration of what she intends to accomplish, and why it’s personally important to her.
Does 30 minutes seem like a long time to invest, every morning? Her experience is that the investment more than pays for itself every day, in terms of increased productivity, and maintaining laser-like focus on what’s really important. I’ve heard this from other productivity experts, too. Time spent at the beginning of the day, on goals, on preparing one’s frame of mind, is more than repaid: you’ll work smarter and more efficiently.
I think this method makes a lot of sense. Previously, I had developed some static statements that I was reviewing every morning, but they gradually lost their “power” to motivate me. I think the key is that motivation is a fluid thing, and you have to re-discover your enthusiasm every day. This approach also has the advantage that you can discover and root out whatever blocks may be driving you to procrastinate at the moment. Do it in a notebook or blog or never-ending Word document. Highlight your daily affirmations /battle cries, which will certainly make good reading in the future.
I’ve been working with a life coach for the past 4 months, and together we have achieved amazing things. We put procrastination squarely in the cross-hairs and pulled the trigger. She has helped me to discover what was missing from all the tactics and systems that I’ve tried before. She has helped me to develop new ways of seeing my work, my goals and my life. I’ve been thriving. I have accomplished things that I used to wish for hopelessly. I now look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm! That’s one of the things that was missing. Performing at a high level by forcing yourself to work is impossible. I needed to step back and discover what I really wanted, and WHY I really wanted it, and HOW my daily work would enable me to achieve it.
Connect with your enthusiasm, every day. I’m not enthusiastic about my (current) job, but I am enthusiastic about something else. And right now, doing well at my current job is enabling me to achieve that something else. I connect with the enthusiasm i have for that something else, every day, and it brightens everything else that I do.
But most of all, splurge on a few sessions with a good life coach. Your investment will be repaid a thousandfold — in increased productivity, and in happiness.
Am I cured? No, I still struggle with procrastination sometimes, but it doesn’t rule my life anymore. The struggles are brief, and I know how to win.
It’s 2pm. The high-performance me, the best version of myself, feels good about what he has already accomplished today. He has been working diligently since he got to work this morning: focusing on one task at a time, always the highest priority first, undistractable, in the zone, leveraging the power of focus. When he takes a break, he is happy, relaxed. When he returns to work, he is focused, confident. He takes pleasure in accomplishment. When he leaves work at 5pm today, he will leave it behind without worry or regrets, and will embrace his next few hours with the family.
Tomorrow I will be more like the high-performance me.
Looking for a way to motivate myself to work out regularly. Happened upon the theory that extrinsic rewards actually demotivate over time, but intrinsic rewards are motivators. Example given: the reward for students to learn how to use a library catalog, is that they find the books or info they want – this is an intrinsic reward, as it is a natural consequence to the action. An extrinsic reward would be “learn how to use the library catalog, and I’ll take you out for ice cream.” The next time you want them to learn something, they will be demotivated unless you offer ice cream. Even with the ice cream, they might feel demotivated; they don’t want to learn, they just want the ice cream.
This gave me an idea. If I want to encourage myself to work out three times per week, then I could reward myself extrinsically, e.g. every week that I do 3 full work-outs, I give myself a reward, like a movie night or something. That’s an extrinsic reward. But what if I desired the effects of working out regularly? Attach a reward to some outcome of working out, e.g. when I can do ten chin-ups and run 2.5km in 15 minutes, then I can take the whole family out to the movies. Then, the rewards for working out three times per week are intrinsic: I get the fitness I need in order to achieve the extrinsic reward. In the library example, it would be like rewarding students for answering a list of questions by finding the answers in the library; learning to use the catalog is a necessary (and rewarding) step to answering those questions.
So, remote the reward by one step, to achieve intrinsic motivation. That’s my hypothesis.
A big habit of producers is to always be working on your #1 priority – to always tackle your #1 priority first. I’m trying, as an “experiment,” to do this for one week: first thing in the morning, to work for an hour on my #1 priority before doing anything else, even (especially) email, Facebook or web comics. Of course, I want to do it for the rest of my life, not just for one week. But: one step at a time.
Progress so far:
Thursday – Had an off-site meeting all day. Didn’t count.
Friday – Success! Worked 9am-10am on my #1 priority, before doing anything else – yay! But then I goofed off for a couple hours. Over-all a productive day, but not perfect.
Today – Fail. I spent an hour on web comics before getting down to work. Actually, before exercising and reviewing my goals and whys, which was part of the problem. The other part of the problem is that I’m short on sleep. I read recently that, when under stress (I think lack of rest counts), we default to habitual behaviours. Unfortunately, my habits are unproductive ones.
Also, I guess I was procrastinating because my #1 priority today was sales calls, and I hate doing sales.
- It’s really important that i get enough sleep!
- I have to be extra careful of my bad habits on days when I’m not fully rested. No excuses!
- Once I replace my bad habits with good ones, my productivity won’t be so dependent on sleep.
I am trying a new system to help me develop productive work habits. It is a holistic approach that starts with getting myself into a positive, mindful state about work and my goals, at the beginning of every day. I have a fairly comprehensive morning routine that involves exercise and meditating on certain subjects, followed by certain expectations for my daily output of work.
Daily expectations for self > have a good day > feel good > [cycle repeats]
Daily expectations for self > have a bad day > critical of self > put more pressure on self to do better tomorrow > pressure = stress > avoidance behaviour (procrastination) > have bad day > [cycle repeats]
Bad days happen. I don’t want a bad day to set off the spiral of stress and procrastination and more bad days, and maybe giving up on the new system altogether. Need to make some allowance for: some days are better than others. Even highly productive people have bad days.
Paradox: How can I set goals, targets, and make plans, and try to develop good work habits, while also being flexible enough that a bad day doesn’t derail me?
How should I feel when I have an unproductive day?
Should I moderate my expectations of myself, following a bad day?