PSU - Beating Procrastination


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Slides used in the talk given by Tom Cox on "Beating Procrastination" for PSU (Portland State University) in April 2010.

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PSU - Beating Procrastination

  1. 1. Beating Procrastination: Causes, Triggers, Cures
  2. 2. Susan de la Vergne Tom Cox
  3. 3. Procrastination is not Laziness <ul><li>Problem Procrastination does NOT come from: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Laziness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of Willpower </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of Ambition </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Problem Procrastination is self-inflicted and stress-related </li></ul>
  4. 4. When is Procrastination Good? <ul><li>Procrastination can be good when: </li></ul><ul><li>Lack a Resource and must Wait </li></ul><ul><li>Suspect an Assignment is not really important </li></ul><ul><li>You need to Think it Through more </li></ul><ul><li>Your Energy Level is wrong (not Mood) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Awareness or Mindfulness <ul><li>Even before you begin to beat procrastination, you can start to increase your awareness </li></ul><ul><li>Step back from yourself – observe your feelings as you feel them </li></ul><ul><li>Notice your actions as you do them </li></ul><ul><li>This sets you up for success </li></ul>
  6. 6. Stress Worsens Procrastination <ul><li>Chronic Stress changes the Brain </li></ul><ul><ul><li>NY Times article 18-Aug-2009 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Problem-solving and Goal-seeking areas of the brain shrivel </li></ul><ul><li>Rote and Habit areas blossom </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Doing old things and expecting new results </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Stress Relief can Restore the Brain <ul><li>With four weeks of vacation, the brain returns to normal </li></ul><ul><li>Problem-solving and Goal-seeking areas re-grow </li></ul><ul><li>Rote and Habit areas shrink back </li></ul><ul><li>Other stress-reduction habits help </li></ul>
  8. 8. Stress Behaviors <ul><li>Difficulty making decisions. </li></ul><ul><li>Angry outbursts. </li></ul><ul><li>Forgetfulness. </li></ul><ul><li>Low energy level. </li></ul><ul><li>Constant worrying. </li></ul><ul><li>Propensity for mistakes. </li></ul><ul><li>Thoughts about death or suicide. </li></ul><ul><li>Trouble getting along with others. </li></ul><ul><li>Carelessness. </li></ul><ul><li>Withdrawing from others. </li></ul><ul><li>Hiding from responsibilities. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Stress Enhancers <ul><li>Isolation </li></ul><ul><li>Uncertainty </li></ul><ul><li>Feeling of Lack of Control </li></ul><ul><li>Fatigue </li></ul>
  10. 10. Notice Stress Behaviors <ul><li>If you are showing behavioral signs of high stress: </li></ul><ul><li>Do not blame or shame yourself! That enhances stress </li></ul><ul><li>Instead, realize it means: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You really are under a lot of stress </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your behavior will improve as you reduce subjective stress </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Attack Stress Enhancers <ul><li>If you are Isolated: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Eat meals with friends </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If you are Uncertain: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Seek certainty – analyze, ask </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If you Feel a Lack of Control: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on what you can control </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If you have Fatigue: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Get good sleep – prioritize it </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Focus on What you Control <ul><li>If you Feel a Lack of Control: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on what you can control </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Procrastination Journal <ul><li>Increase your awareness of your procrastination thoughts and behaviors by keeping a journal of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The date and time of the impulse </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What you were doing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What you were tempted to do </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What you told yourself </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What you chose to do and for how long </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Procrastination Triggers <ul><li>Procrastination is often triggered by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Resentment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Confusion or Uncertainty </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fear of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Failure </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Success </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Criticism </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Skill Deficit </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unrealistic Time Estimates </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Resentment <ul><li>Your procrastination might be triggered by Resentment if: </li></ul><ul><li>You have a hard time saying “no” </li></ul><ul><li>You’re a people-pleaser </li></ul><ul><li>You are often bullied into things </li></ul><ul><li>You fear confrontation </li></ul><ul><li>You feel taken advantage of </li></ul><ul><li>You say “I shouldn’t have to…” </li></ul>
  16. 16. Resentment Example <ul><li>Dilbert cartoon about Low Standards: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Wally tells Asok to use the “power of low standards” and leave his dirty dishes on the floor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Alice walks by and says “once again I have to clean up after slobs” </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Resentment Non-Fixes <ul><li>Anti-procrastination advice that may NOT work with Resentment: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Break it into smaller chunks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Instead of one large task I resent, now I have ten small tasks I resent </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reward yourself </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The reward may bring up the same negative emotion as the task and become non-rewarding </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clarify Goal or Next Step </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If the problem is not a lack of clarity, time spent clarifying is wasted </li></ul></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Resentment Fixes <ul><li>Defer (mindfully) – pick a higher priority task to do instead </li></ul><ul><li>Ditch – Just say “no” </li></ul><ul><li>Dilute the impact – Focus on your Worthy Goal </li></ul><ul><li>Delegate (when appropriate) </li></ul><ul><li>Just Do It – “Put on your Big Boy Pants” – sometimes we all have to do things we dislike; grow up </li></ul>
  19. 19. Procrastination Cycle <ul><li>You Feel Anxiety </li></ul><ul><li>Which is temporarily relieved by </li></ul><ul><li>An Empty Promise or a Self-Criticism or a Distraction </li></ul><ul><li>Which leads to </li></ul><ul><li>Non-performance and more Anxiety </li></ul>
  20. 20. Confusion or Uncertainty <ul><li>Is Your Procrastination Triggered by Confusion or Uncertainty? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Do I have a Clear Vision of my desired outcome? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do I have a Clear Understanding of my Next Steps? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do I have a sense of hopelessness? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do I feel Anger because it seems someone wants me to Read their Mind? </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Confusion Non-Fixes <ul><li>Anti-procrastination Advice that May Not Work with Confusion: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Break it into smaller chunks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sometimes this does work; sometimes not </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reward yourself </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The reward doesn’t help because the problem wasn’t a lack of willingness </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Just Do It </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Just do what, exactly? What is the “it”? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Time Log or Time Management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Time Usage is not the weak link here </li></ul></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Confusion Fixes <ul><ul><li>Create a Vision First </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Analyze – what is unclear </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask – sharing a burden halves it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Find Someone Who Did It </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Almost any successful person will gladly give you 30 minutes to tell you how they succeeded – just offer to buy them coffee </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work Backwards from Result </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When the Process is unclear, specify the Outcome </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Don’t Remember Things <ul><li>When experimental subjects had to memorize seven (7) digits instead of two (2): </li></ul><ul><li>Their self-control dropped by half (50%) </li></ul><ul><li>They were twice as likely to pick chocolate cake over fruit salad </li></ul><ul><li>Use your System to Remember Things </li></ul><ul><li>“ The Weakest Ink is Stronger than the Strongest Memory” – so write it down </li></ul>
  24. 24. Fear <ul><li>Is Your Procrastination Triggered by Fear? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What emotions come up when I consider this task? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have I eliminated Resentment? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have I eliminated Confusion? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Am I mad at myself, or consider myself cowardly? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do I envy people who do this easily? </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Faces of Fear <ul><li>The three major kinds of fear are: </li></ul><ul><li>Fear of Failure </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Does doing badly hurt more than not trying? (Perfection or don’t try) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fear of Success </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Will success push us out of our comfort zone or create new work? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fear of Criticism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who might be critical? Why do we care? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Tackle each one differently! </li></ul>
  26. 26. Fear Non-Fixes <ul><li>Anti-procrastination Advice that May Not Work with Confusion: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Break it into smaller chunks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sometimes this works; sometimes not </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Analyze or Ask </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>I may know what to do, and fear it </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reward Yourself </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Just Do It </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sometimes this works; sometimes not </li></ul></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Fear Fixes <ul><ul><li>Create a Vision First </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Find a passion greater than your fear </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deadlines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The fear of missing the deadline can overcome the fear of doing the task </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Find Someone Who Did It </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sometimes the role model gives you courage </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Create an Unshakable Sense of Worth based on Facts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Re-Interpret Fear as a Reason to Act </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. Skill Deficit <ul><li>Procrastination Triggered by a Skill Deficit </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What emotions come up when I consider the task I’m putting off? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have I eliminated Resentment, Confusion, and Fear as causes? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Am I self- Critical / see myself as Stupid ? </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. Skill Deficit Fixes <ul><ul><li>Break into Sub- Steps , then check Skill </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>List Skill needed for each sub-step </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Go find/hire each skill you lack </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify the Real Outcome </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Guy who couldn’t Read – went with Audio Books instead </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Re- Interpret your Reluctance – treat the skill deficit as a challenge </li></ul></ul>
  30. 30. Unrealistic Time Estimates <ul><li>Is Your Procrastination Triggered by Unrealistic Time Estimates? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Do I even make time estimates? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have I eliminated Resentment? Confusion? Fear? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Am I Chronically Late? </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. Three Steps to Beat Procrastination <ul><li>Become mindful – notice when you do it </li></ul><ul><li>Analyze – identify your triggers </li></ul><ul><li>Treat – use the right fixes for your triggers </li></ul>
  32. 32. Coming Soon <ul><li>“ Beating Procrastination” class </li></ul><ul><li>Tom Cox </li></ul><ul><li>Portland State University </li></ul><ul><li>Professional Development Center </li></ul>
  33. 33. PSU/PDC Classes <ul><li>Leadership </li></ul><ul><li>Management </li></ul><ul><li>Communication </li></ul><ul><li>Project Management </li></ul><ul><li>Information Technology </li></ul><ul><li>Multimedia … and much more! </li></ul><ul><li>More info: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>