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8 Ways to Turn Your Guilt, Shame and Procrastination into Positive Change

8 Ways to Turn Your Guilt, Shame and Procrastination into Positive Change

It was the best of times for productivity. It was the worst of times for productivity.

Despite an endless stream of upbeat self-help books and articles, the great majority of us simply can’t change our lives completely overnight. Gradual change is harder, but as always, necessary. There are no shortcuts, we are always told, but this is only partly true.

The algorithms that run our lives – from ingrained habits and routines to Google searches and our Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn feeds – have all been optimized and tinkered with by someone else. Remember when you had no email, Facebook or the news to check first thing when you woke up?

On top of the time wasted, there is always guilt and shame – and often awful stress – over procrastination, both at work and home. That’s how decision-making and our productivity become so warped and clouded by reaction, not proactive thinking.

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Before I got my act together in my twenties, I drifted for a good long while until the status quo became impossible to keep. I had to get my act together or risk losing what I had. The chaos had become impossible to manage. I started meditating everyday and taking better care of health, took pains to understand and learn to manage my finances. I broke the vicious cycle of perfectionism and disappointment over unfinished projects.

Here are the strategies I used to turn my negative emotions into high performance:

1) Lower the barriers to making decisions easily and gaining the habits to get things done

Each night, I would prepare my lunch and work clothes and the tools and conditions I needed for my mediation. This took away the need to make decisions in the morning, so I could get things done (eat better, meditate, get to work on time, etc.). This took the guilt and shame out of the equation.

2) Turn my guilt about letting others down into the habit of waking up early to meditate

I would be exhausted from the night before, but because I felt guilty about letting down the other guys in the synagogue that needed me to make 10 for morning services, I would drag myself up and go to pray with them each morning.

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The fear of bad appearance meant maintaining an “expensive” look on a very limited budget. This turned into a Negotiation Mindset backed by budgeting, seeking better prices and negotiating big purchases. This forced me to overcome a fear of negotiation and led to multiple raises and better benefits at work, among many other financial and other rewards.

3) Make myself accountable to someone elseusing the shame of disappointment as a force for productivity

Before I met my wife, I was writing my first novel on and off for 5 years without much progress. When she told me, “finish or I’m out of here,” it got done within a few months. My second novel was finished in 7 months because of a fellowship deadline.

4) Use my guilt about not eating well consistently or following through to create simple good habits for my diet.

I set easy and clear conditions for myself. If I wanted to eat breakfast, first I’d have to pray/meditate. Then, in order to get to breakfast, I’d have to drink water first to start my digestion. Then, it turned into a glass of water before every meal and eventually other small, but critical changes for better digestion.

5) Channel my procrastination on Facebook and LinkedIn into set time windows during the day to reading useful information

Guilt over procrastination never diminished the amount of time I spent on social media. So, I filtered my news feeds to get rid of distracting, annoying and useless posts from “friends.” I “liked” the FB and LinkedIn pages of publications and people and companies I actually wanted to read and left out all the rest. This way, when I would go in by habit, I would spend my time wisely and improve my life tangibly, even while “wasting time.”

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6) Automate as many things as I can relating to good habits of health, personal finance and productivity

This meant leaving my phone in another room when having dinner with family and overnight, to get me awake and out of bed irreversibly. I automated 401(k) contributions to maximize the company match, my student loan payments (getting back a quarter point in interest charges) and monthly transfers into savings (Digit.co and my bank app), as well as credit card payments to take advantage of “you won’t spend it if you don’t see it,” of credit card points and frequent flyer miles, cash back and other card perks.

I started using apps (Asana, Mint, Credit Karma) to check in each week to see my full professional and financial pictures. Most of all, I automated my Negotiation Mindset during purchases to save a lot of money and think more creatively about my partnerships with people and derive more benefit for family, my boss and others in my business and professional contexts.

7) Train my fear of appearing to be a hypocrite into making sure I was always on time, presentable and prepared

Since I hate it when people waste my time when they are late, unprepared, un-presentable, off-message, long-winded and unhelpful to me in any way, it made only perfect sense that I take care of all these things myself first.

8) Channel my laziness into eating more healthy food during the week

Since I started being more religiously observant, I had to do a washing and prayer ritual before eating bread and then again after. Since I was too lazy to do this, I effectively eliminated bread from my diet during the week.

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Now go and turn your fears into success! Start your journey up and forward today. Time’s a wasting.

Featured photo credit: Nathan Walker via ci5.googleusercontent.com

More by this author

Yuri Kruman

Business Coach, Executive Coach + Career Strategist

12 Reminders A Married Man Wants You to Know and Remember 8 Ways to Turn Your Guilt, Shame and Procrastination into Positive Change 23 Proven Strategies to Get Through Any Hardship – and Thrive This Is What Happens When You Disconnect For 24 Hours

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

This is why setting priorities is so important.

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3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

1. Eat a Frog

There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

2. Move Big Rocks

Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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3. Covey Quadrants

If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

    The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

    Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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    You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

    Getting to Know You

    Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

    In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

    These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

    More Tips for Effective Prioritization

    Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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