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4 Self-Help Tips You’ll Want to Avoid

4 Self-Help Tips You’ll Want to Avoid

Self-help is often thought of as a good thing, right? And, in most cases, it is. But, as I’m going to outline shortly, some pretty common self-help advice can actually mess up your goals and stop you from becoming a better version of yourself.

This is because not all advice is created equal. Some of it, although well-meaning, can actually make you go off track, and could potentially do more harm than good.

These self help myths listed below are some that you should think twice about following.

1. Shoot for Perfectionism

Now, you may think this sounds like a worthy goal to aim for.

But, you’d be mistaken.

Perfectionists are almost never satisfied with what they are working on – so they end up spending far longer to complete something that they should.

For example, I’m sure you’ve come across perfectionists at your workplace. When they’re tasked with creating a PowerPoint presentation or writing a report, they somehow manage to take two or three times longer to complete these things than other members of their team.

The problem is, they often get stuck in the murky world of details. And because of this, they’re driven to constantly re-evaluate, change and edit their work. And, the amount of time they’ve spent trying to perfect something could be better spent elsewhere… after all, nothing is actually perfect, so it’s pointless to strive for it.

Perfectionists are actually trapped in a mental prison of their own making.

If you have perfectionist tendencies, I recommend doing the following:

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  • Abandon the ‘All or Nothing’ mindset – instead of only doing things you know you can do perfectly, open yourself to taking actions that you’re neither good at or comfortable with. This will enable you to continually grow your skills and experience.
  • Aim for 95% perfection – do this, and you’ll complete your tasks in an accomplished and professional way. And, you’ll also complete them in a timely manner. It’s seeking to make something 100% perfect that will kill your productivity and output.
  • Set realistic goals – instead of dreaming too big (like wanting to be an overnight success), set your goals at an achievable level. When you do this, you’ll boost your confidence, while keeping your feet firmly on the ground.
  • Focus on the big picture – as I mentioned earlier, perfectionists often get caught up in the details. To avoid this, I suggest always keeping your eye on the bigger picture. For instance, if you’re creating a document for the proposed purchase of new software, make sure that you only include the necessary details. Too much information is a waste of your time – and also the time of the other people working on the project.

Next up, is the common self-help belief that…

2. Multitasking is Key

I’m sure you’ve heard or read about the so-called power of multitasking many times in the last few years. It appears to have become quite a trend.

But, I’m not one for following trends that lead to failure.

Multitasking may appear to be the holy grail of productivity – but for 98% of workers, it’s actually the complete opposite.

That’s because these people practice defective multitasking methods that look like this:

  • Trying to do two things at the same time.
  • Constantly switching to new tasks without completing the original things they were working on.
  • Rapidly cycling back and forth between tasks, which gives the illusion that they are among the 2% of effective multitaskers.

The truth is, that human brains aren’t designed to do this kind of ‘cognitive shuffling’. It just leads us to a messy and confused mental state riddled with something called ‘attention residue’. This means we are distracted by thinking about one task while working on another.

There have been some interesting studies on multitasking, which have revealed that:

  • Constantly shifting between tasks can cost you about 40%, or 16 hours, of your working week. That’s the equivalent of losing two work days every week![1]
  • Multitasking can cause you to perform as though you’ve lost 10-15 points on your IQ score. In other words, you won’t be as smart or as effective as you could be.[2]

In my opinion, multitasking is not just overrated – but it’s actually dangerous to your productivity.

It’s much better to simply focus on the task at hand. Complete it. And then move on to the next one.

This next tip is is one that is constantly talked about on chat shows, in newspapers and in the self-help book section…

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3. Aim for Work-Life Balance

What do you think about when you hear the term ‘work-life balance’?

A dream existence where you work 20 hours per week and have the rest for your leisure and pleasure?

This is how most self-helps gurus try to sell it to you.

But, not me.

I have a very different view on work-life balance — it’s called work-life harmony.

Healthy work-life harmony should start with finding your purpose. And, once you’ve found it, you’ll naturally enjoy the work you do, and it will no longer be a case of dividing your life into:

  • The bad stuff – work
  • The good stuff – free time

With a purpose to drive you, you’ll be enthusiastic and passionate about what you do, and you’ll work whatever hours are necessary to reach your goals. And, your enthusiasm for your work will naturally carry over into your free time.

As an example, imagine that you’ve worked for 12 years in the administration department of a local insurance company. You go in every workday to process claim after claim after claim. You find the work soul destroying. But, you keep doing it, as it pays the bills.

One day, however, you decide that there must be more to life. And this sets you off on a period of self-searching, which ultimately leads you to come across what you’d really like to do with your life: traveling the world on behalf of a charity helping to help people.

After unearthing your purpose, you feel strongly driven to make it a reality. It takes you almost six months, but in the end, you land a job with an international charity organization that helps people around the world impacted by natural disasters.

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The job takes you to dozens of different countries, and you enjoy every minute of your work. It’s satisfying and rewarding. And, away from work, you love to tell your friends and family all about your trips.

Your purpose has renewed you and given you the perfect work-life harmony.

The final self-help tip I want to talk about is…

4. Never Procrastinate

High-achievers are go-getters who never procrastinate.

Or are they?

In my experience of working with dozens of successful entrepreneurs, prioritizing your tasks is much more important than worrying about procrastinating.

Let me explain what I mean.

You’re working on an email to a colleague about a meeting that is due to take place next week. But, as you’re typing the words of the email, your desk phone suddenly rings. It’s one of your major clients, and they have an urgent need for your company’s assistance, and they’re happy to pay top dollar to get the work done.

In this case, do you:

A: Tell the client you’ll get on it shortly, but then go back to writing your email to your colleague.

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Or

B: Tell the client you’ll deal with their request immediately, and then come back to crafting your email once the high-priority task has been completed.

Well done! I’m sure you’ve picked the second answer. And, it’s absolutely the right thing to do.

Sure, you’ll be procrastinating when it comes to your email, but you’ll also be helping to complete a much bigger goal that has an urgent deadline.

As you can see, procrastination has its place when you learn to prioritize your tasks.

I hope my article has helped open your eyes to some of the self-help delusions that are constantly propagated. If you follow these delusions – inevitably you’ll end up feeling deluded!

Instead, follow my tried-and tested methods that I’ve outlined above. They will guide you to surefire success in all areas of your life.

As American philosopher and psychologist William James once said:

“Truth is what works.”

Featured photo credit: Nicole Honeywill via Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] American Psychological Association: Multitasking: Switching costs
[2] Talent Smart: Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Your Career, New Studies Suggest

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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