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4 Self-Help Tips You’ll Want to Avoid

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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 October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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