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When Life Hacks You Off

When Life Hacks You Off

    How often have you been given some really, really good advice in your life? I’ll put money on it being a lot more often than the number of times you’ve taken it. And conversely I’ll bet  you’ve offered really, really good advice far more often than it’s been taken.

    (As an aside I’ll wager that the times good advice is taken is pretty similar to the number of times the advice matched what the person receiving the advice wanted to do in the first place!  But that’s very much an aside to my main point!)

    The point is this: it’s always easier to solve other people’s problems than your own. Admit it, you know it is.  It’s the way coaching works, after all. Coaches don’t have answers – what they have are questions. Or better yet, reflections of your own questions – making you look at things (problems) in a different light. And hopefully a more productive one.

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    There are a few tools you can use yourself to take advantage of this clarity of vision without the expense of a coach and I’ve listed some of them here. They don’t remove the need for a good coach if you’ve got a significant problem but will certainly help for the day to day problems of life…ask yourself this question:

    “If a friend of mine came to me with this problem, what would I ask them and what would I suggest?”

    There now. Simple…isn’t it!

    Let’s take a personal example where life hacks you off. Someone I know is in an abusive domestic relationship. That’s all you need to know from the outside to know what she should do next – leave. From the inside, however all she can see are the reasons why she shouldn’t leave and can’t leave. In other words, all she sees are the problems, not the end/solution.

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    Okay, I’ve over-simplified to make the point but I’m sure you get the idea.

    Less importantly, a friend of mine has a car which is falling apart and he doesn’t have the time or the money to maintain it. At the moment it’s still worth quite a bit of cash but the odds are very much that within the next six months it’ll devalue spectacularly.  From the outside the solution is simple – sell – but from the inside it all looks very different. Ask yourself this question:

    “I know I don’t know what to do to solve my problem, but if I did know the answer, what might that answer be?”

    Yes, I know it sounds silly but what it does is allow you to get past the automatic self-filtering of ideas that everyone does when they sort of know what to do but don’t want to admit it to themselves.

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    This one is – in my personal experience at least – particularly useful in business settings for problems such as what to do about rising advertising costs, or falling income predictions or a member of staff who’s under-performing…ask yourself this question

    “If I wanted to explain the situation to someone else, what would I say?”

    Try writing the problem down – the best format is to imagine you’re writing a letter to someone you absolutely trust but who you’ve not managed to keep up to date with – which means they won’t know the ins and outs of your issues.

    That in turn means you’ll have to explain the problem to them in simple steps, giving them all the information they need to solve your problem but only the key things they need to know.  Often you’ll find that the things you need to do come to you just in the process of writing this letter because you’re forcing yourself to structure your thinking and looking at the problem (and only the problem) not all the fluff and anxiety that lies around it.

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    If you don’t get inspired by the process of writing, try posting it to yourself somewhere else, so that when you read it you’re in a different environment. Address it to yourself using a different name to the one you normally think of yourself as… in other words, treat this letter as though it was coming from a friend.

    Chances are…you’ll spot a way forward.

    (Photo credit: Closeup Image of Vision Flow via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on March 31, 2020

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes & How To Tackle Them

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes & How To Tackle Them

    Procrastination is something many people can relate to and I, myself, have been there and done that. Yes, I write all about productivity now, but when I first started out on my career path, I would often put off work I didn’t want to do. And most of the time I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

    So what changed?

    I thought to myself, “why do I procrastinate?” And I started to read a lot of books on productivity, learning a great deal and shifting my mind to the reasons why people procrastinate.

    My understanding brought me a new perspective on how to put an end to the action of procrastination.

    Procrastination slows your goals and dreams way down. It can create stress and feelings of frustration. It rears its ugly head on a regular basis for a lot of people. This is particularly apparent at work with day-to-day projects and tasks.

    But, why do people self-sabotage in this way? Essentially, there are 5 reasons behind procrastination. See if you can identify with any of these in your own work life.

    1. The Perfectionist’s Fear

    Procrastination is sometimes a subconscious fear of failure.

    If you put off a task enough, then you can’t face up to the potential (and usually imagined) negative results. If you’re a stickler for minor details, the stress of getting things ‘just right’ may be too much and cause you to delay continuing the task.

    Either way, fear is at the root cause and can sabotage your desire to move forward.

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    How to Tackle It?

    Try visualizing the completion of your task in a positive way.

    For example, you have a presentation that your boss wants you to conduct for a potential client. Visualize yourself standing in the meeting room confident, meeting the eyes of the client and seeing them light up as you explain the concept simply and concisely.

    Imagine your boss telling you how great you did and you were the best person for the job. Think about how it would feel to you and focus on this as you move forward with the task.

    2. A Dreamer’s Lack of Action

    This is a person who is highly creative and has many brilliant ideas but can’t quite seem to bring them to fruition.

    The main reason for this is because there’s usually no structure or goal setting involved once the idea has been created. This aimless approach ends up manifesting as a lack of decision-making and significant delays on a project.

    How to Tackle It?

    Write down a timeline of what you want to achieve and by when. Ideally, do this daily to keep yourself on track and accountable for progression. Creative minds tend to jump from one idea to the next, so cultivating focus is essential.

    If you’re designing and creating a new product at work, set out a task list for the week ahead with the steps you want to focus on each day. Doing this ahead of time will stop your mind from wandering across to different ideas.

    Learn about how to plan your time and take actions from some of the successful people: 8 Ways Highly Successful People Plan Their Time

    3. An Overwhelmed Avoider

    This is one of the most common reasons for procrastination; the sheer overwhelm of a daunting task.

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    The complexity of a task can cause the brain to lose motivation and avoid doing it altogether choosing instead to stay in its comfort zone.

    The search then starts for a more enjoyable task and the harder tasks are put off. This can cause stress and dread when the task inevitably comes up to be completed.

    How to Tackle It?

    Break the challenge down into smaller tasks and tackle each one individually.

    For example, if you have a project that has technical elements to it that you know you’ll find challenging, list each step you need to take in order to complete these difficult elements. Think of ways you can resolve potential hurdles. Perhaps you have a coworker that may have time to help or even consider that the solution may be easier than you initially think. Put each task in order of most daunting to least daunting. Ideally, try to deal with the more challenging parts of each task in the morning so that momentum is created as the tasks get easier through the day.

    A reward system will also help you stay motivated so, once completed, you can enjoy your treat of choice.

    If you want to know how to better handle your feelings and stay motivated, take a look at my other article: Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It

    4. The Busy Bee Who Lacks Prioritization

    Either you have too many tasks or don’t truly acknowledge the differing importance of each task. The result? Getting nothing done.

    Time is spent switching constantly from one task to another or spending too much time deciding what to do.

    How to Tackle It?

    It’s all about priorities and choosing important tasks over urgent ones.

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    Make sure to question the value and purpose of each task and make a list in order of importance.

    For example, throughout your work day, you can waste a lot of time dealing with ‘urgent’ emails from colleagues but, you need to ask yourself if these are more important than working on a task that will affect, say, several office projects at once.

    Help yourself to prioritize and set a goal of working through your list over the next few hours reassessing the situation once the time is up.

    In my other article, I talk about an effective way to prioritze and achieve more in less time: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    5. The One with Shiny Object Syndrome (Distraction-Prone)

    This is another common cause for procrastination; just simple distraction.

    Our brains aren’t wired to focus for long periods of time and it looks for something else. So throw in a bunch of colleagues equally looking for distractions or checking your phone mindlessly, and you’ve got a recipe for ultimate procrastination.

    However, this type of procrastination may not always be an unconscious decision to sabotage and put off work. It’s simply a result of your work setup or types of coworkers you have. Only you know the answer to that.

    How to Tackle It?

    Be mindful of your workspace and potential distractions. Schedule a specific time to converse with your coworkers, put headphones on to minimize listening to what’s going on around you, and switch your phone off.

    Aim to do this for 20-30 minutes at a time and then take a break. This will be a much more efficient way of working and getting what you need done. This is also why scheduling down time is so important for productivity.

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    Whether this type of procrastination is self-sabotage or being a victim of a distracting environment, either way you can take control.

    If you need a little more guidance on how to stay focus, this guide can help you: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Bottom Line

    I’m going to be bold and assume you identified with at least one of these procrastination pitfalls.

    You could be trapped in the endless cycle of procrastination like I was, that is, until I decided to find out my why behind putting off tasks and projects. It was only then that I could implement strategies and move forward in a positive and productive way.

    I killed the procrastination monster and so can you. I now complete my tasks more efficiently and completely killed that feeling of stress and falling behind with work that procrastination brings.

    I know it’s not easy to stop procrastinating right away, so I also have this complete guide to help you stop it once and for all: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

    Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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