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Time and Procrastination: Using Technology To Become Efficient With Your Time

Time and Procrastination: Using Technology To Become Efficient With Your Time

Ever since I started school I have had to battle my procrastination. Sometimes it almost feels like a disease; one that is treatable at times, but just seems to never go away. Because of my bad procrastination, I adopted systems like GTD,  a calendar and scheduled and time-blocked everything,  reminders of important tasks and due dates “dinging” from everywhere. What I found is that unless I am on top of my game and choosing to “be productive”, I easily fall back into the pit of procrastination, where time is never “of the essence”.

Objective and subjective time

I’ve read quite a few books and essays on the psychological effects and reasons of procrastination. Something interesting that has stuck with me is in the book Procrastination by Jane B. Burka (not an affiliate link) having to do with the way that “procrastinators” perceive and interact with time. According to Burka there are two ways that we deal with and understand time: objectively and subjectively. Objective time is “measured by clock and calendar” and is predictable where as subjective time is measured by our own personal understanding and is outside of clock time.

As you can see, if your personal subjective time isn’t lining up with the world’s objective time you can have some serious issues, especially since your boss, your professors, and your spouse tend to base everything off of objective time.

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I have this problem with objective time and after reading through Procrastination I decided to break myself of it by employing some different techniques when it came to my “time management skills” or lack thereof.

Track, track, track

    Some bright person once said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” and that holds completely true with managing your time. The first thing that I had to do to understand how I use my time was track almost everything. For instance, I found myself being late in the mornings for work and always blamed it on something external; like the winter weather, traffic, how long it took to get gas in the morning etc. It wasn’t until I started tracking how long it actually took me to take a shower and get out of the house did I understand that I needed to get up about 20 minutes earlier. It sounds stupid, I know, but to someone who thinks they understand time and where it goes, it takes the detail of tracking the real world to understand it.

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    You can track your time many different ways but some of the best apps that I have found for Android and iPhone are great when you are on the run and need to get a quick statistic to use for planning. There are a ton of options on both platforms but in the free category I would go with Eternity Time Lite and aTimeLogger for iPhone and Time Recording – Timesheet App and Track Task Time for Android. All of these offer the user the ability to track multiple activities, create their own categories, and gives them reports and statistics they can use to help understand just where there time goes.

    You can also track your time use on your PC or Mac with RescueTime. RescueTime basically tracks what applications you are spending your time with and can give you a realistic view of where your computer time is going.

    Starting now and time blocking

    One of the most elusive ways that procrastinators abuse time and do not sync their subjective time with objective time is underestimating how long a task will take to complete. I’ve been told my many former and current software project managers that when they ask a software developer how long it will take to get something done they usually multiply their answer by two or three to set realistic expectations. Many of us are confident (sometimes overconfident) and do not set realistic time constants on ourselves.

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      This is where starting a task or project immediately and then time blocking the rest of it is a great way to balance time. The idea is simple, when given a task or project to complete,  jump in and start working on it for at least 25 minutes. This allows you to understand how big the task or project is which allows you to make realistic predictions of how long it will take to complete. This is syncing your subjective time with objective time. After this you can time block the project.

      Time blocking, the idea of blocking out a certain amount of time on your calendar for a task or project, has been around forever and works well if you have a realistic view of how long something will take to complete. After starting your task or project, take out your favorite calendar app and start “blocking” out time in your schedule to complete the task. Usually, if I think something is going to take 2 hours to complete, I block out about 2.5 total hours. This gives me some starting and stopping leeway. I also suggest only blocking out 50 minutes at a time to prevent burning yourself out. It seems that 50 minutes of work and 10 minutes of rest/play when you are in a working period is ideal.

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      When it comes to generic timers for PC or Mac I highly recommend FocusBooster. It’s an Adobe Air application that lends itself to the Pomodoro technique of task timing, but you can use it for setting your working time on a task or project. For calendaring, I have to admit that I solely use Google Calendar for all my calendaring needs as it is everywhere I go and I can sync it to just about any device I want to. That isn’t to say there aren’t a bunch of good calendaring options out there, it’s just that Google Calendar has met all of my needs thus far.

      Conclusion

      Having an understanding of how to sync your subjective time and the world’s objective time can save you a ton of pain in your personal and professional life. But, if you are anything like me you will need a some help along the way to understand where the objective time goes. Hopefully if you understand the difference between your “inner clock” and the real world, track how long it takes you to accomplish tasks, and think more realistically about how long it take to accomplish something and schedule accordingly, you can say goodbye to procrastinating your time away.

      More by this author

      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      1 Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It) 2 How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone 3 How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life 4 How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success 5 This Is Why Taking Action Creates Success

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      Last Updated on May 12, 2020

      Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

      Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

      Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Insecurity about doing things incorrectly causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success.

      Fear is part of human nature. As an entrepreneur, I faced this same fear. At times, I forgot that who I was wasn’t what I did. My ego and identity became intertwined with my work, and when things didn’t go as planned, I completely shut down. I overcame this unhealthy relationship with fear, and I believe that you can too.

      Together we’ll examine how you can use failure to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. We’ll look at what a fear of failure is, where it comes from, and how to overcome it so that you can enjoy success in your work and life.

      What Is Fear of Failure?

      Fear causes you to avoid potentially harmful situations. Fear of failure keeps you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress, and may lead you to go against your morals.

      What causes fear of failure? Here are the main reasons why fear of failure exists:

      • Patterns from childhood – Hyper-critical adults cause children to internalize damaging mindsets.[1] They establish ultimatums and fear-based rules.This causes children to feel the constant need to ask for permission and reassurance. They carry this need for validation into adulthood.
      • Perfectionism – Perfectionism is often at the root of fear of failure.[2] For perfectionists, failure is so terrible and humiliating that they don’t try. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes terrifying.
      • Over-personalization – The ego may lead us to over-identify with failures. It’s hard to look beyond failure at things like the quality of the effort, extenuating circumstances, or growth opportunities.[3]
      • False self-confidence – People with true confidence know they won’t always succeed. A person with fragile self-confidence avoids risks. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.[4]

      How the Fear of Failure Holds You Back from Suceeding

      Unhealthy Organization Culture

      Too many organizations today have cultures of perfection: a set of organizational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable. Only pure, untainted success will do.

      Imagine the stress and terror in an organization like that. The constant covering up of the smallest blemishes. The wild finger-pointing as everyone tries to shift the blame for the inevitable cock-ups and messes onto someone else. The rapid turnover as people rise high, then fall abruptly from grace. The lying, cheating, falsification of data, and hiding of problems—until they become crises that defy being hidden any longer.

      Miss out Valuable Opportunities

      If some people fail to reach a complete answer because of the lure of some early success, many more fail because of their ego-driven commitment to what worked in the past. You often see this with senior people, especially those who made their names by introducing some critical change years ago. They shy away from further innovation, afraid that this time they might fail, diminishing the luster they try to keep around their names from past triumph.

      Besides, they reason, the success of something new might even prove that those achievements they made in the past weren’t so great after all. Why take the risk when you can hang on to your reputation by doing nothing?

      Such people are so deeply invested in their egos and the glories of their past that they prefer to set aside opportunities for future glory rather than risk even the possibility of failure.

      High Achievers Become Losers

      Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes makes it into a handicap. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major handicap.

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      Achievement is a powerful value for many successful people. They’ve built their lives on it. They achieve at everything they do: school, college, sports, the arts, hobbies, work. Each fresh achievement adds to the power of the value in their lives.

      Gradually, failure becomes unthinkable. Maybe they’ve never failed yet in anything that they’ve done, so have no experience of rising above it. Failure becomes the supreme nightmare: a frightful horror they must avoid at any cost.

      The simplest way to do this is never to take a risk, stick rigidly to what you know you can do, protect your butt, work the longest hours, double and triple check everything and be the most conscientious and conservative person in the universe.

      If constant hard work, diligence, brutal working schedules and harrying subordinates won’t ward off the possibility of failing, use every other possible means to to keep it away. Falsify numbers, hide anything negative, conceal errors, avoid customer feedback, constantly shift the blame for errors onto anyone too weak to fight back.

      The problems with ethical standards in major US corporations has, I believe, more to do with fear of failure among long-term high achievers than any criminal intent. Many of those guys at Enron and Arthur Andersen were supreme high-fliers, basking in the flattery of the media. Failure was an impossible prospect, worth doing just about anything to avoid.

      Loss of Creativity

      Over-achievers destroy their own peace of mind and the lives of those who work for them. People too attached to “goodness” and morality become self-righteous bigots. Those whose values for building close relationships become unbalanced slide into smothering their friends and family with constant expressions of affection and demands for love in return.

      Everyone likes to succeed. The problem comes when fear of failure is dominant. When you can no longer accept the inevitability of making mistakes, nor recognize the importance of trial and error in finding the best and most creative solution.

      The more creative you are, the more errors you are going to make. Get used to it. Deciding to avoid the errors will destroy your creativity too.

      Balance counts more than you think. Some tartness must season the sweetest dish. A little selfishness is valuable even in the most caring person. And a little failure is essential to preserve everyone’s perspective on success.

      We hear a lot about being positive. Maybe we also need to recognize that the negative parts of our lives and experience have just as important a role to play in finding success, in work and in life.

      How to Overcome the Fear of Failure (Step-By-Step)

      1. Figure out Where the Fear Comes From

      Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.[5] When you look at the four main causes for a fear of failure, which ones resonate with you?

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      Write down where you think the fear comes from and try to understand it as an outsider.

      If it helps, imagine you’re trying to help one of your best friends. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity.

      Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.

      2. Re-Frame Beliefs About Your Goal

      Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include learning something new in your goal.

      If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.[6]

      At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.”[7] They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow.

      3. Learn to Think Positively

      In many cases, you believe what you tell yourself. Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave.

      Our society is obsessed with success, but it’s important to recognize that even the most successful people encounter failure.

      Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because they thought he lacked creativity. He went on to found an animation studio that failed. He never gave up, and now Disney is a household name.

      Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. [8]

      If Disney and Jobs believed the negative feedback, they wouldn’t have made it.

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      It’s up to you to notice your negative self talk and identify triggers. Replace negative thoughts with positive facts about yourself and the situation. You’ll be able to create a new mental scripts that you can reach for when you feel negativity creeping in. The voice inside your head has a great effect on what you do.

      4. Visualize all Potential Outcomes

      Uncertainty about what will happen next is terrifying. Take time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll feel better if you’ve already had a chance to mentally prepare for what could happen.

      Fear of the unknown might keep you from taking a new job. Weigh the pros and cons, and imagine potential successes and failures in making such a life-altering decision. Knowing how things could turn out might help you get unstuck.

      5. Look at the Worst-Case Scenario

      There are times when the worst case could be absolutely devastating. In many cases, if something bad happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

      It’s important to define how bad the worst case scenario is in the grand scheme of your life. Sometimes, we give situations more power than they deserve. In most cases, a failure is not permanent.[9]

      For example, when you start a new business, there’s bound to be a learning curve. You’ll make decisions that don’t pan out, but often that discomfort is temporary. You can change your strategy and rebound. Even in the worst case scenario, if the perceived failure led to the end of that business, it might be the launching point for something new.

      6. Have a Backup Plan

      It never hurts to have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. The old adage is solid wisdom:

      “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

      Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

      Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could get the funds?

      There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

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      7. Learn from Whatever Happens

      Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever arises.[10] Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

      “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

      Ask yourself:

      • What did I learn?
      • How can I grow from this?
      • Did anything positive come from this situation?

      Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure.

      Final Thoughts

      Together we’ve learned what fear of failure is, and how it can have a crippling effect on our ability to achieve. This fear often stems from childhood, perfectionism, ego and over-personalization, and a lack of confidence.

      Luckily for us, there are plenty of ways to tackle this fear. We can start by figuring out where it comes from and re-framing the way we feel about failure. When failure is a chance for growth, and you’ve looked at all possible outcomes, it’s easier to overcome fear.

      Stay positive, have a backup plan, and learn from whatever happens. Your failures will be sources of education and inspiration rather than humiliation.

      “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

      Failures can be blessings in disguise.

      Go boldly in the direction of your dreams and goals. Don’t allow fear to stand in your way.

      More Tips for Conquering Fear

      Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

      Reference

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