2 Solutions to perfectionism based procrastination

“What is perfectionism? Do you  hold to lofty standards, demand perfection from yourself, and make your worth contingent on meeting these standards?”  –
Dr. Bill Knaus

For three, almost for months, I have been stuck procrastinating on this very article. Afraid that I might not meet my own lofty standards for it, demanding perfection from myself and making my self-worth contingent on meeting my own standards.

This means I think that if my article is less then perfect, I suck as a whole.
Being a perfectionist and thus a procrastinator, I suffer from a form of dichotomous thinking where I find myself either smart or dumb, good or bad, winner or loser and nothing in between.

What I forget, according to Dr. Knaus, is that I am a complex human being. So if my article should not be up to par, it does not mean that I am bad or dumb. If I would feel that way (and I would), that’d be based on a false conviction.
I am a pluralistic, complex human being with “a broad array of talents, emotions, beliefs, and experiences.”
Therefore if my performance in one tiny area of my life can still be improved, it does not mean I do not perform well in others.

What happens if I fall into this thinking trap?
Here are the seven steps of the vicious cycle of the perfectionism-procrastination process Knaus mentions.

“(1) You hold to lofty standards.
(2) You have no guarantee you’ll do well enough.
(3) Less than the best is not an option.
(4) As you think of not doing well enough, you feel uncomfortable.
(5)  You fear the feelings of discomfort.
(6) You hide your imperfections from yourself and dodge discomfort by doing something “safer,” such as playing computer games. (or checking your Facebook)
(7) You repeat this exasperating process until you get off this contingent-worth merry-go-round by not demanding perfection from yourself.”

Step 7 can go both ways though
– either you learn to become more realistic in your expectations
– or you become lethargic and do nothing anymore, except for “comfort tasks” and start beating yourself up for that too, reinforcing your false conviction that you’re lazy or bad.

Let’s look at some ways to overcome this process:

1) Set the bar lower, not by becoming passive, but by reducing the mountain. A friend of mine told me she writes everyday, AT LEAST 1 sentence and MAXIMUM 15 minutes.

I’ve been trying this and I found that this helps me tremendously when I have to write something I don’t like. I feel a great sense of accomplishment, even if I’ve just written one sentence on a given day. That’s such progress and shift in thinking for me!

If I do feel like writing, but just feel stuck, I stick to the AT LEAST one sentence rule, but don’t set a maximum time, like for this post.
This helps me to set myself into motion. Very often I get into a flow and I find myself writing effortlessly.

2)Keep reminding yourself that you’re a complex person with many talents and emotions. You are a multi-faceted diamond, that’s why you can never be EITHER one OR the other. That doesn’t do justice to the beautifully intricate person you are!

Please take a minute to leave a comment below, I’d really appreciate it!
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love and peace,
Ester
You can also find me on: Facebook , Twitter or Google +

Procrastination pt.2: Friends with Fear

In my first article about procrastination I talked about procrastination caused by disorganization.

A second cause T. Quek mentions is FEAR.
Someone once told me that it is nothing but False Evidence Appearing Real.

So, procrastination inducing fear comes in two different flavours:

Rational vs. irrational

“I know I should finish my article on procrastination, but why can’t I seem to do it?”

Discipline vs. comfort

“I planned to finish my article, but when time came, I didn’t feel like it anymore.”

The antidote to fear is faith, trust and some inspiration. So here goes.

INSPIRATION

  • Last year in Capetown I came across a simply beautiful collection of poetry by the South African poet Helen Steiner Rice, called: A collection of Joy. Here’s a quote from her poem Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Yesterday’s dead, tomorrow’s unborn,
So there’s nothing to fear and nothing to mourn,
For all that is past and all that has been
Can never return to be lived once again…
And what lies ahead or the things that will be
Are still in God’s hands, so it is not up to me (…)

  • What Would a Monk Do?

Being a monk is all about living in the present moment. Fear is either living in the future: “I will not be able to finish this task! It’s too big, too hard or fill in the dots…” or in the past: “I could not successfully manage this task in the past, so I will never be able to!”*

A Benedictine monk goes about his task quietly, steadily and mindfully. Not looking back, except at designated times. In the evening he takes time out for a brief examination of conscience. The reassuring rhythm of his life may seem boring to some but appealing to fear-driven creatures like me.
Moreover, he gives all his worries to God in prayer daily.

Freedom for me is surrendering my fears to God on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis and living in a flexible structure, enabling me to change plans at any given moment, with the inner guidance of God.

Everybody has fears and that’s ok. If I befriend my fears, bring them to tea, chat with them and surrender them, then that’s great. If I don’t succeed in doing that, I just dust myself off and try again. There’s always a new moment.

PRACTICAL TIPS

What’s my solution?

  • Making bite-size chunks of tasks and putting them daily from my general (big-ass) todo list onto a handwritten (this is essential for me) daily todolist (a detailed account about my current system, which is: GTD combined with ZTD, in one of my following articles).
  • Surrendering fear by being Aware, Accepting it and taking Action, in the form of little action steps. That’s how I befriend my fears.
  • If my worry or fear is too big I write it on a note and put that in my crafted God-box. You can find awesome step by step creative inspiration to make your own here.

What actions do you take to get out of fear-based procrastination? Love to hear your stories!

Next time we’ll talk about a third and my ‘favorite’ source of procrastination: perfectionism based! So stay tuned!

I’d love for you to spread the word via Facebook, email, Twitter or word of mouth if you like what you’ve read.
Word of mouth rocks! My humble gratitude for that.

Peace!

You can find me on: Facebook or on Twitter.

 or
 Take a minute to leave a comment now, I’d really appreciate it!

* T. Quek

A Benedictine solution to procrastination: pt 1: Organize

image

“An ancient proverb states: ‘It is not the size of the tree but the depth of its roots that make it strong.’ Procrastination usually has very deep roots. The problem of procrastination is one that often goes beyond self-discipline and whipping oneself from stasis to stress.” T. Quek

Comparing this to the way of a Benedictine monk, I notice his fluent transition from one activity to the next, at the sound of a bell, without dragging his feet.

Quek mentions 4 possible causes for procrastination:

(1) Disorganization:

  • poor distinction between urgency and priority
  • distractibility
  • forgetfulness
  • ‘lumping’

(2) Fear

  • rational vs. irrational
  • discipline vs. comfort

(3) Perfectionism

(4) Procrastination as an indicator of underlying illnesses (like ADD or mental disorders)

This is the first article in a series of three, where I go into these causes and present a Benedictine inspired solution for them.

Disorganization: The luring illusion of ‘comfort’ tasks

This is characterized by a poor distinction between urgency and importance.

Quek’s theory is that the typical procrastinator tends to procrastinate doing a lot of so-called ‘comforttasks, which are easy to reach, convenient or interesting to perform.
This causes a pile-up of old and new tasks wich start crying out for attention, thus becoming urgent, regardless of their level of importance.
The ‘tyranny’ of all the open loops of important tasks start weighing down on the procrastinator and she will want to perform even more comfort tasks to relieve that stress: a vicious cycle is born.

Distractibility: “What does THIS button doooo?”

Distractions are a multitude of off-task behaviours

This is a HUGE issue for me. Midsentence I fall prey to the lure of Facebook, What’sApp, texting, email – not so much anymore these days because I get so repelled by all the unanswered emails sitting in my inbox – eating, drinking, sudden cleaning urges, old-fashioned daydreaming, or doing non-important, non-urgent comfort tasks, *sigh*…

Forgetfulness: “Yeah, I was just about to do it…”

I can be really short about this: Put your mind on paper (or electronics). Author and guru of GTD (Getting Things Done): David Allen states we can only consciously remember a list of 10 things, if we put in another, then we “erase” the first again.

“The mind is for having ideas not holding them” –

David Allen

It’s key though to keep reminders of things to do in a dedicated place! Not in ten!
In my next post I will elaborate on this, with regards to the GTD-method.

Here’s already a nice teaser for you: David’s terrific video talk for “Dolectures“, on this subject.

Lumping!

Lumping or chunking is the errant perception that most tasks come as an inseperable whole (a “lump”) and cannot be subdivided and dealt with systematically.

Whoa! I feel so relieved to see that my plight actually has a name. How many fears in my life stem from this misconception.
Lumping my writing, lumping my household, lumping my life!

Ok, now that I’ve acknowledged my utter state of disorganization, I feel relieved yet inspired to change this. But: babysteps, one step at a time, towards no more lumping.

How would a typical Benedictine monk go about his tasks? Can I borrow some of his wisdom to infuse into my disorganized life?

  • A Benedictine monk would divide his attention well, praying for discernment in setting priorities at the beginning of his day, after a period of empty mind: meditation.
  • He would neither make a distinction between Ora et Labora (Pray and Work), nor between eating, loving or praying, because he knows that everything is equally important. The mundane is just as key as the heavenly.
  • He would also set emotional boundaries for himself: saying “no” to himself in case of distraction. So when the bell tolls: change of scenes. No: ” I quickly finish this…” or “Hey, I am praying but I actually have to give my abbot a phone call right now”.
  • He would take notes on his little notepad, which he takes with him everywhere, hidden in his habit. (Don’t you like the pun that monks are creatures of habit? A monk’s “habit” is also his cape.) He would then place a reminder on his to-dolist, but there wouldn’t even be the need for an agenda, because his day is being shaped by the ever present bell.
  • And he would not need an intricate productivity system, because his life were already stripped to the bare essentials: eat, pray, love your neighbour, work and recreate.
  • The monk would keep it simple, and progress slowly but steadily. He would give each different activity his undivided* attention, mindfully and slowly going from one thing to the next.
  • The daily timetable or horarium** of the monk automatically prevents him from “lumping”, because his day is already neatly subdivided. The great thing for him though, is that his abbot makes that table already for him, following the Rule of Benedict. We in turn have to let our own wise mind (our own ‘abbot’) sternly but lovingly set boundaries for ourselves, using a timer and planning ahead at the start of each new day.

To be continued!

In the next post we are going to look at fear-based procrastination.

Let me know if you recognize anything in my article, I’d love to talk with you about it! Maybe we can inspire each other with ways to tackle the problem of procrastination.

You can also find me on Facebook or Twitter.

*to divide comes from dividere (Latin), which means: to force apart or to cleave.

** Continue reading

The Benedict Project 3: Time Management Tips

A few weeks into my Benedict Project I’m coming to the insight that getting up in the morning and going to bed at night at more or less fixed times is actually hugely depending on the art of starting and stopping a previous task.

Given my passionate and somewhat impulsive nature, I have a big tendency to get carried away by the latest and the loudest. Often times I start an internet task (like: research for my blog) and find a thousand more interesting things, which I clip onto my Evernote or (even more addictingly) pin on Pinterest or share on Facebook.
Very often I get so swept away that

  1. I get into procrastination mode
  2. my task doesn’t get done
  3. I experience a gnawing sense of being lost, of emptiness and failure
  4. the distractions are not even fun anymore and are guilt-inducing
  5. I have the feeling time is slipping away…leaking away..and I am wasting my life

Benedictine monks have several fixed tasks during the day, like: praying, working, meditating, reading and studying. They are never short on time!
Why is that?
They don’t carry on reading a particular good piece of literature “because it is so compelling”, they don’t continue praying “because they’re not done yet”, they don’t prolong their meditation time, “because they’re spacing out so nicely”, they don’t drag on with Mass “because working is less important”, they don’t study longer than scheduled “because they’ve procrastinated and have to catch up”, they don’t continue working after the alotted time “because work is not finished yet”.

How refreshing and counter-cultural is that, in a world where 60 hour workweeks seem to be the norm and working through the night is considered virtuous and ambitious? But the monks don’t ignore the bells and neither should you, if you want a to live a more productive, frictionless and spiritual life.

“But as soon as the first signal for None is made, let each and all break off from their work and be ready by the time the second signal has sounded.”- Rule of Benedict

Benedictine monks stick to their daily routine like velcro and know how important it is to start on time and stop on time, making mental space for the next task.

This goes against my human nature. I want to quit things I find hard or boring and I want to prolong things that give me pleasure as long as possible. How freeing it must be to develop a healthy Benedictine sense of discipline, character and time management.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

An added benefit of starting and stopping properly is that I am never “idle“.
Benedict already knew:

“Idleness is inimical* to the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be occupied, at fixed seasons, with manual work and again at fixed seasons with spiritual reading.”

I’ve noticed that my productivity is inversely proportional to the time I seem to be having. I seem to get less productive because I get idle or lazy by thinking I have all the time in the world, and I actually function better with deadlines and setting my timer for tasks.

Practical suggestions:

  • keep a kitchen timer or your phone with you at all times and consciously start each activity, alotting a specific time for it before you begin and setting your timer.
  • STOP when the timer goes off! Be still!
    Make some notes of where you’ve stopped and wish to continue next time, to make starting again easier.
  • Prepare for the next task, be conscious and aware, creating space in your head
  • Set your timer for the next task (or resting period)… and so on

Let me know if you’re implementing Benedictine time management into your own life and what your experiences are in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!

Please take a minute to leave a comment now.

And if you like what you’ve read, go ahead and sign up for the e-mail list or via rss!! Thanks for supporting me, it means a lot…

love and peace,

Ester

You can also find me on: Facebook, Google + or Twitter.

You can find my previous posts of the Benedict Project here:

Benedict Project 2012: a sneak peak

Benedict Project 1: getting up in the morning

Benedict Project 2: going to bed on time

Continue reading

breaking the P-cycle

lorianderson-quotes.blogspot.com

Lately I have been struggling greatly with Procrastination and Perfectionism. I seem to just flatline when I’m thinking I either have to be perfect or just sit in my chair, stare, do nothing and feel bad about myself. Good or bad, black or white.

Today I read something very fantastic in a daily email from www.flylady.com.
Let me first say that Flylady (FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself) is a sweethearted lady who helps you manage your home again in tiny babysteps, while loving yourself instead of beating yourself up.
It is a very fun website with incredibly helpful tools and I am currently doing the beginner babysteps of housecleaning & organizing, to keep me from getting into the Procrastination and Perfectionism cycle.

So today I read this awesome entry about there being two other P’s associated with Perfectionism and Procrastination, so all credit for the 4-P idea goes to Karen, a Flybaby from Tennessee and to Flylady for her advice and resources.(I’ve also added a fifth P)

Pride

The first P Karen says is for Pride, which wants you to set too high standards for myself (oh yeah baby!). I tend to do that a lot with household stuff, or my to-dolist for the day or week. I always cram in way too many things.

Perfectionism

The second P is Perfectionism, which is the result of setting the bar too high in the first place. With me this is closely related to never feeling good enough. It’s definitely gotten better the last years, but when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired, or (God forbid) PMS-ing (you ladies know what I’m talkin’ ’bout…), then I tend to slide back to this horrible P to try to regain control my life (of course, in vain).

“You cannot open a flower with a sledgehammer” –

Bob Wilson

Pressure

The third P is the inevitable selfdestructive Pressure you’ll be on then, resulting in negative self-talk, spiraling down to feeling like crap and behaving that way as well.

Procrastination

Fourthly there’s mr. Procrastination. Now I think there’s good and bad Procrastination. Good Procrastination is letting your mind wander, daydream, do nothing and get creative.

Bad Procrastination is the result of negative self-talk, self-condemnation, being stuck in a irrealisticly high expectation of yourself, perfectionistically disabling yourself from doing ANYthing ANYmore.

In this state (where I was in yesterday afternoon) my muscles turn to jell-o, and I feel like a boneless chicken , not able to think, not able to move, I was even crying out of sheer self-imposed helplessness and inertia.

Punishment

At rock bottom of this process I’d add a final and utterly sad fifth P: Punishment of myself. That’s when you actively start thinking horrible thoughts about yourself and punishing yourself in your thoughts.

Like:
“I am good for nothing; I cannot do anything right; I am worthless; I am lazy ; I am a bad person, I am not worth being on this planet.”
Recognize those bugger-thoughts?Time to turn it round!

I know that these negative thoughts are so self-destructive, they prevent me from being the me I am supposed to be, they increase my stress levels, decrease my quality of life.
Who am I to say that I am not good? I am God’s beloved creation!

Awareness, Acceptance, Action

But I know that if I am to beat this nasty P-cycle, I first have to be aware they are there, drink a cup of acceptance-tea with them, gently usher them out of the door and start praying to my God and saying healing and healthy thoughts to myself (action).

Now be nice to yourselves today and go replace them nasty P-s with nice ones!

Patience, Pleasure, Potential, Pampering, Pleased, Peacefulness, Prayer, Passion, Perseverance, Peace, Possibility, Positivity, Praise, Pureness, Playfulness and you are PRECIOUS!

If you like what you read, please take a minute to leave a comment below, follow me on Twitter or visit my Facebook page. Thank you! Spread the positive word!