Overcoming Procrastination | 4 reasons for procrastination

Overcoming Procrastination | 4 reasons for procrastination

If procrastination wasn’t so frustrating and disastrous to productivity it would almost be funny.

Some of the things we do just to avoid doing the things we should be doing… when it comes to procrastination there should be awards for how creative we can be in our excuses.

I’ve been known in the past to clear out my medicine cabinet instead of sitting down to work.

Some people do ironing to put off going for a run.

Others go for a run to put off doing the ironing.

We can put off making big decisions and we can put off taking small actions.

Wherever it shows up in our lives, procrastination can severely hamper our progress towards important goals.

4 reasons for procrastination

I believe there are 4 main reasons for procrastination, and I’d like to share them with you now.

Maybe you can identify with some (or all) of them.

#1 UNclear

When you’re not completely certain about what you need to do, it’s hard to get started.

This lack of clarity often comes when we’re faced with big overwhelming tasks or projects where the start point is unclear.

I always find it interesting that when I do manage to overcome The Resistance*, the it’s often followed by a glorious flow state where some of my most productive work is done.

It’s just getting there in the first place that’s the problem.

#2 UNpleasant

Some tasks or activities are just downright unpleasant.

If your get fit program tells you to that today’s activity is to ‘go for a run’, but you HATE running and it’s cold and wet outside, you can see how this might get pushed down the to-do list!

Especially when you can do something far easier and more satisfying such as checking Facebook or YouTube.

Where the reward is both instant and guaranteed, rather than delayed and uncertain.

#3 UNtimed

The third cause of procrastination is when something doesn’t have a definite end point, or you’re unable to predict how much time it’s going to take.

A couple of weeks ago I started a DIY project to replace my bathroom suite.

This is very unlike me, as I normally break out into a cold sweat at the mere thought of such activities.

My experience of DIY is that even ‘small’ tasks like putting up a shelf turn into big problems, where I use the wrong drill bit or put it up wonky and have to fill in the wall, repaint it and then start again.

So instead I say that I’ll do it later when I have more time, which is the procrastinators go-to response in such situations.

When an activity has no determinable duration – especially if it’s something you’re not entirely keen on – it’s safest not to start.

#4 UNimportant

This is a late addition to my list of procrastination reasons.

It relates to those times where an urgent deadline is required to spur you into action.

Stephen Covey came up with the ‘Productivity Matrix’ in his book ‘7 Habits Of Highly Effective People’.

It puts tasks into one of four categories:

i) Unimportant and non-urgent (like checking Facebook)
ii) Unimportant and urgent (like a ringing phone)
iii) Important and non-urgent (like preparing for a presentation well in advance)
iv) Important and urgent (like cramming revision in the night before a big exam)

The best place to check off tasks is when they are in the important and non-urgent box.

But it’s that ‘non-urgent’ thing that catches us out.

We won’t experience the reward until some point in the future, and there are no immediate consequences if we don’t take action now.

The thing can wait whilst we get a shot of immediate gratification from indulging in a quick check of email or social media.

Of course, the thing we need to do is important, but at the point of decision it’s importance is downgraded because of a lack of urgency.

Do any of these resonate with you?

This week I’m going to be adding to this post by unpacking each of them and giving you a few ways to overcome their productivity-slaying effects.

In the meantime, have a think about which of the 4 have held you back in the past, and what has eventually got you past The Resistance.

*The Resistance is an expression coined by Steven Pressfield in his book ‘The War Of Art’.

One of my favourite passages from the book is this:

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it”

Productivity: Defining Categories of Useful Work | productivity insights through journaling

It’s amazing how helpful journaling can be to jot down some of your ideas, thoughts and even how you’re feeling.

One of the things I find gets in people’s way is knowing what to write and where to start.

And really there is no ‘best’ way to do it, you literally just write down what ever is on your mind.

I think when you put pressure on yourself to come up to a certain standard it can put you off before you even get going.

Grab a notebook, stick the date at the top and just… write!

I’ve been doing a lot more of this recently and it’s really been helping me process my thoughts.

I also find that when I start writing, new thoughts spring out of nowhere which in turn lead to more new ideas.

This hasn’t been limited to written journaling either.

Every day this year I’ve recorded a short video with thoughts and observations on my journey towards my motivational speaking goals.

And quite often I find that I have new ideas and make sense of things right there in the middle of the video.

Something to do with articulating thoughts I expect… taking them from the jumbled mess inside your head and putting them into some semblance of order and sense.

In yesterday’s video for example I was talking about how I had yet again failed to do any kind of meaningful work for this goal.

Understandable as it was a) a Sunday and b) I spent most of my day working on a DIY project (I’m putting in a new bathroom lol!).

But I found myself trying to make sense of this as I pointed the camera at my face, having said the day before that I was going to do at least an hour of productive work.

The realisation was that there are three categories of ‘useful work’ in this respect.

1) Following up with leads and developing business

2) Sharing who I am and what I do with the world (for example in these blogs and emails and social media posts)

3) Creating content (for example new talks, workshops and seminars)

I thought that was them all, but half way through the video I realised there’s actually a 4th, which I broadly categorised as ‘research and development’.

This is all the TED talks and presentation videos I watch, books that I read and listen to on my subject matter, and even the skills development of activities such as Toastmasters.

Even the daily videos I upload onto my YouTube channel.

The thing is, it’s #1, #2 and #3 that make me feel like I’ve ‘been productive’.

But #4 is just as important, and possibly more suited to the change of pace of a weekend.

That key insight might seem really obvious, but it was a revelation to me yesterday.

It took me from a feeling of guilt from getting behind on my promises, to one of control and empowerment that I am already doing a good job of balancing my personal and business goals, with my role as a father, husband and DIY-unenthusiast.

The insight was the result of 5 minutes of ‘journalling’, and has a real world value in terms of my effectiveness and happiness.

If you don’t already do any form of journalling, why not give it a go this week.

No expectations… no pressure… just 5-10 minutes of jotting down a few of your thoughts.

See what you come up with, and don’t forget to let me know if you uncover any gold!

Heart Rate Variability | How HRV can be used to help us improve performance and recovery

Heart Rate Variability | How HRV can be used to help us improve performance and recovery

Measuring HKPIs (Human Key Performance Indicators) such as Heart Rate Variability can give us a greater insight into our performance and recovery

Measuring heart rate as an indication of performance has been a ‘thing’ for decades.

Whether it’s checking your resting pulse first thing in the morning to determine how well recovered you are, or monitoring it in real time during exercise to help you decide whether to push harder or back off.

Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re all up to speed with the fundamentals.

What is heart rate?

Heart rate is simply the number of times your heard beats each minute (bpm).

Every cell in your body requires fuel and oxygen for normal function. They get this oxygen from blood pumped around the body by the heart, and the greater the demand from your body the faster your heart has to beat to meet that demand.

Even sitting down reading this article your cells are burning energy. They need oxygen to do this so your heart ticks along at ‘resting’.

Get up and do a few start jumps though, and your muscles will be burning through energy and oxygen at a much faster rate, so your heart rate increases to meet this demand (and it stays elevated for a while after you sit back down again whilst you recovery).

One of the reasons fitter people tend to have lower resting heart rates is because their heart muscle tends to be stronger, and so pumps more blood with each beat.

Just one of the advantages of cardiovascular training.

Heart rate can tell us how hard we’re working, and how much fitter we’re getting, and how well we’re recovering, so it’s a useful thing to pay attention to.

But there’s another heart-related metric we can monitor that gives us a deeper insight into performance and recovery, and that is your Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

Heart Rate Variability

A heart rate of 60bpm is an average of 1 beat per second, but the reality is that most of the time these beats are not regular.

HRV is a measure of the variability in the interval between beats, and is closely connected with whether our nervous systems are in recovery or stressed mode.

Yesterday I caught up with human performance expert Simon Shepard from Optima-Life, who specialises in monitoring HRV and interpreting the data in a way that helps people improve their performance and resilience.

Webinar 

It’s a fascinating subject, and in this 35 minute interview Simon presents a number of examples to demonstrate exactly why we should be paying attention to HRV whether we’re training for an event or trying to perform optimally at work.

Simon is currently offering readers of my blog and members of my online communities the chance to work with his team to track and analyse your personal HRV data at a discounted rate.

Usually £222 for the analysis, the special offer is just £165 with delivery to the UK and Ireland.

You will be sent a device to wear for 3 days and asked to track your activities via an online diary, then send it back to Optima-Life.

After the data has been extracted and anaylsed, you’ll have a feedback session over the phone to discuss your results and learn how you can optimise your performance and recovery.

If you’d like to find out more, email me directly at george @bygeorgeanderson.com and I’ll pass on your details to Optima-Life for the discount.

As I write this blog a device on its way to me and I’m looking forward to my own analysis in a couple of weeks’ time!

New Book Project | “I know what to do, so why don’t I do it?”

New Book Project | “I know what to do, so why don’t I do it?”

Publically committing to writing a new book to help more people bridge the gap between knowing what to do… and actually doing it 

After writing my first book for beginner runners in 2014 I was itching to get stuck into another project. But none of the ideas ever got fully out of the gate and so here we are, 4 years later with still no second book on my Amazon profile.

Over the course of the last 6 months I have found myself talking and writing more and more on the subject of behaviour change. How we can start doing more of the things that we already know how to do.

So it seemed appropriate that this should be subject of any book I commit to writing.

Procrastination

Ironically, once I decided that this was definitely going to happen I still found myself procrastinating and putting off the process of starting. I realised that I was going to have to put into practice every one of the principles I was planning on writing about if it was to see the light of day. 

Getting Started

I got going a couple of weeks ago by mind mapping my ideas to help me make sense of what I wanted to include.  Since then I have been logging my progress with the book in some of my daily videos.

Although these videos focus mainly on the progress I’m making with the speaking goals, there is a great deal of overlap with the book as it’s the same subject that I speak about!

[One of the biggest revelations to me in the last 6 months has been how I’ve come to terms and even thrived on the fact that many of my videos get ZERO or very few views. 

I used to be an external validation junkie and still am in some respects, but this has been a great exercise for me to build a habit that is not based on the approval of other people 🙂 ] 

Purpose of the book

My objective with the book is to create something that brings together all of my ideas and processes that I use in my coaching & online programs to help people do more of the right things.

I also want to produce something that supports my speaking more than a book aimed at beginner runners ever could.

There are a number of subjects that I hear people talk about regularly that I wanted to address:

Self Sabotage

Those actions you take that move you in the exact opposite direction to your goals! Such as skipping workouts or mindlessly eating entire packets of biscuits.

Procrastination

Knowing what to do, but just quickly doing all these other really important things first… oh look I’ve run out of time!

Overwhelm

Sometimes it can feel like there’s just so much that needs to change, even thinking about it adds to the stress.

Ask the audience

One of the first things I did after sketching out my initial ideas was send out a simple 3 question survey to my list of email subscribers and various Facebook communities.

The questions were:

1) What specifically do you do when you self-sabotage?

2) What do you say to yourself when you are doing it?

3) What would a book of this nature have to contain in order fo you to find it useful?

It was incredible to receive 200+ responses to these questions, which gave me some invaluable insights to add to what I thought I already knew about the depth and detail of the problems we all face.

Approach to publishing

At this stage I expect that I’m going to take a similar approach to publishing the book as I did with Beginner’s Luck, i.e. self-publish on Kindle and use Create Space to print on demand for paperbacks.

I’m not adverse to the idea of getting a publisher for the book, but I’m not going to build looking for one into my process and timeline. Self-publishing worked well for me last time and I see no reason to believe that I can’t replicate the success with this book.

Updates

I’ll be putting occasional book updates here on the blog and more regularly in my daily YouTube videos.

If you have any questions or media opportunities, please get in touch directly!

15.5 Simple Habits That Could Improve Your Life

15.5 Simple Habits That Could Improve Your Life

The difference between habits and philosophies, how to use the What If? quadrant, and 15.5 practical habits to embrace

We’re often presented with lists of habits that we’re told we should be embracing in order to live healthier, more productive and fulfilling lives.

Progress not perfection, think positively, be grateful, don’t worry what people think…

These are all wonderful ways to live your life… but they aren’t habits.

They’re philosophies.

Philosophies and habits

This is a huge problem for so many of us – we hear about something we should be doing but without a definite course of action to follow there’s nothing we can actually do about it.

This can leave us feeling frustrated and overwhelmed at all the things we’re not doing.

This is the big difference between a philosophy and a habit.

A habit is the physical manifestation of a philosophy… something you do in the real world that demonstrates a belief you hold about what’s important.

It’s not what you KNOW, it’s what you DO that makes a difference

I’m going to share with you some simple and practical habits you might want to consider embracing, if you happen to share similar philosophies to me about personal development, self-improvement, and physical and mental wellbeing.

Before we get into that though, I want to share something with you that will help you take any motivational expression or quote, and crash it headlong into your unique world.

The 4 Quadrants Of Change

Adapted from learning psychology, the 4 Quadrants of Change are

Why? > What? > How? > What If?

Essentially, we need to know why something is important, what it is and how to do it, but also how it’s going to work in our world.

‘What if I were to do this…?’

Any time you hear an expression such as ‘progress, not perfection’ (one of my most personal philosophies), think about how it might look in your life.

Progress not perfection means striving to make improvements rather than trying to be perfect.

This might look like eating one extra piece of fruit, drinking an extra glass of water, or going to bed 15 minutes earlier.

Progress not perfection is the philosophy, the fruit, water and sleep are the habits.

Make sense?

Let’s take a look at some of these habits you may decide to consider embracing if they resonate with you.

Embrace these habits

In the interest of interest, I’ve kept these varied, covering different aspects of physical and mental wellbeing, productivity and personal effectiveness.

The order they’re in is the order they came out of my brain. I could have spent longer organising them into categories but hey, done is better than perfect 😉

Most importantly, what they all have in common is that they are actionable.

1) Use Flight Mode in the evening

Switch your phone or tablet to flight mode an hour before bed, and keep it out of the bedroom completely if possible.

This ‘magic hour’ is part of your daily strategic recovery.

Scrolling through social media might feel like ‘unwinding’, but this kind of stimulation is the last thing your brain needs as it tries to calm down.

2) Keep a Gratitude & Victory Log

Before you go to sleep, write down 3 things you were grateful for and 3 ‘victories’ from the day.

Keep a notebook and pen handy for this, so you always remember to do it when you get into bed.

Try to notice the little things as well as the big ones.

3) 5 minute morning workouts

Spending just a few minutes in the morning doing something physical can have several positive benefits.

Aside from the accumulated effects of activating your muscles daily, you may find that you experience improved posture through the day, as well as increasing your chances of making healthier choices with food.

Take a look at my free daily core training program the Plankathon if you want a structured starting point for this, but even doing a couple of sets of press ups or squats can give you similar results.

4) Visualisation

Collect pictures that visually represent goals or ambitions you are working towards, and put them in a separate folder in your smart phone.

First thing every morning, flick through these pictures to remind yourself what your goals are for the day.

You may find that it helps to tie this habit into an existing one, such as when you are drinking a glass of water.

5) Schedule in your workouts

Plan them into your diary and you’re more likely to get them done rather than just hoping you’ll find time.

If you can arrange to meet somebody for your workout even better, as will boost your accountability.

If you find yourself regularly skipping out on solo workouts, try asking somebody to check up on you afterwards to make sure that you’ve done it!

6) Write down what’s on your mind

Think on paper; if something is bothering you get it out of your head and onto paper so you can work through it more logically.

When we hold everything in our heads it tends to get clouded with emotion which makes it harder to figure out what’s really going on

7) Hide your phone

When you’re not using it, keep your phone out of sight.

The more you see it (or feel it, if it’s in your pocket!) the more likely you are to ‘quickly check’… which can often turn into another wasted 20 minutes.

This habit can be particularly effective when you’re working on something you want to get into ‘flow state’ with, and also when you’re with family or friends.

When something or someone requires your full attention, make it easier for you to give it to them.

8) Work on yourself every day

Reading personal development books or articles, watching TED talks, taking online courses… these are all great ways to keep yourself developing and learning.

Try the Blinkist App, which condenses books into short summaries you can absorb in just a few minutes.

8) Add salad

If you’re trying to eat more healthily, one of the easiest ways to get more nutrients into your body is to add a salad to whatever meal you’re eating.

A bowl of leafy green veggies like spinach or herby salads, with avocado, tomato and walnuts, dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and salt & pepper is a simple starting point.

Easy way to add more nutrients to your diet.

9) Walk briskly

Find 10 minutes during the day to go for a brisk walk; if you can, do this 3 times a day,

You’ll not only get numerous health benefits but it can clear your head and help your subconscious mind get to work on solving problems.

Recent studies have shown that just 3 ‘Active 10‘ intervals during the day can improve health markers such as blood pressure and glucose levels.

10) Carry a bottle of water with you

If you find that you struggle to drink enough during the day, try taking a large refillable water bottle with you when you leave the house.

If you have it with you, you’re more likely to be reminded to keep taking regular sips.

11) Plan meals

Create a list of go-to meals that you know to work for you and your family. Keep them in a file or document you can refer to when you’re planning meals for the week.

Build the habit of planning your meals into a set day each week.

12) Batch cook

Cook once, eat multiple times.

Either do a big batch of meals you can freeze, or just cook double portions you can then use the following day for lunch.

13) Meditate

Drive to work 10 minutes early and when you arrive sit quietly and meditate for 10 minutes before going about your business.

Either use the Headspace or Calm apps, or just try to focus on your breathing for a few minutes (here’s a breathing app to help with that!).

Experiment with meditation without any expectations or pressure of ‘emptying your mind’.

14) Notice your thoughts

Mindfulness teaches us how to bring our attention to the present moment. A powerful and practical application of this is to start noticing when your inner voice is starting down a negative track in your mind.

When you catch this happening, instead of trying to stop it simply say to yourself ‘I’m having the thought that…’.

Take a few minutes at the end of the day to note down the times you were able to do this.

Over a short amount of time, combined with other mindfulness training, you can easily build an increased level of self-awareness.

15) Curate content playlists

If you sometimes find that sit down to watch something on YouTube, you can often waste the short amount of time you have by searching. And that’s if you don’t get distracted by funny cat videos!

Instead, create a playlist to add videos to as you find them so you always have something ready to watch in those precious few moments.

I have created a YouTube playlist with some of the TED & TEDx talks I’ve watched and personally taken something away from that you are welcome to subscribe to as a starting point.

15.5) Apply the What If quadrant

Ever read a book, watch a TED talk or listen to a podcast, get to the end of it nodding in agreement and then do nothing about it?

You know the what, the why and the how, but you don’t necessarily take it to the What If quadrant.

Try to write down 1-3 things you are going to actually do, as a result of what you have just learned.

I’ve called this habit ‘15.5’ because really it applies to everything else I’ve written on this page.

Take a moment to write down 1-3 things that you’re going to do differently as a result of what you’ve just read.

This is where the theory collides with your reality, and takes the knowing to the doing.

 

Creating habits | the balance between variety and routine

Creating habits | the balance between variety and routine

How getting the balance between variety and routine is the key to your success

I’ve driven business coaches mad in the past by refusing to commit to doing just ONE thing.

You have to specialise George‘, they kept (and keep!) telling me.

I get it, and part of me would love to be able to just focus on one thing… but I’ll be honest with you, I’d soon get bored!

For example, I’m really focused with the motivational speaking goal this year.

But I’m still working with my private coaching clients… still developing and growing boost… still committed to my various communities.

We need variety

I need the variety of different challenges, even if that means I don’t get to be ‘the best’ at anything I do (and there you were thinking I was competitive!)

Ultimately, we all need variety in our lives.

Not just to stop us from getting bored, but for the good of our physical wellbeing.

We need different types of exercise and a wide variety of nutrients in our diets if we’re going to be healthy.

Meal variety is something that came up in boost this week, whilst we were working through our meal planning experiment.

Balanced with routine

What was really clear, was that important though variety is, it needs to be balanced against routine.

Experimenting with different ingredients and meals is great, but if you were to try a new meal out every single night it would quickly become overwhelming.

Same for lunches and breakfasts… I mean, who has a different breakfast every morning of the week!

(I shared my own example of a typical meal plan, and breakfast is exactly the same every single morning!)

Go-To Meals

This is something that has come out of the ‘experiment’ so far:

Create a list of ‘go-to’ meals and recipes that have been battle tested and come out as winner.

These are the meals that you know how to make, which ingredients you need, how long they take to make, what they taste like, and possibly even that other members of the household also enjoy them!

Really simple, but it helps overcome the situation where you’re trying to figure out what to cook for dinner that night and your mind goes blank!

Develop a routine that works for you, and then add the variety in line with your appetite for uncertainty.