Monday, June 15, 2009

Procrastination Thriving in Stressful Workplace

I'm always impressed when I watch a movie like "Apollo 13" where people under enormous stress perform really well. That doesn't usually happen for me.

There have been a lot of frantic, stressful days in my life, and sometimes by the end of the day I realize I didn't get enough done and feel really frustrated, or angry or depressed. Sometimes I feel all three.

Dr. Neil Fiore says I'm not alone. A psychologist and productivity guru, he says that the increasing stress of our daily lives, combined with anxiety about the state of the economy, has contributed to our loss of motivation.

The author of "The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play," Fiore says people have gotten into the bad habit of saying "I have to get the project done" instead of "I'm going to get the project done."

“By saying, ‘I have to’ instead of ‘I choose to’ or ‘I’m going to,’ you really increase your stress levels,” he says. "Replace "I have to get this overwhelming project done" with 'I am choosing to START on one part for 15 minutes with plenty of guilt-free play on my schedule.' You then avoid both stress and anxiety. Anxiety is stuck energy trying to get into the imaginery 'future','done' or 'finished' place."

Fiore says that while we’ve all heard of the “flight or fight” response to stress, a third component is “freeze.” That means that people who are confronted with a possible layoff, or have already lost their jobs, may find that they’re shifting into a “wait and see” mode, procrastinating on doing anything about their careers.

“It’s part of our survival mechanism. When you have a broken leg, your body will tell you to lie still. That’s what is happening to a lot of people right now. They’re just staying still, trying to figure out what is going on,” he says.

Fiore offered some tips to those of us struggling with these issues:
  • Notice your immediate, "default" reactions -- your most frequent thoughts, feelings, and impulsive reactions -- to stress and pressure. Take a few days to identify which reactive habits you need to update to fit with your current vision, abilities, values and challenges.
  • Remember how you felt when you helped a friend cope with a stressful or heart-breaking event. You observed their problem from a distance and shifted to the role of a compassionate, wise counselor. Do this for yourself and experience the freedom of observing old habits and thoughts without having to identify with them.
  • Play and work consistently at your personal best by connecting to the rest of your brain and body -- when you feel like a Tiger Woods, a Danica Patrick or an Oprah Winfrey. Begin performing at levels far beyond what the ego knows how to do. Integrate all parts of you into the grander whole that is your strongest self.
  • Notice how self-criticism and telling yourself "you have to" lead to stress and anxiety. Get ride of self-threats.Tell yourself: "Regardless of what happens, I will not make myself feel bad. I will not let any event or person determine my worth."
  • Communicate to your mind and body a clear image of when, where, and on what to work, and you'll significantly improve your productivity. "Pour the foundation at 9 a.m. Wednesday at 322 Garfield Ave." is clearer than "You have to finish construction on this house by next month."
  • Change "I don't know" to "I wonder what will come to me." Watch for the surprise as the creative side of your brain starts working to bring you from "not knowing" to "knowing."

What are some ways you avoid procrastination or keep yourself motivated?

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Being on Time May Be an Impossible Task

Is being late a sin?

I can't tell you how many times in the last months I've been late somewhere, and I am never late. I'm not sure why this is, but I'm determined to get a handle on it.

Being late bugs me. It stresses me out. But I wait on a lot on other people who are late. They're late for phone interviews, they're late for meetings and sometimes they never even show up.

At work, we're all under some incredible deadlines, being asked to do more faster, better, smarter and -- did I mention faster?

So, if that's the case, are we now running later than ever because we set unrealistic deadlines? It's estimated that employee lateness costs about $3 billion annually, but lots of successful people run late: Bill Clinton is known for his inability to stick to a schedule.

Many of us have terrible commutes that we have little or no control over. We're juggling the demands of work and home, and many toil for our companies even when we're physically not at work through e-mail and phone calls.

I'm reminded of a hand-stitched sampler that we had in our living room while I was growing up:

"The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get."

Some will say that lateness is a way to control a situation, it's a head game the tardy folks play with the rest of us. It's the people who are whiners and slackers who are late, and the rest of us shouldn't have to pay the price. But does that still hold true in the workforce today?

Should bosses continue to punish employees for being late? It does make them mad, and ticks off plenty of co-workers.

So, maybe there's an "acceptable" amount of time to be late. If there is, I wish someone would tell me so I could quit chugging the Maalox every time I start to run behind. Is it five minutes? Ten? Twenty?

If you've found ways to stay on schedule and never be late, please let the rest of us know. I'm getting behinder more every day.


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