Archive for February, 2008

When It Comes to Procrastination, It’s About Outsmarting Fear

February 29, 2008

 

One of my favorite tricks is: COMMIT…AND THEN FIGURE IT OUT.

I’m talking about putting a deadline on the calendar. When a person makes a commitment to another person with a date marked on the calendar, it’s amazing how 99% of the time, it gets done.

This is a great trick if you find yourself putting off something out of fear that you really want to do deep down.

Try it next time you’re presented with a vague request to do something that scares you. For instance, if you’re in business for yourself (like I am) and you find yourself getting requests to give public speaking engagements, and if (like me) the thought of giving these presentations makes you weak in the knees, experiment with this: Call the point person at the organization that is requesting your presence and set a date on the calendar — BEFORE you prepare the presentation. Tell them you’ll get back to them with a topic and proposal, but you want to set aside the date well-in-advance to be respectful of them and to be able to plan around it. Once a date is set and you know it’s approaching, you’ll be surprised by how quickly the ideas will flow — DESPITE the fear (The fear itself takes scores of speaking engagements to abate).

This way, rather than the fear eating away at you as you continue to put off picking up the phone to schedule the speaking engagement, now the fear and adrenalin will meet productively as you make preparations for a real, scheduled presentation.

Jump off the cliff, and you’ll find a way to fly!

Jen

Learn more about Jen’s life coaching services at www.JZBcoaching.com.

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THIS WEEK’S ZOOMLETTER: Procrastination Fuels Stress

We’ve all been there — procrastinating out of sheer boredom or repugnance. Take the ultra-common resistance to perform household chores. Most of us can relate to the thoughts: “If I just hadn’t put it off!” or “If I had only done a little tidying up each day, I wouldn’t be faced with the piles of mail or the overflowing hall closet!”

But many times, procrastination springs from something a bit less transparent than simply not wanting to bother. I’m talking about the type of procrastination rooted in FEAR.

With permission, I share a valuable approach to just this type of procrastination, relayed to me by a client. She makes a great case for…

Why procrastination causes us more stress than it’s worth (and what we can do about it):

She writes: “I often put things off that I’m scared to do. Like if I have to make a phone call; or commit to something; or get back to someone; or meet with people. I always try to put it off. The problem is, when I put it off, I’m then spending all that extra time worrying about it. So, procrastinating only feels good for the first day or so (when I feel like there’s still a lot of time until I have to do the scary thing). But, really, I spend the rest of the time worrying.

So, I’ve started experimenting (like we discussed) — committing to things right away and setting up meetings sooner rather than later, even if I’m scared I won’t be prepared. This way, I end up getting whatever it is out of the way, and I have a lot of time left to feel good that IT’S DONE! I know it’s a simple idea, but it’s worked so far.

I’m actually finding that I’m pushing things UP (instead of BACK). What I’ve found is that I have more time to work on things sooner this way, which leaves less crunch time in the end. If I push things up, I can feel more freedom to make mistakes, because there’s more time to correct them. So, I might show my supervisor a crummy draft, but that’s not nearly as scary as if we met further along and I showed her a crummy final draft, because then I’d have no time to make corrections. I find the old saying to be true: The sooner you start, the better. Oftentimes, if you push something off, you end up having only one shot at it. Better to work the kinks out earlier than have it be too late. Plus, it’s a bonus to realize I can handle most things sooner and don’t need the extra time.

Now when I’m nervous about something, I don’t put it off, because that will just leave me more worried about it. The key is it’s better to take action sooner than set your life up constantly worried about what’s coming next.”

This client’s valuable insight is this:
Procrastination that stems from stress & worry ends up FUELING stress & worry. ACTION interrupts this cycle.

I encourage you to try this…Take a moment to consider ONE thing that you’ve put off out of fear, and imagine the stress that could be lifted if you were to look out your “rear-view mirror” at it COMPLETED.

With cheer,

Jen

Learn more about Jen’s life coaching services at www.JZBcoaching.com.

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Favorite Organizing Tricks

February 15, 2008

In this week’s ZoomLetter, I shared 4 of my favorite ORGANIZING TRICKS.
What follows is an addendum to each of the first three of them. (To check out all 4 original tricks, scroll to the bottom of this post).

1) Additional e-mail trick: If you have the willpower, make it a point to check e-mail just twice a day. To take this one step further, consider adding an auto-responder message along the following lines: “Thank you for your email. Please note that I regularly check email at 11am and 4pm. If your matter requires immediate attention, please call me at the following number. Thank you and have a great day.”

2) Two more TO-DO list tricks: a) Consider dividing your daily TO-DO list into two or more parts based on content, location, or time of day. For instance, I divide mine into “day and evening” sections, placing daytime items towards the top of the list. Alternately, you can experiment with dividing your TO-DO list into “work and personal” sections or into “in the office and on-the-road” sections. b) When it comes to longer-term wish list items (i.e. planting that garden, taking that dream vacation, cleaning that closet, or taking that painting class), try keeping them all on one “intention” list (perhaps as a document saved to your computer). Then, each week during your 15-minute personal planning session, scan the “intention” list and see how you might add a small piece of one intention to your daily TO-DO lists for the coming week. For instance, “call travel agent” jotted on Wednesday’s TO-DO list or “research classes at The New School” jotted on Thursday’s TO-DO list starts to make taking that dream vacation or that painting class MORE REAL in bite-size chunks.

3) A twist on eliminating piles: If folders aren’t your thing, consider using open bins. Any type of boxes or bins will do (i.e. plastic, cardboard, wicker). The trick is to make sure not to use lids, so it’s easy to throw things into the bins. This will eliminate the tendency to leave papers accumulating out in the open on desktops or counter tops. You can assign names to the bins just as you might do to folders: “the action bin” and “the catch-all bin”, and you can put off sorting the bins until they start to fill. If you’re looking for something important, the worst that can happen is that you’ll have to sort through one or two bins (rather than looking all over the house). For young kids, try making tossing items in bins into a fun game.

If you have more organizing tricks that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment to this blog below…

To learn more about personal coaching, visit www.JZBcoaching.com.

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THIS WEEK’S ZOOMLETTER: 4 OF MY FAVORITE ORGANIZING TRICKS

2) TOUCH E-MAIL ONCE: The old rule about touching papers once applies to e-mail, too. If your e-mail inbox feels like an overwhelming TO-DO list, it’s time to stop using e-mails as visual reminders that lie around like piles of paper. When opening an e-mail, commit to do 1 of 3 things: a) delete it, b) reply to it (if doing so will take less than 1 minute), or c) make a note on a separate daily TO-DO list to respond later. This eliminates the need to continually scan through e-mails or re-read them (both big time-wasters), because you rest assured that if an e-mail has been opened, either it has been acted upon or has been “captured” as an action item on your TO-DO list. Keep in mind, too, that in many cases, time spent deliberating over how to craft an e-mail “to strike just the right tone” can be cut in half by picking up the phone.

2) SCRAP THE LONG TO-DO LIST: A lengthy TO-DO list that includes everything from work meetings to salon appointments to grocery items to longer-term wish items (like finally planning that dream vacation) can overwhelm the sanest of us. Instead of keeping one long-running TO-DO list, commit to putting aside 15 minutes once a week for a “personal planning session”. I like to hold mine on Fridays. Every Friday, I transfer my work appointments and personal appointments for the upcoming week onto individual, daily TO-DO lists (this is a snap if you use an electronic PDA, but if you’re like me and do it longhand, a ringed steno notebook or weekly planner comes in handy). After the appointments are in, I add other action items to each day, according to what errands I want to run and where I’ll be that week. For instance, I generally add an item like “work out at the gym” most weekday mornings, while I might add “do laundry” to Thursday’s list and “buy groceries” to Tuesday’s list. This way, items aren’t left floating on a long list, but rather, have a day of the week assigned to each of them. Another nice thing about taking the 15 minutes for a planning session once a week is getting to scan the upcoming week from a 30,000-foot view, allowing a vantage point to plan ahead. For instance, if I see “corporate presentation” on Wednesday afternoon, I can make sure to add “prepare handouts” to Tuesday’s TO-DO list.

3) ELIMINATE PILES: When opening mail or sorting papers, keep 4 items close by as a short-term “filing system”: a) a garbage can, b) a folder labeled “catch-all”, c) a folder labeled “action”, and d) your daily TO-DO lists (or PDA). The most obvious is the garbage can – for items that can be tossed.  (As a wise reader points out, ALL clean office paper, receipts, cardboard, inserts etc. should be recycled, and not tossed into the garbage can). The “catch-all” folder comes in handy for items that don’t require action but may be good to hold onto for future reference (i.e. coupons, notices, receipts, etc). Alternately, for items that require action (i.e. bills, invitations, etc.), file them in the “action” folder and make a note – right then and there – on your TO-DO list of the action you want to take (i.e. pay insurance bill or RSVP to Jane’s birthday party). When it comes time to take the action, you’ll know just where to find the bill or the invitation — tucked away safely in the “action” folder. After the action has been taken, you can transfer the bill or the invitation to the “catch-all” folder (for safe-keeping, if you want to hold onto them). This filing method eliminates clutter on counter tops, takes the pressure off needing to sort or file upfront (since you only have two folders to contend with), and means you always know where important papers are (either in the “action” folder or in the “catch-all” folder). Once a month or so, carve out some time to go through the catch-all folder, discarding some items and transferring others to longer-term filing systems as needed (for example, if you save statements or bills for tax purposes).

4) ADD A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR: As helpful as a TO-DO list and a fab organizing system can be, nothing beats a sense of humor when it comes to feeling good in the midst of the crazy-busy lives most of us lead. Cut yourself some slack, be kind to yourself and to others, and remember to laugh when the best laid plans go awry or something falls through the cracks. Others will appreciate you for it, and you’ll add years to your life and quality to those years.

As a personal coach, I help busy individuals self-style approaches to taming “overwhelm”, finding time, and keeping organized. If you have a valuable tip for doing any of the above, I would love to learn about it and share it with our readers. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Here’s to being human and having fun,

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