The Big Idea
It’s time to step into being your future self.
Questions I Answer
- How can I stop struggling with procrastination?
- What can I do to start taking action if I’m not very motivated?
- What’s the best way for me to make decisions with the future in mind?
- How do I find balance and peace?
Key Topics in the Show
My best advice on how to stop your pattern of procrastination, allowing you to put important tasks at the top of your priority list instead of immediate or urgent items.
A 5-minute rule and more tips on how to banish analysis paralysis, organize your lifestyle and go after your ideas or passions.
How to instill productivity and mindful living into your kids… and that includes allowing them to understand their options and deal with ‘failure.’
Intentionally transitioning between your roles at work and at home by creating harmony and focusing on each.
Welcome to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press, a podcast focused on finding success and happiness through the power of productivity. Each season, Tanya focuses on specific strategies to help you discover your own priorities and purpose. Season five is all about investing in you. You can also join Tanya for more interaction support in her free Facebook group at inkwellpress.com/group. Now, here’s your host, Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, owner of inkWELL Press, and this is episode 56. Today’s podcast episode is brought to you by Audible. I’ll be sharing later in the show how you can get a free audiobook download. Let’s go ahead and get started with today’s show, though, because today is an Ask Tanya episode, and I want to get to as many questions as I can. So, let’s go ahead and start diving in.
My first question is from Ashley in Vail, Arizona, and she says, “Hi, Tanya. I’m struggling to ward off the P-word: procrastination. I’ve always tended to be a procrastinator, but some issues at work have really caused the problem to rear its ugly head. Any tips you have to overcome this natural tendency of mine would be extremely helpful.” Well, Ashley, I don’t think you’re alone in struggling with procrastination. That is definitely one of the top things I hear from listeners and from people I meet.
So, I want to talk about how this relates to our future self, because as we talked about in episode 53, studies show that we’re really bad at relating to that future self. I talked about one study that showed that our brains recognize our future selves just like we recognize celebrities: as people we kind of know, but not really, and that feeds into this idea of procrastination. Since we have a hard time thinking about our future self, we instead focus on the current version of ourselves, the one that can derive pleasure from the bad habits, and we ignore our future self, the one who will pay the price for that bad behavior.
Procrastination is an extension of this. It’s a coping mechanism that’s gone awry to avoid negative feelings like fear, dread, and anxiety. So, we’re trying to avoid those feelings that we feel when we think a task is important. We do various things to procrastinate, ranging from doing useless things like looking at cat videos, to scrolling mindlessly through social media. Or, focusing on insignificant tasks like cleaning or busy work. Yeah, we’re all guilty of that. You have something big going on, and suddenly, that pile of dishes just has to be done, right. Even though they’ve been sitting there for days, now, somehow, top of your list, and that’s because generally, it’s not a time management problem; it’s an emotion management problem.
You’re pushing things to the top of your priorities just so you can avoid the scarier tasks; the bigger, more important tasks. Why is that? Well, because they’re just that. They are big and scary, and you’ve probably noticed that after procrastinating, you feel even more shame and guilt, which, to an extreme procrastinator, is a trigger to procrastinate more. Ah, cycles and patterns, right? So,
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like we talked about last week, we need to disrupt that pattern, and research suggests that one of the most effective things that procrastinators can do is to first, forgive themselves for procrastinating.
In one research study, students who reported forgiving themselves for procrastinating on studying for a first exam ended up procrastinating less for the second exam, and this is because procrastination is linked to negative feelings, and forgiving yourself can reduce the guilt you feel about procrastinating, which is one of the main triggers for procrastinating in the first place. Recognize that you don’t have to be in the mood to do a certain task. Just ignore how you feel, and get started. Instead of focusing on feelings, focus on the next small step you can take, even if it’s just opening the program you need on your computer. These small actions actually increase the way you feel about yourself. You feel a little bit better that you’ve done something small, which, in turn, reduces the desire to procrastinate at all.
So, one of the best things you can do when you find yourself procrastinating is to question yourself and ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re currently doing. Now, not an ugly, judgmental way, because we all ask ourselves questions in some really ugly ways. Ask yourself in a true, fact-finding way. Be your own Nancy Drew, because when you recognize that, you can start to get to the heart of what you’re avoiding and why. So, simply ask, “What am I doing right now, and why?” This works especially well if you’re doing something mindlessly, like scrolling on the phone.
Each time you catch yourself procrastinating, go through the question again, because there’s lots of ways we all procrastinate, and you’ll probably start to notice a pattern; a pattern of why you’re doing it, right. A pattern that you can actively begin to disrupt. That will allow you to find ways so that you’re able to get your work done. My assistant, Liz, who’s a self-described procrastinator, found that many times, it was just that her brain was looking for a distraction. So, she’d automatically look at her phone when it was time to get work done, and once she discovered that, she was able to find ways to be more successful. She shared a few of her favorite tactics with me, and I’d love to share them with you.
She started putting on music without lyrics when she’s trying to get writing done, because that takes care of the distracting part of her brain really well, and allows her to focus. When she’s doing things around the house, or tasks that don’t require any heavy thought, like doing dishes or laundry, she puts on a podcast, because she finds it’s the best way to keep herself from scrolling on social media, because she can’t do both at the same time. Can’t listen and read at the same time, and she enjoys podcasts more than social media. And yes, of course her favorite podcast is Productivity Paradox.
So, I hope that these ideas give you a little bit of a springboard for how you can combat procrastination. I think one of the first steps, honestly, is recognizing that you’re struggling with it, and then just begin to look for the patterns. So, I hope that helps, Ashley. All right, let’s move on to the second question. This is from Amanda in Salem, South Dakota. “Hi, Tanya. I just purchased my first inkWELL Press planner for 2018, and I’m super excited to get into using it on a regular basis. Here’s my question/ conundrum: I have all these great thoughts and ideas after listening to podcasts and books, but I struggle with the action portion. I feel like this massive paralysis comes
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over me when I actually need to put the ideas to work. I feel like I don’t know where to start in getting my life organized to better enjoy my family and work. I love your podcast. I binge listened to the last 40 episodes in about a week, so I’m glad I found it.”
Well, first of all, Amanda, great use of the word conundrum. I love that word. Let’s go ahead and talk about getting some action going in your life. I think what I’m noticing is it seems tied to a few things, but mostly what I’m seeing is analysis paralysis here: spending a lot of time thinking and not enough time acting, right. So, since you’re a thinker, let’s go with that strength. Don’t fight against it. Use it to your advantage. Start with figuring out a goal that you feel would help you get your life organized, and brainstorm all that you need to do to accomplish it, and then break it down into small parts, just like the action roadmap download that I have.
If that first step you wrote out still feels overwhelming and paralyzing, break it down even further. Let me give you an example. If you’re worried about finances and you want to get in touch with an accountant, but then you get worried about what the accountant might need, and you don’t know where those papers are, and then it starts spiraling out of control. We have to stop. Don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed. Stop and think about the first step, and just that first step. With that accountant example, don’t think about what papers you need to gather; just focus first on contacting the accountant. And if you don’t know who you’re going to contact, back it up and break that step down even more. Then that first step is just figuring out who to contact, asking friends and family for recommendations, doing a little bit of research.
The biggest key, though, is what I call giving it a container. Contain the amount of time you’re allowing yourself to do each step. Give yourself a deadline for each of those tiny, minute steps, because if you’re prone to analysis paralysis, it’s easy to allow that one little step to drag out. So, give yourself two days to research; no more. And then you move on to the next step. In other words, if you get to a wall, figure out how you can scale over it. Don’t allow it to block your path. Don’t worry about the rest, and just do it. Small steps lead to bigger victories. Give yourself a five-minute rule. Work on a task for five minutes. Five minutes sounds easy and achievable, right. After all, it’s only five minutes.
Now, how you spend those five minutes doesn’t really matter, it’s the ability to get started on the work. Five minutes is enough to get momentum going without feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Who doesn’t have five minutes? Then you can stop after those five minutes are over, and you might just find it’s easier to come back for another five minutes, and then 10, or 20, and you start building on that. Build that momentum.
Remember Erik Weihenmayer, the blind adventurer that I interviewed? He runs into obstacles all the time, whether it’s climbing a mountain, kayaking the Grand Canyon, or even just navigating a new space. He says, “There are certain things you can never work out ahead of time. The only way to experience it is to go and do it,” which is just a much better way of saying what I’ve been saying all along. Just get started. So, Amanda, I hope that helps give you a few ideas. Go with that five-minute
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rule, don’t fight against your strength, which is doing a lot of thinking. Figure out how to work those things to your advantage.
Okay, let’s take a very, very quick break for our sponsor, and then I’ll come back and answer a few more questions. One of my favorite things to do with great books that I love is reread them. Only, I don’t usually have time to invest in rereading. My answer? I listen to them. Audible makes it easy because they have over 180,000 titles to choose from. Using Audible allows me to remind myself of the concepts in a book in a fraction of the time. Right now, I’m listening to Simon Sinek, refreshing my brain on the ideas he shared in his book, Start With Why. I definitely recommend this book. Want to give it a listen? Good news is you can listen to it for free, thanks to Audible. They’re offering a free audiobook download and a free 30-day trial for you. Just go to inkwellpress.com/audible to sign up today.
Okay. My next question is from Anne in Denver, Colorado, and she says, “I love the episode on becoming your future self. It got me thinking about my children and how I want to instill this concept in them that their actions today affect them in the future. What’s the best way to do this?” Well, Anne, I love this question. I’m always thinking about how to instill productivity and positive, mindful living into my own kids. As a former teacher, I did that with my students. And I’ll tell you what I’ve learned in all the research and books I’ve read, and the classes I’ve attended: as parents, we’re always very focused and very worried about raising happy children. Oftentimes, that’s at the expense of raising competent or autonomous kids.
We all want our kids to be happy, obviously, which is why it is so dang hard to watch them fail. We want to rescue them and make it better, but that’s not really a realistic life, is it? It’s not setting them up for success as they grow up and encounter the real world. I used to tell the parents of my students that allowing their children to fail is a gift they need to give. It’s okay to fail when you’re 10. It’s an easier lesson to take in, and quite frankly, there’s less at stake. But it also allows your children to see that failing isn’t the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to grow and to learn, and it allows them to see that the choices they make affect the outcome they receive.
When we save our kids from failure, we’re actually failing to allow them to see their future self. We’re willing to trade the present happiness for the future on both sides of this future. What happens when we make good choices and when we make bad choices? We have to allow them to see their options so they can begin to understand that in their future self, and as they grow up, begin to make choices of their own. Psychologist Wendy Grolnick has spent time studying failure in children. She did a study where she observed mothers and children in a playroom, and then she would label the mothers as controlling or autonomy-supportive. In other words, moms that let the kids figure things out on their own.
The kids were then put in a room by themselves and asked to perform tasks. The striking results showed that the children who had controlling mothers gave up when they were faced with a task they couldn’t master right away, and the others did not. Parents rescue their children from failure because it feels good, but in the long run, it doesn’t teach your kids to become more independent and better organized. Kids can do more than we think they can, and we need to let them figure that out. They can do dishes and clean without being bribed, but things won’t be done as well
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or as clean as you doing them yourself while they’re figuring it out. You have to be okay with that. Praise the effort, not the outcomes.
But you’ll notice, when kids have ownership over tasks, they feel more of a sense of accomplishment, the same as you and me. When we take this ownership away by constantly ensuring their success, whether that means doing their homework for them or saving them when they’ve procrastinated on a big project, we take away the opportunity for them to feel like they played a major role. Allowing your kids to fail is an investment in the future self.
A difficult investment, I wholeheartedly agree. There’s very few things harder than watching my own kids fail at something, and it takes every fiber of my being not to swing in there and save them. But I love that my kids are getting this lesson, and now they’re setting goals and creating action plans for their projects on their own. They’re independently working and succeeding. After all, my goal is to make sure that when my kids leave my nest, they fly. So, I hope that helps answer your question, Anne, and I hope this gives you a little bit of insight on why it’s really important to allow your children to fail.
Okay. I think I have time for one more question, and this one is from Alex in France. Alex says, “I’m struggling between a home-based business and a family life. How do I find balance and peace?” Well, Alex, I understand that feeling. I worked out of my own home for a very long time, and so I know it’s easy for that time between work and home to really blur. Let’s start with addressing balance. Balance is bogus. You’ve heard me say that before, and that’s because sometimes you need to lean in harder on your work or in your personal life, and there isn’t balance there, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be harmony between the two.
A few weeks ago I talked about that bike analogy, that when you’re riding on a bike and you need to go in a direction, whether it’s turning left or right, you do have to lean into different areas, right. You have to have imbalance in order to go in a direction. So, when these lines between work and home are blurred, it’s even more important to make sure you’re counterbalancing from time to time and you’re taking the time to really make sure that you have the harmony in your life. That’s why it’s even more important to actively plan and set clear boundaries between the two parts of your life.
Setting up a specific schedule, just like a regular job, will help guard that time. Instead of just doing work when you feel like it, or once you’ve taken care of the things around the house, or vice versa. When you have a flexible work schedule, or you’re setting your own times, you need to make sure you’re treating work and family like priorities. So, each deserves its own container and focus. There’s nothing worse than doing things with your family and being distracted by work, and vice versa. So, create ways to compartmentalize the two.
We go through a cognitive role transition when we think of work-related things while we’re at home, and home things while we’re at work. The transition from one role to the other, back and forth, can deplete that mental energy and take the focus away from what you’re actively engaged in, whether that’s work or a family dinner. So, when there’s blurred lines in your mind, you’re wearing your brain out. So, you
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need to develop strategies to easily transition between the two roles, like work and home. You want to make sure to develop strategies to transition between your two roles more effectively so you have less disruption during that focus time.
Even though you’re in the same space, your home, it’s almost like shutting one door and opening the other. The easiest way, I think, to do this is creating some simple routines that signify to yourself that you’re in work mode, or you’re in home mode. For example, at the start of work time, maybe that’s when you sit down and you plan out your work schedule for the day. Or, you have some sort of ritual like getting yourself a cup of coffee and reviewing your notes from the day before. And then again, at the end of your work time, you do an activity like the daily download, or you shut away your work things so they aren’t sitting out; something to signify that the work time door is closed and the home door is now opening.
It really makes a big difference to your brain to see and understand that that transition has taken place, and it allows you to focus more. But I want you to remember this too: think of your work-life harmony, not in terms of 24 hours. I recommend thinking of your week as a whole, 168 hours, thinking in even longer terms of seasons or years. That can be even more helpful. You don’t have to build a career and a family and a healthy lifestyle and hobbies all at the same time. Lean into one thing at a time, and build interest upon each other. That can be one of the best ways to find harmony throughout your lifetime, just like turning the corner on that bike.
Allowing yourself space to lean into one focus instead of feeling like you have to excel at everything all at once will help you get the most out of that time you have, and that’s really what it’s about. When you’re having your focus time, truly enjoying it, being mindful of it, and experiencing it to the fullest degree. So, I hope these ideas help you, Alex, in figuring out a little bit more harmony in your work and your life areas. Okay. That’s all the time I have for questions today. If you do have questions for a future Ask Tanya episode, feel free to submit those at inkwellpress.com/question, and I’ll start taking questions now. I take questions throughout the whole season that I use for my Ask Tanya episodes.
Speaking of asking questions, there’s lots of great conversation going on in my Facebook group. I would love to see you in there. You can access that at inkwellpress.com/group. Okay, next week we’re going to continue our season of investing in yourself with an episode all about why it’s important to understand your personality, and how that can benefit you and others. So, I look forward to seeing you again next week. Until next time, happy planning.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. To join Tanya’s free group, simply go to inkwellpress.com/group.