Getting back into the swing of things can be tough. If you’re anything like us, you’re tired, you miss your routine, you probably developed a habit for eating sugar every 45 minutes or so… In an effort to live lives of intent, we want to make sure we’re focused and acting with purpose. This means we want to face our time wasters head on. So what are the things that are intentionally or unknowingly taking all your time or providing distractions? Are you trying to escape or are you getting sucked in? Our intent is to identify the time wasters. You too? Here are 3 places to check yourself: Continue reading
How many times each day do you try to work yourself up to tackle some undesirable task? If you’re like me – several times.
For instance, I’ve been refining my Four Tendencies Quiz. Almost 500,000 people have taken the quiz — which is extraordinary — and I’ve made adjustments to it, along the way, to make it better.
Analyzing the Quiz results takes a very different kind of brain work from the kind that I usually do — and it’s not the kind of brain work I like to do. And so I put off that work, and put it off, and put it off. And then when I finally do the work, I get through it quickly and am so relieved to have it done. So why procrastinate?
If you face similar struggles, try these strategies: Continue reading
It’s been said that procrastination is the assassinator of opportunity – and that’s probably true. Yet, we’re all guilty of putting things off at least every now and then. There’s always time to do the laundry later or pressing the trash down so you don’t have to take it out just yet. Have you ever pushed off a big assignment or work thing until the last minute? Red Bull wasn’t invented for people with great time management skills.
We’ve all been there so that means we also know that procrastination gets in the way of goals. There are several things you can arm yourself with to combat it though. Make yourself a to-do list of the things you have to get done. The physical representation helps you focus and checking the items off can empower you to keep going. Hide the distractions! If you are prone to breaking your concentration for a round of Candy Crush then put your phone in a drawer or a separate room until the task you need to complete is done. Organize yourself – it is AMAZING how empowering a clean desk can make you feel and motivate you. However, if those tips don’t help try to get yourself back on track with a few of these inspirational quotes. Procrastination may be damaging to progress but we can definitely overcome it.
What if I told you that we, as a nation, waste $317 billion a year in medical expenses just because of forgetfulness and procrastination? Research from Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager, shows that the biggest healthcare issue facing the nation today is not illnesses related to smoking, excessive drinking or obesity due to overindulgence in bacon cheeseburgers, super-sized sodas and curly fries. No! It is what the healthcare industry calls “non-adherence” – not taking our medications as prescribed by the doctor, following guidelines and sticking to our promises to take better care of ourselves in general.
We all know the importance of diet and exercise. Yet, often times we just think up some lame excuse. My husband, for example, won’t eat dark, leafy greens as he claims he’s got supersensitive papillae on this tongue and therefore they taste way too bitter. And a friend of mine won’t get on what she terms the “Dread-mill,” even now in NYC when it’s too icy to walk outside, because she knew someone who caught her foot in the belt when it was moving and fell off. (Truth be told, I feel the same way about the “H-elliptical” machine!)
And how many people do all of us know who don’t sign up for a 401K even when it means they are losing out on the match made by their employer, just because they never “get around to it?” Voila! Procrastination at work!
Getting everyone to regularly focus on their health-related behaviors is the best method for combating issues ranging from obesity to missed doses of important maintenance medications. While the approach may be appealing, unfortunately, it may run headlong against millions of years of evolution. According to Bob Nease, Ph.D., Chief Scientist at Express Scripts, “Our brains, though amazing machines, simply are not made for continuous focus on anything that isn’t immediately painful or pleasurable. The gray matter in our heads can process about 10 million bits of information a second — the same bandwidth of the original Ethernet cable. Yet the conscious part, which we think of as our mind, can only process 50 bits every second. We are wired for inattention.” (Yikes! That’s a thousand times slower than dial-up!)
Ergo, the intent-behavior gap, which explains why we behave in ways detrimental to our health, despite our best intentions to do otherwise.
Nease cites Adam Davidson, who writes the weekly “It’s the Economy” column for The New York Times Magazine, as an example. Apparently, after a lifetime of trying and failing to lose weight, Davidson recently succeeded by committing to a program that left him no options. “Most diets and other good intentions fail because there’s always a third option — an easy way out — that allows us to tell ourselves we tried even while undermining our own success,” he explains. “And when we make a firm commitment that eliminates these escape routes, we are more likely to get results.”
According to Nease, there’s a concept known to behavioral science as ‘precommitment.’ The idea, in fact, was first documented as far back as the 8th Century BC. “In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus needed to sail his ship past the Sirens, who’s enchanting song tempted sailors to their deaths. So before entering those waters, he lashed himself to the ship’s mast so he could resist. His precommitment helped him stay the course.”
Nease contends, however, that he has yet to hear of a diet guru taking Odysseus’ approach literally –e.g., lashing our arms to the dining-room chair. “But some companies are working to make it easier for people to impose big financial penalties on themselves if they fail to meet their weight-loss goals. And precommitment strategies in the tradition of Odysseus propose a good way to navigate through modern life’s multitude of options and temptations to arrive at a healthier place.”
For their part, Express Scripts discovered, for example, that offering their employees the opportunity to precommit nearly tripled actual participation in a company exercise program. “If they agreed in advance to let us block the time on their calendar,” Nease insists, “they ultimately overcame the day-of excuses, showed up, and got in some good exercise.”
The real costs, both financially and heath-wise, come from non-adherence to taking prescribed medications. Forgetting to take a heart pill, for instance, could endanger your life. My husband must take the anti-blood clotting medicine Plavix thanks to his three coronary stents (hellooo filet mignons!!). His cardiologist doesn’t want him to miss even a single dose as that could mean a heart clog and possible death. (He always hides his pills when we have an argument, fearing that I will switch them for a placebo!)
Discipline and willpower are the simple answers, but remember what Bob Nease said about our being wired for inattention and inertia? Below are some simple pre-commitment techniques, starting with the ones I recommend to my audience:
• Use only smaller plates and eat in a room outside the kitchen, away from the refrigerator.
• Eliminate leftovers by buying food and preparing dishes in smaller quantities.
• Banish snack foods from the house. You can’t eat what you can’t find.
• If you’re a late riser, put the alarm clock across the room to avoid simply reaching over and swatting the Snooze — or worse, Off – button.
To precommit to your medications, I defer to Bob Nease:
• Tape a note to your refrigerator or set an alarm that will help make taking your pills part of your daily routine.
• Having your prescriptions delivered to your home in 90-day supplies has been proven to increase adherence.
• Check your prescription insurance plan to see if automatic refill reminders are available and how you can sign up to receive them.
• Long before you near the end of your final refill, schedule an appointment with your physician to renew the prescription. If you wait until the last minute, you might not be able to get there in time to stay on your therapy.
• Take advantage of being able to ‘opt out’ if your automatic enrollment gives you the choice. This approach leverages inertia – the opposite of patient engagement — by making you do something to stop the delivery.
No matter what method you use to pre-commit to all aspects of your personal wellbeing, remember that better decisions today lead to healthier results tomorrow. In other words, to feeling Better Than Before.
We are quickly approaching the new year which means that people are beginning to make their list of resolutions. The beginning of January is always a fun period of people getting inspired to make big changes in their life. At Intent and on the Blog we want to ask – why wait? Who says you need the beginning of the year to get to work on the things you want? Fun fact: you don’t have to. So get your list of goals out now. Let’s start making a game plan and get started. Here are a few quotes to help you get motivated. Write them on your fridge or in your planner or wherever you have to see them every day to push you to reach for the things you want.
Don’t see your favorite motivational quote here? Share it in the comments below!
I’ll be the first to admit (though not proudly,) that at times I’m all about using the internet for mindless activities and procrastination… though I’ve never ventured into Candy Crush territory, so at least I have that going for me. Nevertheless, it’s often that I find myself keeping a window minimized on my computer screen while working on an article just so I can “accidentally” hover my cursor over it to see if I have any new notifications on Facebook and Twitter. Usually there are and next thing I know, it’s half an hour later and I’m still only a couple of paragraphs into my piece.
Well, Kid President is back with an exceptional new video (which definitely pulled my covers a bit) on ways we can use our time online for a collective greater good, rather than just for procrastinating, posting “selfies”, getting the latest gossip on celebrity nonsense, ad infinitum.
Check out the video below and visit the Socktober page for ways you can get involved and help make a difference! And with that being said, it’s time for me to get back to the other damn article I’m procrastinating on…
You can’t turn on the television or read a newspaper anymore without learning about some celebrity who has died from a “hard” addiction. The trial of Conrad Murray and the death of Michael Jackson are example of such a headline. Hard addictions usually include illegal drugs, prescription drug abuse, designer drugs and/or alcohol. Hard addictions can also include sex, gambling and food. What about those habits that aren’t considered “hard-core addictions”? These other hidden habits can have a negative impact on your life. While the consequences may not seem as severe, they do impact our every day lives. What do these hidden habits look like?
There is an ever-growing list of hidden habits that are viewed as “soft”. The key factor is that these habits, while harmful, do not usually result with the extremely harsh consequences of typical “hard addictions”. The follow are a few examples of activities or substances that can harm your day-to-day quality of life.
- Talking on the phone excessively
- Texting/ IM’ing
- Daydreaming rather than accomplishing your tasks
- Complaining consistently
- Gossiping with friends or co-workers
- Acting negative during a large portion of your day
- Belittling loved ones or co-workers
- Caffeine in any form
All of these activities can appear harmless, if they are done in small doses. When we overindulge, we run the risk of having a hidden habit turn into a dangerous addiction. When we use any of these activities to overcome your emotional feeling, or to make you feel full, complete, whole or satisfied, there may be underlying issues. The underlying issue of fear is similar to those that experience “hard” addictions.
Regardless of whether a habit appears “soft” or is an addiction, it can be equally devastating to the person displaying the behavior. All negative activities steal your time and energy. You find yourself devoting more time to things that are not benefiting your life. The benefit of having a hidden habit, over having a hard addiction is that hidden habits are usually easier to break. But it will take vigilance, mindfulness, and time to overcome.
If you have taken a moment to reflect on your day-to-day activities, and find that you have negative habits that are taking away from your quality of life, it is time to take action. Being aware of your negative habit is the first step. Once you are aware of the hidden habit, think about the reason you have the habit. Are you truly engaging with your negative habit because you have become comfortable and complacent?
If your negative habit is not serving you, think of ways to replace your negative habit with a positive one. You can also ask those surrounding you, who you trust, to hold you accountable. If you set a goal of cutting caffeine out of your daily routine, let others know so they can hold you accountable when you walk towards the coffee pot. If you feel the urge to spread the latest gossip, take a second to think. Is the news that you just “have to share” going to benefit anyone, or are you simply spreading news that could potentially hurt someone? As you become more aware of your hidden habits, it will take some work on your part to break them.
We all have habits, good and bad. It is important to conduct a self-check on a regular basis to determine if your habits are hurting you or helping you. By being mindful, aware and pro-active, you will find your old negative habits replaced by healthy positive habits. These healthy habits will improve your emotional, spiritual, physical and mental well being. You will be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Originally published October 2011.
Are you ready, fed-up, praying for change? There comes a time to shut down what doesn’t work. A time to look deep within…and to move on. Being stuck may feel insurmountable; actually it is a habit, a comfort-zone of settling for false security.
4 Tips To Move On From Stuck-ness
- Acknowledge: “I’m done with this.” And mean it. Think of a time when you did leave an old pattern, habit, or situation behind…and you knew it was for your growth, and in the best interest for all concerned.
- Breathe. Be still… This is the zone of unlimited source, the place of potential readying to burst into form. Imagine possibilities of newness. Allow silly, amazing, unthinkable options to pop up. You may envision being 5-years-old and playing hopscotch, or painting on the kitchen wall…oops did your parents response curtail your creative response? Allow your dream state to continue. Allow 5-10 minutes a day to uproot the joy within you. Conscious awareness leads to options.
- Pick a new possibility. Take an action, a small step in potential’s direction, then another. Repeat 1 & two if you falter.
- Love yourself. Within each of us is an infinite treasure that can be seen on the outside as the magnificence of the universe. The perfection of how a seedling becomes a delightful rose bloom, or a new technological invention, like the world-wide Web magically links us. As supportive communities emerge, we collaborate, share as a trusted friends, thriving in a place to learn, dwelling in a haven to grow as ONE. Life is a game. Play it full-out. Be true to YOU! Embrace integrity, courage, and truth, and regrets will not follow you.
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Enjoy Merrie Lynn’s Best seller Happy Heart Journal, writing your truth, and invoking intuition for a soul-filled life.
One of the best laziness-busting advice I’ve heard is this: observe your procrastinating, lazy self like you would observe an animal in the wild. Detach yourself from self-judgment and take notes on where, when, why and how you procrastinate and put off work instead of being productive.
What particular conditions give your lazy evil twin the power to override all your dreams and ambitions? What specific hours in the day is your inner procrastinator the most powerful? Are there certain articles of clothing that tell your inner procrastinator to come out of the basement to wreak havoc on your life?
Here are my personal field notes for my own lazy id. I tend to be laziest in the mid-afternoon when my energy is the lowest. I am more likely to be lazy if I am wearing pajama pants and glasses. I am ridiculously susceptible to saying yes to other people’s plans when I should really be staying home and working on something I need to do.
Becoming aware of these personal characteristics gives me the power to formulate my own counter-attack plan. Since I feel the laziest in the afternoon, I get the most important work done in the morning hours when I am most alert. I make sure to change out of my pajamas and wear contact lenses right away to get myself into work mode. Instead of automatically saying yes to social invitations, I tell people that I need to check with my schedule first.
You don’t need to completely turn your life upside down to cut procrastination and laziness out of your life; it really is just a matter of making small, incremental improvements over a long period of time. Here are 8 easy tips to begin feeling more productive and less lazy with your personal life goals and New Year’s resolutions.
1. Know your power hour I love my morning hours. That doesn’t mean everybody does. You may be a complete zombie in the AM, but a clear-headed genius in the early afternoon. Or you may be one of those night owls who comes up with the most brilliant ideas after midnight when everyone else is sleeping. Whatever your power hour or power hours are, know what they are and make a point to work on your important personal goals during that window of time.
2. Know the hours when you just want to bum around, and use them to bum around. If you work yourself like a dog without rest, you will burn out and end up losing more time when you inevitably burn yourself out to the point of not wanting to do anything. Allow yourself a window of time during the day when you are absolutely free to be lazy, surf the internet or do something enjoyable that has nothing to do with your goals. It gives your mind and body the opportunity to recharge.
3. Wear stuff that makes you feel productive and professional. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy yourself an expensive wardrobe. It can be as simple as: putting on some lipstick, wearing a literal thinking cap, making the little extra push to feel stylish with updated accessories, putting on a tie of your favorite color–whatever small trick that sends a message to your brain that you mean serious business. On the flip side of the coin, avoid schlepping around in pajamas and sweat pants if you know they are just going to make you want to play video games and watch T.V.
4. Know what locations make you feel productive. Some people work best in coffee houses, surrounded by the energy of crowds. Other people work best in the privacy of their own homes in a designated work desk area. Some people like to be surrounded by clutter because it inspires them. Other people feel weighed down by clutter and do less work in a messy environment. Lighting, color scheme, background music, the type of tea or coffee you are drinking–be as specific as possible in your own personal awareness of what environmental factors kick your brain into productivity mode.
5. Visualize as much as you can how good it feels to get things accomplished. Focus on the good stuff that comes from getting things done, not the minor inconveniences such as waking up earlier, having less internet-surfing time or having to buy less sugary junk food. By focusing continuously on the benefits of sticking to your goals, you will be more motivated to reap the ultimate pleasure of getting something done: the confidence and self-knowledge that you are indeed capable of what you set out to do.
6. Always focus on the next step, and when and how you are going to do it. Procrastination has a great way of infiltrating your brain when you are thinking in vague generalities. Such as: “I am going to exercise more” or “I am going to start my own business.” Procrastination does not work so well when you have a very specific action plan and deadline planned out for yourself on what exactly you are going to do next. Such as: “I am going to do 20 sit-ups in the mornings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays” or “I am going to meet up my old college contact next week for lunch and ask her for her insights on how she successfully started her own business.” Try arguing with that.
Originally published in 2010
Two years ago I announced in an article on Zen Habits that I planned to run a 20km race in November 2009.
Well that didn’t happen. I had any number of excuses as to why not, from sinus problems to fear to there being a fun event planned for the night before the race.
So, I failed, no? I didn’t accomplish my objective. Time to get rid of the running gear and move on to something better suited, yes?
No, I didn’t fail, and no, I didn’t give up.
In January a friend said he was signing up to this year’s race and I said "okay, me too." When registration opened in May I jumped in before they sold out (it’s a VERY popular race). Committed, I continued to train. Not a lot and not with any regularity, but I kept at it until in October I ran 18.5km on a break from work.
The week before the race I went for a short run – only 10km. This from someone who in November 2008 thought that running for more than a minute without stopping was impossible.
Then two days before the race I woke up and felt the tingle in my sinuses that indicated the beginning of an infection. @#&!
Did I back out? Did I give up? No way! I checked online to make sure I wasn’t going to do myself harm by running and when I found out that I’d be fine, I ignored the runny nose and headache and got ready for the run.
I’d done a few races before but hadn’t liked them. Everyone passing me brought up feelings of inadequacy, but this time I decided to ignore all that. Take the good (the support from the sidelines) and chuck the rest (the sense of competition). I stuck on my headphones and took my time, ignoring the people who passed me and walking for a minute every five kilometres. Then in the last two kilometres, I opened up and pushed hard, arriving at the finish line a full 13 minutes faster than I had planned for. My official time: 2 hours and 7 minutes.
As fantastic as that is, this newsletter isn’t about running. It’s about achieving dreams. But I’m sure you knew that.
Having accomplished this I now feel a million times more sure that I will achieve whatever I put my mind to – especially my writing. And the whole experience has taught me some lessons:
1. It often takes longer than planned. Don’t let a missed self-imposed deadline discourage you. If you’re really passionate about what you do, you’ll achieve it sooner or later.
2. Success requires commitment but not obsession. As long as you’re seeing progress, don’t get stressed out if you can’t commit all your time to your dream. You need to have a life outside the objective or it will overwhelm you and you’ll be more likely to abandon it.
3. Support comes from the most unexpected places. I was tweeting and Facebooking my training and enjoyed the support I was getting, but on race day itself, complete strangers stood in the rain cheering me on. Use that support to spur you on.
4. Keep a steady pace and sprint to the end. Don’t go full out at the beginning or you’ll burn out. Pick a rhythm that suits you and doesn’t exhaust you, then when the dream comes into sight that’s the time to open up the throttle and use those stored energy reserves to push to the end.
5. Celebrate your success. The first thing I did after crossing the finish line (after almost crying from happiness)? I called my partner on my cell phone and we cheered my success. We then got together with other runners and celebrated their success before going home and sleeping. When you achieve success, toast the achievement and enjoy the moment.
6. Take a break. This week I’m not running at all. I’m keeping up with other exercise, but no running. Give yourself some space from what you’ve just achieved to heighten the sense of accomplishment and to reward yourself for having done it.
7. Pick a new dream and use the success to spur you on. I’ve already decided that next year I’m going to get closer to two hours and I’m now more certain than ever that I will become a successful author because having achieved this one dream I know in my bones that I will achieve the one thing that I’m truly passionate about.
Now go out and chase that dream! You and I both know you can do it!
PHOTO (cc): Flickr / K. Praslowicz (Sjixxxy)