Productivity & Time Management

Episode #339 – From Procrastination to Productivity: A Motivation Makeover

April 23, 2024

I’m Cherylanne.
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Ready to unleash your productivity potential? Tune in to this episode where Cherylanne delves into the art of conquering procrastination, tailored specifically for ambitious professional women like you.

Discover practical strategies designed to empower your growth journey, from breaking down daunting tasks to leveraging the support network around you. Get ready for insightful discussions and actionable tips that align with your busy lifestyle, ensuring you not only meet but exceed your goals with confidence.

It’s time to transform your to-do lists into catalysts for success!

Show Highlights:

  • Discover how to break free from the cycle of procrastination. 00:41
  • Why do we procrastinate? 03:42
  • How to shift your momentum drastically. 06:27
  • Turn your big projects into smaller and achievable sprints. 09:36
  • Are you aware of the concept of body doubling? 10:45
  • How can you leverage accountability partners? 11:37
  • Is your partner collaborating with you on the given task? 13:00
  • Discover the power of rewards that can transform your productivity. 15:13

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Hello, my friends, welcome back to the Brilliant Balance Show. If you tuned into today’s episode, my guess is that it’s because you occasionally, maybe often, struggle with procrastination. The reality is that I think this is something that virtually everyone struggles with in some way, shape, or form. In fact, I am recording this particular episode very late in the evening at the end of a weekend because I have procrastinated finishing the episode and putting myself in a position sitting behind my microphone to record it before the deadline that my producers needed. So here we are with life imitating art, I guess, procrastinating the episode about procrastination. And I think that it’s so important to mention that this is a phenomenon or a behavior pattern that literally everyone grapples with in some way, shape, or form, right? I think for some of us, it’s really a problem, like it gets in our way. It can have a negative impact on performance, self-esteem, or relationships. And for others of us, it might be more of an occasional annoyance, like something that we’re like, “Ah, why is this the task that I can’t seem to get to the top of the list?” But either way, I have a little bit of a framework to share with you today that might give you a way forward if procrastination has really been getting in your way. It’s been my experience that the challenge that I have with procrastination ebbs and flows based on a number of things in my life: how I feel about my career, job at any particular point in time. I think there were times really early in my career where I was super excited about everything on my plate. And I almost couldn’t get to it fast enough, right? I was like, playing work. I was so excited to get to my desk and to do the tasks that were there. They felt so adult and grown up. And then there was a chapter, maybe mid-career, where it felt much less that way, you know? It felt like something that was like a weight around my neck, a really heavy list of things, many of them I didn’t really feel like doing or didn’t feel like I was particularly good at. And I would say procrastination kind of ramped up at that point. And then, you know, I think it ebbs and flows at a more modulated level in this phase of my career where I truly love my work. So rarely is there a task that I’m like, “I just don’t feel like doing it at all.” But depending on how busy I am or how diligent I’ve been about really tasking out my projects, I think procrastination can play a bigger or lesser role. So with that as a backdrop, the first thing that I wanted to talk about today is why we find ourselves in the situation of procrastinating. And I think there are a couple of reasons that jump to the top of mind for me. One is if we just don’t like the task, right? If there’s something on our to-do list and we’re like, “I just don’t like doing that.” Maybe we don’t think we’re particularly good at it. Maybe it’s just not our favorite. It’s something that can sort of sit on the to-do list for a while. So let’s say that you’re somebody who doesn’t particularly like organizing or cleaning. Like, maybe that gets overwhelming. Then something like cleaning out your closet might stay on your list for a long time, right? But if you like cleaning, that might be something that you stay on top of. And you may hate numbers and anything related to financial analysis, and then something like your taxes might sit on your to-do list for a long time, right? The second reason that I think we procrastinate is if we don’t know how to do it. So different than if we don’t like it. It might be, I don’t mind doing this, but I’m just not sure I know how to do it. And the fear of confronting that moment where we’re faced with, “Oh, I’m like paralyzed with a lack of knowledge,” can be something that keeps us from even starting rather than doing the obvious, which would be, you know, seek help with learning how to do it, right? Get some guidance or some coaching or some training. But I think our subconscious mind instead just procrastinates. The third reason I think that we wait is if we’re sort of overwhelmed by the scope of it. It feels like this big, like, amorphous blob, like kind of a giant, um, mountain of a task. And because of that, we think, “Oh, I’m either, like, I’m going to be exhausted. This is going to take so long. I don’t have enough time to do it.” You know, we’re just so overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the thing in front of us that we shut down and decide, like, “You know what? I’ll tackle that one later. Like, it’s just too big of a project or a concept to go after.” And I think the last one maybe is related to the first one when I said we don’t like it. The last one is like we just have better things to do. You know, there’s something else calling our name. Like the weather has been getting better, and I think I would venture a guess that procrastination increases when the weather’s really good because we’re like, “Oh, I could go outside. You know, I could fuss around in my yard. I could go for a walk. I could go for a drive.” Literally anything that takes advantage of this weather that we’ve been waiting to have through the dark days of winter. So I think when we have something better to do, there’s just a better offer on the table. We can procrastinate on a task that feels like work, right? So in any of these, truly, regardless of what the reason is that we’re procrastinating, the single greatest shift to our momentum comes from the active beginning, right? That’s it. The single greatest shift in our momentum comes from the act of beginning, just getting started. So literally anything that gets you to start can be helpful, right? Anything at all. And you may have ideas of your own or little hacks or tricks that you use to get yourself to start. I’m going to give you three today that are proven ways to move yourself into momentum. And I’ve been using these personally. I use these with clients all the time. I use these with my kids. I think you’ll see when I get into these how valuable they can be. So if procrastination is your challenge and you want to make that shift into productivity, I want you to think about these three P’s. The first one is pieces. Pieces are where we break it down into its component parts. We take that big overwhelming thing that we’re afraid to start because it feels like we’ll never finish. And if you’re able to break the whole thing down into sort of like a workflow, you know, like a series of project steps that’ll get you from A to Z and you’ll be completely finished, that’s the gold standard. Sometimes that’s not possible, right?

We can’t actually see all the steps. In that case, just getting the first step, only identifying piece number one. What’s the first thing I would need to do to just put a chip or a dent in this project, would be another way to think about pieces. So if you can’t get the whole workflow or the whole project plan, sometimes you can just figure out the very first thing you could do. And if the first thing feels overwhelming, then guess what? You’ve got to make it even smaller, right? So we just keep trying to make this smaller until we land at something we actually can pick up and do. And then sort of related to this idea of pieces is that we want to bring the finish line in closer. So if we have a big giant project, I’ll use my classic like, let’s say when I need to write a presentation for work, right? I have a whole presentation. There’s data involved. There’s a shaping perspective. I have to find key visuals. I have to get my bullet points figured out. I have to get talking points to go with my slides. Everything has to be designed. I have to put those stupid animations and transitions in there, right? It’s like a big thing. If we put on our to-do list, you know, to finish the presentation for Friday’s meeting, we are going to be like, “Oh, this is just a giant.” But if we can just figure out the very first step, like, I’m going to get the title slide done. It could be that small, right? Or I’m going to do a really crappy first draft of my first 10 slides and just put junk onto those pages. No images, just words, a bunch of thought starters, something that gets us off the starting blocks. And then we get the check done when we have finished just that little piece. That’s the idea of bringing the finish line in closer. So you can think of it as a series of short sprints, and every sprint gets you a checkmark instead of one big long marathon. That’s very powerful because the ability to check done, you know, gives us that little dopamine hit. We’re so excited when we get to cross it off our list. And so taking a bigger project and turning it into a series of smaller projects is a way for us to get that feeling without really changing anything at all about the scope of the overall work. So that’s the first kind of way through his pieces. The second tool that can be helpful is partners. So pieces and partners. What do I mean by partners? I have a few different ways to find partners. The simplest way, literally any human being can do this for you, is what we refer to as body doubling, okay? Body doubling is something that you might have heard of in the ADHD community. It is a technique that is very powerful for people who have a hard time focusing. And it is literally the presence of another warm body near you while you are doing your task. Something about the presence of a second human just being there with you is helpful in getting you on task and helping you stay on task. It’s almost like silent accountability. By the way, for body doubling, they do not have to be doing the same thing as you. They don’t have to be talking to you. They don’t have to be interacting with you. So just someone else who is in the same space at the same time can help you stay on track and get that particular task on your list checked off. Okay, body doubling. The second way to think about partners is more like an accountability buddy. Someone who is either going to be doing the task at the same time as you, sort of like in parallel. Or they’ve agreed to report in with you. So we use this sometimes in our coaching community where we’ll have two people who are struggling to stay on track with a similar activity. Let’s say there are two people who are entrepreneurs. They need to make outbound sales calls or prospecting calls. And they’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to do this.” Well, if we give them a buddy system, an accountability partner, and they check in with each other at the end of the day or the end of the week to say, “Here’s how many prospecting calls I made this week,” and they kind of virtually high five, that is very effective. This is the same thing as having a workout partner, right? Someone who’s going to meet you at the gym and work out with you, that’s built-in accountability. For years and years, I met my neighbor to run in the morning before work, and we were both exponentially more likely to show up in the morning, even in the dead of winter, to run because we knew someone was going to meet us there. So that accountability buddy can be very powerful. That’s another form of partnering. And then the third form of partnering would be like somebody who is truly collaborating on the task with you. So I mentioned this to a few of our VIP coaching clients recently. I was saying, you know, I thought of this as a luxury for a while as an entrepreneur, but now I know it’s really an essential for me that on certain tasks in my work, certain things that require a really intense level of creativity, like I’m truly starting from scratch, or and strategic thinking, I will bring in a collaborator, like a thinking partner, into the activity, and we will either get in a room together or we will get on a Zoom call, and you know, share a screen and a whiteboard or a shared document, and actually work on the thing together. Because if I’m really in my head and I can’t get into flow, the ability of having somebody who is actually collaborating, same time, same place, same task with me is very powerful. So partners, I want you to think of in those three ways. Body doubling is the simplest. It’s just a warm body near you. The buddy system or an accountability partner. You could even be working asynchronously and just checking in with them. And then the third would be a true collaborator. Someone who is going to do that task with you to help make it less arduous. And it was interesting when we talked about this all in the call, all kinds of examples came up. One person said, you know, my husband and I have to sit down and do our taxes together. Like, we have to turn that into a shared activity or it would never happen, right? Both of us have enough noise in the system about doing it that we have found that just doing it as a joint activity vastly improved our ability to get it done. I have seen that happen in home organization, like the proverbial cleaning out the garage or cleaning out the basement or organizing the closet. Those things are often done well when we have a partner. I think it’s why people often hire professional organizers because you’re getting a true collaborator in a process that can be overwhelming without it. Okay, so that’s partners. So pieces were the first one, breaking it down. Partners, and the third is prizes. And this may sound childish to you depending on how you’re wired and what kind of invisible scripts you’re running in your head, but prizes are very powerful motivators. So this is the idea of a reward system, right?

It’s so basic, but we really respond to this like children respond to getting a sticker, you know, or a lollipop or something when they go to the doctor’s office. I remember my kids thinking, like, do I get a sticker at the end? And that was, they were so focused on the fact that when this was all over, they were going to get that sticker that it got them through any anxiety or difficulty that they were having with the appointment. And sometimes we need our version of a sticker waiting for us at the end of a task that we’re dreading. We don’t need it for every task, we need it at the end of the tasks that we’ve been putting off. Okay. So you can do this in two ways. You can have a prize where you gamify the progress you’re making, like you reward yourself for doing activity, or you can give yourself a reward for the outcome, like the finish line. And I think both matter here. In projects or things you know you have to tackle that are kind of big and ugly, it can be very helpful to have a reward just for sitting down to do it, like regardless of how good the outcome is, regardless of what the result is. And sometimes you want to have prizes for sustaining your effort until you get the outcome you’re after. Okay, so back to my example of prospecting calls. We could use a system where we gamified how many calls did you make, and you’re sort of accumulating points that could correlate to small rewards, like, I’m going to go get, I don’t know, a juice from the juice bar, or we have this new acai bowl place in town that everybody’s excited about, so you could go treat yourself to something like that, right? Or it could be something where the reward is kind of held off until you’ve actually achieved the outcome. So when this prospecting has resulted in a sale, I will treat myself to something that is maybe more significant. So prizes work in both ways. I find that actually rewards that are connected to the task or the activity, like essentially to the act of making progress, are more powerful than rewards that are connected to the outcome. And if you think about it, you can probably guess why. It’s because they’re a sure thing, like your brain knows that if I just sit down and do this thing, I’m going to get the reward, whereas if it’s connected to an outcome, there’s still a chance that it’s not going to produce the intended result. So prizes are very helpful, particularly when they’re used to sort of gamify the process itself of making progress, and provide rewards or prizes for the activity itself, not for the outcome. Although, again, either would work. So procrastination, if procrastination is rearing its ugly head, and the way you know procrastination is in your way is when you are looking at your to-do list and it is getting longer and things are not getting crossed off, right? When you get to the end of the day or you get to the end of the week or the end of the month, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this same collection of things has been languishing on here for longer than I am okay with,” right? That is kind of the definition of procrastination. And rather than just sort of wringing your hands and in despair, I want you to ask yourself, why? Why am I procrastinating? Is it that I don’t like this task? Do I not know how to do it? You know, am I overwhelmed by the idea of it? Do I have better things to do? Sort of what’s coming up for you when you think about your resistance? And then I want you to explore using one or more of these three P’s: pieces, partners, and prizes to get yourself shifted from procrastination back to productivity so that you can get all of the feel-good feelings that come with that shift. We feel so good when we are getting things done, when there’s this throughput to our list, that is how we get in momentum and how we stay there. And so I want you to try these things today, and then I want you to let me know if they helped. Like, it is so powerful to me when I hear back from you. And there’s a couple of ways to do that. First way that you can say, “Hey, this is working for me,” is to follow the show. And you can do that anywhere that you are listening to podcasts. If you just go to the show itself, not the episode, there’s typically a little button in the upper right-hand corner with a plus sign or something similar where you can follow the show. And following this podcast is one way to tell me, “Hey, I like this. I’m getting value out of this, and I want to make sure I don’t miss an episode.” The second thing that you could do is leave a review. Believe it or not, reviews are very powerful inside the algorithms to help present podcasts to new audiences. So if you have an extra 60 seconds and you’re feeling generous and you’re willing to write a review of this show, sharing something that it’s meant to you, maybe something you’ve learned over the time you’ve been listening, those are so personally meaningful to me, and they truly do help get the show in front of new listeners. And then the third thing you can do is just send me a DM. I’m on Instagram at @cskolnicki. And if you want to just privately share your thoughts with me about the podcast or something that you got out of it or that you’ve applied for, that is a great way to do it. Just @cskolnicki, hit me up with a DM, and let me know what you’re learning from being a part of this Brilliant Balance community. That is all for today, my friends. Until next time, let’s be brilliant.

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