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Procrastination and De-Cluttering: Two Sides of the Same Coin

12 Steps to End Procrastination

My name is Sheri and I’m a procrastinator.

There should be a 12-step program for procrastinators, but I’m sure the main reason it doesn’t exist is because we’d put off going to the meetings, or even scheduling them in the first place.

I’ve been putting off starting the re-write of Forgotten Victims since I got back from the writers’ conference over a week ago. Yes, I got the new first chapter written, but diving in and re-writing the rest was as daunting as de-cluttering the house of a hoarder (which I was at once time, though not to the degree of the ones you see on TV). I looked at the overwhelming task of re-writing over 71,000 words and simply froze. I didn’t know where to start! Despite the hours spent creating a timeline of significant events, I couldn’t find my starting point.

I lost sight of the advice I freely give to anyone wanting to clear out a room, a garage, or a house: pick a spot and start.

Finding Help in Unexpected Places

Fortunately, I signed up for a session with someone in one of my Facebook groups. She challenged me to devote 15-20 minutes a day to working on the re-write, and 15-20 minutes to researching publishing options and requirements. So far today, I’ve spent close to 4 hours between them. Why? Because I rarely back down from a reasonable challenge (bungee jumping is not something I consider reasonable, so don’t even ask!), and the truth is, this one is a win-win for me. Also, I’ve learned my problem isn’t following through. It’s getting started in the first place.

This little exercise in getting off my butt reminds me how much I need an accountability partner who will not only kick me into high gear when I need it, but will read the pages I churn out and help me see what I still need to fix.

Learning to Overcome the Costs of Procrastination

Yet procrastination costs so much in the long-run. And bringing procrastination to an end feels so darn good! It’s like going to the gym regularly. I have to push myself to do it, but I’m so glad when I do! Who’d have thought I’d come to appreciate a nag, both internal and external?

Over time, I’ve learned to set myself achievable goals and to stick with them until I form a habit. Yet, even there, I am easily thrown off track. Take my thrice-weekly gym routine which I’d thought was well-cemented last year. It only took a couple of weeks of curve-balls to kill that hard-earned habit. I’m still trying to get it back in place, but oversleeping, or client work I simply need to finish, or excessive wind…you name it, I’ll use it as an excuse to miss another day at the gym. Of course, I then perform the requisite self-flagellation for failing myself yet again. It’s rather a vicious cycle, really.

Procrastination’s Vicious Cycle

Do all procrastinators do as I do? Procrastinate—Let Ourselves Down—Castigate ourselves, repeat as necessary? Or do they procrastinate until the last possible moment, then practically kill themselves to achieve the stated goal? Or are we a combination of the two, depending on the circumstances?

I’ve learned over time that if the beneficiary of my actions is someone else, I’m more likely to push past my tendency to procrastinate and deliver on time, or, more often, early. But when it comes to myself, I can make excuses forever and a day why I can’t even start working on something which is clearly for my own benefit. Even things like Forgotten Victims which many have assured me will, as I hope, help a lot of other people. Although I will always believe the 9 years it took to write the draft were both right and necessary, I cannot, in this Universe or any other, justify it taking that long, or even more than a couple of months, to re-write it and get it ready for editing and ultimately, publishing.

Getting to the Root of the Matter

It occurs to me that because procrastination is selective, it might behoove me to get to the root of why I procrastinate over one task and not another. Though the beneficiary is certainly one factor, I suspect there are others as well.

Yet, I even find myself procrastinating over getting client work done at times, though it’s always done before the end of the month. Again, once I start, I’ll work steadily for however many hours it takes, or until I hit a point where I need more information before I can go further. But there is a clear deadline, even if it’s just in my mind. My current clients are typically lenient about when they see their monthly reports. I’m the one who insists on providing them on a regular, predictable schedule. Old habits die hard.

Routines, Schedules, and Expectations

I also believe keeping myself on a somewhat regular monthly schedule for them allows space for more. I know when I need to start working on their books each month, and which weeks will be heavier or lighter as a result. Conversely, I know which weeks I can devote to my writing, which turn out to be the weeks my tendency to procrastinate is at its highest. Knowing someone is going to check in with me in a week to see if I’ve followed the schedule she set me for re-writing and researching is turning out to be very helpful.

I’ll admit, last night I was working until about 9:30 because I’d put it off for most of the day. Granted, I was doing client work, and warding off what would have been a debilitating migraine (thank goodness for early warnings) so procrastinating was situational rather than deliberate. Once I did sit down to fulfill those external expectations, I, as usual, got into the task and was hard-pressed to stop. I guess that’s why NaNo works so well for me. Once I start writing and working to achieve the 1600-word-per-day requirement, I’ve been known to write for as long as 5 hours at a stretch, and churning out anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000 words.

I also found through experience that setting specific times to do the writing helped, but then, having a day job limited my choices and forced me to get up and moving earlier in the day, even when I was up writing until 2 or 3AM. With my looser schedule, the alarm is either not set at all, or subject to many whacks of the snooze button. Still, my days of sleeping until after 10 are long gone. These days, I’m consistently up between 8 and 9:15, with or without the alarm. Another habit I’ve worked to form.

Learning to Outwit Ourselves

In short, I believe the key to outwitting our natural propensity for procrastination depends on several factors:

  1. Who we are serving.
  2. Accountability.
  3. Outside influences (like migraines or other things which make us unable or unwilling to work).
  4. Perceived importance of the task at hand.
  5. Getting started.

The last is probably the key to the whole package. Putting off getting started has extended the duration of just about every task I’ve set for myself. When I get past that single sticking point, I’m often a bulldog with a bone. I don’t let go, even to eat until I’ve made what I’d consider reasonable progress. I know that last part sounds a bit bizarre, but when I’m in “the zone” it’s all I can do to remember to drink water. In fact, I’ve learned to fill my 40-ounce water bottle and put it on the desk before I start. Otherwise, I get that irritating cotton-mouth feeling in the middle of my best flow of ideas, and there’s no way I’d stop for something as trivial as filling the bottle.

Heading Our Excuses Off at the Pass

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/26362491806/in/photolist-857d63-7jecuc-4EKXjp-d1fXnd-dGxXva-CWZ3qm-pEtDtE-3LiJjP-UaGqaP-U4nkQR-pRhHt6-bGpmxT-cYxRaG-9o9aCf-ebCGqX-5i8fuy-84yuGJ-etwRi8-FFKb5u-4G5gCd-awsadF-9pfapc-hsE8Ey-qQun96-5JpNWp-HP9Nyr-BGZwA9-6Ls9DX-TsKYM9-hxME-SsNQJ8-6tki6x-xyvfhG-GayEmN-ytRii1-s5DRhg-ndkt2wIf you’ve ever been hammered by a migraine, you know dehydration is one of the worst culprits. And nothing pisses me off when I’m in the zone more than to have to stop because my vision is going squirrelly and I’m in danger of being sidelined by a headache that makes labor pains feel like a slight tummy ache. So I keep the bottle full and my body happy, even if it means halting the creative flow for a bit, hoping it won’t come to a screeching, grinding halt in the time it takes me to fill said bottle again.

Looking back at this post, I see I’ve done it yet again. I’ve broken away from my tendency to procrastinate, and written for longer than I’d intended (both time-wise and word count). Now it’s your turn. What makes you procrastinate, and how do you make it stop? What are your triggers, and your releases? Are some tasks easier to put off than others? Do you value your own time and needs as much as you do those of others? (your boss and co-workers, family, friends, strangers) Please share your thoughts in the comments. They will be extremely valuable to your fellow procrastinators who are always looking for ways to outsmart ourselves.

What’s a Post Without Gratitude?

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful to be continuing my blog posting schedule, even if some go up later on the designated day than I’d like.
  2. I am grateful for a schedule that is filling up with people, places, and things which take me out of myself-imposed hermit hole.
  3. I am grateful for friends and acquaintances who give me reason to finish what I started, encouragement, and even motivation.
  4. I am grateful for the ability to hyper-focus once I actually start a task. I lose hours at a time while accomplishing so much.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friends, family, opportunities, encouragement, love, joy, my expanding network (thank you, #SCWC), motivation, inspiration, frustration because it kicks me out of the depths of ennui, peace, harmony, and even righteous indignation. For health, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

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Organize, Intend, Resolve, Oh My!

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Organize, Intend, Resolve: Which Will You Do as the Year Begins?

Everyone has their own routine for ringing out the old year and ringing in the new. Like many, part of mine involves cleaning out the old year’s files and setting up new ones for my financial records. (yes, I still maintain files for hard copies despite the availability of paperless records. Old habits die hard.) Some years, it doesn’t happen until I’ve done my taxes (typically as close to the due date as possible).

This year, however, I’m endeavoring to start things off on a stronger note, and that means getting organized sooner rather than later. That being said, my 2017 files have been moved to the file cabinet, 2018 folders have been created, and I have a stack of paperwork to be shredded as I’m no longer holding things for 20 years before deciding it’s time to let it go. OK, so what remains to be shredded is from 2007, but 10 years back is better than 20, right?

In keeping with this mad desire to organize, I’ve cleared my desk of most of the extraneous paraphernalia and created a “To Do” folder to help solve the accumulation of papers on the corner of my desk problem. (Though as far as the cats are concerned, I simply cleared space for them to sprawl while I’m working to keep their bellies full and their bodies warm and cozy!) Here’s hoping I remember to use the folder, and, more importantly, look at it once in awhile!

Resolutions Are Made to be Broken

By now, many of you have compiled a list of New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions, especially made on a specific date and solely for the sake of making resolutions has never been my thing. I see it in the same way I see losing weight. If you lose something, it means you intend to find it, and if you resolve something, it means you’ll break those resolutions.

Enjoying the Flexibility of Intentions

Instead, I continue my practice of setting intentions whenever and wherever the mood strikes. It happens the mood struck on the last day of the year, merely by coincidence. I was mentally reviewing the year’s accomplishments as I wrote my morning pages on December 31st, and found I wanted to up the ante, so to speak, on what I could do with what I’d already done. Here are a few of the intentions I made:

  • Publish “Forgotten Victims”.
  • Write something besides my morning pages each and every day. (so far, I have not managed to get this one going, but setting intentions doesn’t imply we’ll achieve all of them at the same time).
  • Have more healthy eating days.
  • Get back to my 3 days a week gym routine (again, still working on getting this one going).
  • Forgive more and take less things personally. Everyone has their stuff and oftentimes, they are reacting to their stuff and not to anything I’ve said or done.
  • Have more “no sugar” days. (so far, so good. 4 days and counting).
  • Keep up with the habit of making my bed every day I set a couple of years ago. (we all need a gimme in our intentions. This is mine.)
  • Use the notes I’ve accumulated for books and stories in progress to actually create something new or improve on my works-in-progress.
  • Take the steps I need to move closer to the life I have been envisioning. (took a step closer when I signed up to beta test Josh Koerpel’s Fire Builders accountability program)
  • Deep clean my house more often than at the holidays.
  • Pull up the rest of the old, disgusting carpet in my bedroom.
  • Continue de-cluttering my space.
  • Devote more hours per day working on my career and less on wasting time/procrastinating.
  • Acquire and read more books on self-improvement and business success.
  • Resume the WTGOWL program and release the rest of the weight I need to divest myself of in order to reach my health and fitness goals.
  • Work on getting to bed earlier and rising by 8 AM more frequently.

In the last 5 years as I’ve gotten more consistent about setting intentions, I’ve learned that writing them down and putting them where I can see them every day is one of the best motivators, not only for manifesting my intentions, but improving upon them as I get closer, or even occasionally hitting one out of the park.

Planting Our Own “Carrots”

I’ve always been a proponent of baby steps; small steps taken on a regular basis to reach our goals, but in the process of following my own advice, I’ve learned we all need something to reach for; something which is not quite attainable at this moment in time. As I get closer to a goal, or achieve an intention, I am compelled to raise the bar and create something new to reach for.

Sometimes it seems like a mere blink of the eye to get past a block which kept me from fulfilling an intention, while others can and do take years. It took me 9 of them to finish the first draft of “Forgotten Victims”, and 4 to finally act on the one I set to attend a writer’s conference. Yet I know the timing for both was exactly right. There are goals we set which have steps we may not even see, but despite our lack of vision, we must take those steps before realizing the prize at the end. It may be frustrating at times, and we may fall into the trap of beating ourselves up about it. As self-flagellation is one of my many sins, I created a sort of mantra around it: Everything happens in its right and proper time.

Feeling the Energy of a “Life” Year

I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel an energy this year which wasn’t present in the past. A kind of cattle prod to the back, spurring me to move forward faster. It should come as no surprise, really, as the Hebrew symbol for “Chai” or “Life” is also the symbol for the number 18. Last year was, for me, more of a “ducks in a row” kind of year; a time for finishing old projects, self-care, and relationship-building.

Looking back on the year, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing I could have done more had I been less scattered and lazy. Yet, my mantra says it all. Just as “Forgotten Victims” took 9 years to write, those lazy, scattered, motivationless times are necessary too.

Last year, I found a book on my shelf I didn’t remember buying: Sue Monk Kidd’s “When the Heart Waits”. It sums up not only 2017 for me, but the years since I quit my day job. We have to allow those periods of waiting; of hibernation so to speak. That’s when our bodies, minds and spirits are going through huge transformations. Those transformations can’t be rushed or short-cutted. If we try to do either, we’ll only set the process back, causing it to take longer than it should. But even then, when we do feel like we’ve sabotaged the process, we’ve only done what needed to be done. There’s always a reason and a time, though we don’t always recognize it during the process, or even long after we’ve completed it and moved on to other things. Learning to trust in the process is, by far the greatest lesson I’ve learned while following my own path these last 4 years.

Making the Most of Our Time on the Planet

Whether you choose to resolve or intend, or maybe you simply go with the flow, I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and not judge. Trust that you’ll know when to move and when to sit still and listen if you let your heart and gut be your guide rather than you overactive, and overcritical mind. May 2018 be our best year yet.

Gratitude: The Ultimate Motivator

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the connections I’ve made or renewed over the last few years.
  2. I am grateful I’m able to learn new things all the time, and embrace life’s changes with less and less fear every day.
  3. I am grateful I finally completed “Forgotten Victims” and am looking forward to earning a publishing contract this year.
  4. I am grateful for the courage to step outside my comfort zone with larger and larger steps.
  5. I am grateful for the years of hibernation in which I learned to trust my heart, shut down my inner critic (at least for a minute or two), and attract the support I need to turn my baby steps into giant leaps.
  6. I am grateful for abundance: love, encouragement, courage, friendships old and new, forgiveness, kindness, compassion, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

Anti-Procrastination Plan

 

Itchy, twitchy, and utterly scattered

This week has been especially challenging for me, despite the relative calm in my life as the New Year begins. While running errands on Tuesday, I felt especially cranky, yet there was no good reason for it. My stomach was full, I had water with me, people in the stores were friendly…I was just out of sorts for no particular reason.

I did miss three dancing nights this week and my only excuses were exhaustion and a badly swollen and painfull knee. Yet I really didn’t do that much. Monday I actually got a few hours of work in, Tuesday I did my 3 hour errand marathon, and Wednesday I made another vat of turkey stewp. But none of that should have worn me out to the point of missing dance nights! And yet I did.

By Thursday, I was edgy, twitchy, and unsettled. I even took a few moments to go stand in the rain, barefooted on the newly green front lawn (ok, it’s weeds, but they’re green!) until my feet were too frozen to maintain my position. Yet the twitchy-ness continued.

Lunar Lunacy

My only explanation for this malady of sorts is the full moon mostly hidden by the cloud cover which has become an integral part of the sunny Southern California landscape of late. (seems the El Nino our inimitable weather services predicted for the last two years finally arrived after they stopped predicting its imminent arrival!)

Yet, as the week wore on and I got a few things done I’d been avoiding, I found myself feeling more settled. Was procrastination the ultimate culprit?

Procrastination: Same story, different day

Procrastination occurs for a plethora of reasons. I won’t profess to understand everyone else’s but here are a few of mine:

  1. Boredom
  2. Fear
  3. Anxiety
  4. Unpleasant tasks (or those I’ve convinced myself are unpleasant)
  5. Laziness

Sometimes, the hard part is catching yourself avoiding what you know needs to be done, and getting out of your own way. I should know by now that if I’d rather be cleaning, I’ve really talked myself around a task.

To wit: I’ve needed to transfer the preliminary outline I finished this week to a Word document. Yet Thursday came and I’d yet to begin. In fact, I hadn’t even taken the notebook out of my laptop case until Wednesday night! Yet I still found reasons to put it off. I really need to read some of the blog posts I’ve been saving. Or how about: I need to do laundry right now. As if I hadn’t perfected the art of late night chores decades ago!

Using crankiness to devise my anti-procrastination plan

Now that I’ve actually put a couple of chapters worth of outline into that Word document, I feel less tense and irritable. The feeling has been replaced by anticipation and expectation, but it beats being cranky for no reason! At some point, I am going to learn to sit myself down and do that which challenges me instead of finding all sorts of ways to avoid it until I don’t even want to be in the same room with myself. It seems I’m much better at keeping commitments I make to other people than I am about keeping them with myself.

As I let this idea germinate for a couple of days, I finally came to the conclusion that I am a starter but not a finisher. I get bored or frustrated with a project, and put it aside, sometimes forever. I need to give myself small milestones so I’ll feel like I’m accomplishing something. Getting the outline on paper was one of those milestones. Putting it into Word so I can play with it, move things around, and,  more importantly, expand on it is another. Using it to improve my story is yet another step in the long road to publication. One I’ve made much longer through my procrastination.

Being my most treasured client

Someone gave me a piece of advice when I was struggling with marketing myself. They said to think of myself as one of my very best clients and put that same effort into the marketing. I think that same piece of advice applies to commitments I make to myself. Whether it’s getting that outline done, working on one of my books, writing in general, drafting regular blog posts, or doing work for a client, there should be no difference in quality or commitment. Am I truly alone in failing to see the disconnect? The shoddy workmanship on tasks for myself?

I read a story last night about a carpenter who decided to retire. His boss asked him to build one last house. Part way through the project, he started getting lazy and sloppy. He did sub-standard work and used cheaper materials. At the end of the project, his boss handed him the keys. He said he’d have done a better job if he’d known he was doing it for himself.

I seem to do the opposite. My clients get my best work, and I get what’s left over. The spoils. Instead, everyone should be getting my best work. Don’t we all deserve the very best I can give? Myself included?

Manageable pieces for a successful anti-procrastination plan

One thing I have learned lately is that I don’t need to write an entire blog post in one sitting. Sometimes, I start an idea and as the day goes on, other things occur to me. I need to allow this to happen. I can write a few thoughts which occur to me, then go on to other things and let the thoughts germinate. If I’m lucky, the germination makes for a better post.

I took my time finishing this post, though a good part of that time was spent farting around instead of really accomplishing anything. Sometimes I need to do that to see where I’m shooting myself in the foot. For now, knowing I need an anti-procrastination plan is the first step. Like an alcoholic, I need to admit I have a problem before I can format a plan and create manageable steps to fix it.

What we need is a 12-step program for procrastinators

I invite all who suffer from procrastination and self-sabotage to join me in taking the first step: admitting we have a problem. Maybe even start a support group; some might call it accountability partners, to help each other form anti-procrastination plans with those small milestones we need to keep us interested. Even give each other honest advice about those plans. I know I tend to form some that are just not manageable, and drop by the wayside. If someone were to look at my plan and tell me when I need to break the pieces into smaller chunks, I know it would help. And if they checked in to see if I was truly accomplishing those smaller chunks, the guilt alone would kill me if I hadn’t. Here’s my first step. Will you share yours?

My name is Sheri and I’m a procrastinator. I start projects but never take them to completion.

It all starts with gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the honesty with which I view myself.
  2. I am grateful for lessons I’ve learned, and those yet to come.
  3. I am grateful for support groups.
  4. I am grateful for honesty, however painful it might be at first. In the end, it’s what makes us great.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, hope, dreams, plans, successes, failures, challenges, lessons, support, giving, receiving, love, philanthropy, peace, harmony, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Are you interested in helping me form an anti-procrastination support group? Fill in the form below and share your thoughts!

Photo courtesy of Gavin Firkser via Flickr

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