Productivity is key toward leading a rewarding, fulfilled life. When you are productive, you typically experience a sense of accomplishment that increases your self-confidence to achieve further endeavors. However, any productive effort is dependent on motivation and morale – your belief in yourself to reach your established goals. Certain factors contribute to motivation and morale that can lead to either procrastination or productivity. More specifically, there is one culprit that directly zaps motivation and productivity: MENTAL THOUGHT TRAPS.
We have all fallen victim to such mind traps – negative self-talk that wreaks havoc to your drive, productivity, and self-esteem. Unfortunately, most people are oblivious to these unproductive thinking patterns that lead to stress and anxiety. Such statements as, “Why does this always happen to me?” “I should be better.” “I hate…” or “I can’t…” defeat morale and interfere with productivity. When we get stuck in these mind traps, we create an endless cycle of negative self-talk that results in unproductive behaviors. Consequently, goals that repeatedly go unachieved impair future motivation and lead to further avoidance and procrastination.
On the other hand, the emotional aftermath of beating yourself up for not being productive is often guilt and stress. The lack of productivity promotes even more shame, anxiety, and low self-esteem. As you can see, over time, a vicious cycle of faulty beliefs, negative emotions, and procrastination ensues as individuals accept their disheartening fate as procrastinators. However, what if instead there are specific strategies to help you develop a personal action plan to bust stress, eliminate procrastination, and reach your fullest potential?
Just over one third of Americans feel they are doing a good job handling stress, according to a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association. When the bills pile up, a term paper is due in three weeks, or a project at work is inching toward a deadline, it can be all too tempting to avoid responsibilities.
We’ve all thought:
“I always procrastinate, so there’s no point in getting started,” or, “I’ll be fired unless I give this presentation perfectly.” Thoughts like these control our behavior, bringing us to the brink of a deadline, which frequently causes dire stress and poor performance. Instead of thinking like Negative Nancy, turn into Positive Paula by thinking: “Habits can be changed. Even if I do just a little work, I can still get something done to reach my goal.”
By reducing procrastination and changing our thought pattern, we can lead happier, stress-free and productive lives. Take a look at these three tips to decrease anxiety and boost productivity:
- Break mountains into molehills: A task that is as large as a mountain may look as appealing as an ocean of sharks. Instead of thinking of the task as a mountain, break it down into several molehills. Approaching a task in smaller pieces brings a sense of triumph and accomplishment, motivating you to move forward.
- Make a list: Schedule your tasks for the day on a Post-It note or in a day planner. Decide how much time you will spend on each item, and relish crossing off tasks once you’ve completed them. Write down even the most mundane tasks – like doing the dishes or running to the bank – and you’ll find more productivity in each day.
- Visualize: Envision your success. Imagine: where are you? What colors are you wearing? Is it hot or cold? When you imagine every aspect of achieving your goal, your dream can become reality. By visualizing accomplishment, your senses award you with confidence, motivation, and energy to push forward.
Changing habits requires time, effort, energy, and above all – commitment. With the tips listed here, as well as others included in my book, Productive, Successful You!, you can discover how to manage time more effectively, and in turn, become more productive. Jump over hurdles and reach the finish line – with less stress.
Procrastination comes in all shapes and sizes. Some people are just underwhelmed and disinterested at the tedious task at hand, and would rather spend their limited time on earth on more rewarding activities. Other people become completely overwhelmed by the unrealistically high standards that they set for themselves, and prefer to avoid anything short of perfection. Still others are crippled simply by perceiving ordinary tasks as mountainous missions in which the path toward the end result becomes buried and lost. No matter the reason, there’s one thing in common with all forms of procrastination: ANXIETY.
There is a way to break that seemingly endless cycle of procrastination. Here are 5 strategies to help you stop procrastinating and become more productive, so you can successfully achieve your goals and decrease your stress factor.
1) Make Use of Stress & Anxiety
When you’re under stress and feeling anxious, what you’re experiencing is your body’s natural fight-or-flight response at work. Depending on how you interpret it, this adrenaline rush can either be your friend or foe. Instead of perceiving this added energy as anxiety and feeling crippled by it, make the adrenaline rush work for you by utilizing it to tackle your tasks.
2) Identify Mental Thought Traps
If you’re beating yourself up, then you are only creating unnecessary anxiety and stress. Mental thought traps are basically negative self-talk that causes havoc to your emotional and physical health. It doesn’t help your motivation or drive to make such comments as, “I’m just too busy to exercise” or “I’ll never finish this in time.” Instead, identify these thinking traps and correct them, so they can’t hold you prisoner to procrastination.
3) Break Mountains into Molehills
Many people know what they want to achieve, yet they have no plan of attack.
Other people are crippled by mountainous missions in which the path toward the end result becomes buried and lost. Either way, instead of perceiving a task as a vague, ginormous mountain, break it down into smaller, well-defined goals that can be easily reached. Develop a realistic blueprint for each step of the journey by planning backward from the end goal. Determine each sequential step and the timeframes needed for each step. Without this basic roadmap, you will likely get lost along the way and lose sight of the end objective.
4) Schedule Accordingly
Now that you have a basic blueprint, the next step is to actually plan and schedule each agenda that will advance you to task completion. This means scheduling even the most mundane tasks, such as cleaning the kitchen or running errands. Scheduling may initially seem tedious and like added work. However, with 1,440 minutes in a day and 168 hours in a week, there is just too much time to procrastinate while telling yourself, “It can wait” or “I’ll do it later.” Before you know it, a week has slipped by without progress toward your goal. Alas at this point, your mental thought traps will remind you of this fact, and add further undue stress and anxiety to your livelihood.
5) Visualize Success
Take 10 – 15 minutes each morning to visualize your day’s agendas. See yourself engaging in each task, and especially, completing each molehill as you reach the final destination. Feel the sensation of success as you visualize accomplishing each goal. The feeling of achievement enhances an “I can” attitude that will increase your motivation and drive to actually carrying out each agenda. In fact, many athletes train through visualizations to improve their performances. When you visualize success, it becomes more attainable simply because your mind believes it. Essentially, this is your mental rehearsal at work. Use it often!
Similar to any new skill, each of these strategies will only become innate through repeated practice. Use these tools regularly to jump hurdles and reach your finish line. As you experience less stress from procrastination, congratulate yourself for the improved, successful you.
For more on breaking free from stress, anxiety, and procrastination, and creating a personal action plan to reach your fullest potential, check out Dr. Yip’s new book:
“Productive, Successful You! End Procrastination by Making Anxiety Work for You Rather Than Against You.” For more details, visit: www.DrYip.com/books/