The Stop Procrastinating Now Course. Week 3: The Essential Balance Between Fully Focused Work and Guilt-Free Play and Rest

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1 The Stop Procrastinating Now Course Week 3: The Essential Balance Between Fully Focused Work and Guilt-Free Play and Rest

2 Copyright Henrik Edberg, You do not have the right to sell, share or claim the ownership of the content of this course. This course is for informational purposes only and it contains my opinions based on my experience. You should always find the advice of a professional before taking action on something I have published. Page 2

3 One of the most common mistakes that lead to loss of motivation and fun in life and to a big urge to procrastinate is in my experience if you have important work to do and you give yourself little room for anything else. You tell yourself: I have to get this project/essay/big chunk of work done and after that sometime in the future there will be time for taking a well-deserved rest, to have fun with friends and family and so on. You put your personal life and the fun in it on hold for a while because you feel you really need to get this work done. And by being this strict and a tough boss with yourself you hope to accomplish it. But if you are anything like me and have tried this strategy then it usually just leads to more procrastination because life and work feels so heavy and often more boring or difficult. Life has become just work, work and more work. To keep your energy, motivation and focus up you cannot just work like a machine. That strategy only works for a while if you are - like most of us - prone to procrastinating and not some natural energy spark and top performer. Page 3

4 If you want to stop procrastinating then don t put your life and play on hold We briefly went into the importance of rewarding yourself at the end of last week s guide. This week we ll go deeper into that and into finding a balance in your daily life. A balance in the work you do. This will make work more fun and exciting (or in some cases at least more acceptable and not something that fills you with inner resistance). You need a balance between working and being fully focused on that and taking time to rest and to have fun without worrying or feeling guilty about things you should be doing. So a new and balanced strategy is needed. Here s the practical habits I suggest to find that healthy balance. 1. When you plan your week then plan in the fun parts first. As you plan your weekly schedule do not just fill it with work. Make room for more fun and relaxing activities too even though you may not be done with your important project yet. And don t start the planning with putting in the meetings and the work sessions you will have to do for a project into your schedule. Instead, start by focusing on the things you look forward to and put that into your schedule. Maybe Page 4

5 A lunch or two with a colleague or a friend. A sports game, an evening with friends down at the pub or the local café in a few days. Playing video games online, going out riding your horse or bicycle or just lazying around on the couch watching your favorite TV-shows or a movie. Playing with your kids or pet. Put your weekly focus on these things first as you plan your days. It might not sound like much but when you focus on this first then you emphasize to yourself that you have fun and relaxation to look forward to very soon. And you ensure that there will be time for rest/fun this week by planning those parts in first. Otherwise it is easy to let them slip and to feel like you do not have time for them because you have so much work to do. Or because you have been procrastinating too much on your work this week. If an escape fantasy pops up while you work or while you are doing some other activity then don t ignore it. Give it room in your life by writing it down. It could be a fantasy about a vacation, things you want to do with friends/family, things you want to see/read/eat/listen to. Consult your list later on during play and relaxation time or make sure to put that or those fantasies in first during next week s scheduling. Page 5

6 2. Cycle fully focused work with full rest/play. This is another way to make more room for fun and relaxation and to create a healthier balance in your life that smartly gives instant gratification and at the same time encourages doing focused work and builds less of an urge to procrastinate. So the simple way to do this is to get started with doing your work in your cone of stillness for just 15 minutes at first. Just work on one of your most important tasks for that day during this period. Focus on nothing else for this very limited amount of time. And then you take a break and play or reward yourself for maybe 5-10 minutes with something like for example one or a few of the things recommended last week. Things like: Pat yourself on the back and tell yourself: Well done! Have a small break and take a short walk to get some fresh air. Eat a tasty treat and listen to some music. Do something you enjoy and that takes your mind off the work like playing a video game or checking Facebook. Watch half an episode of your favorite comedy show like The Big Bang Theory or the Simpsons. Or a bit of your favorite TV drama or a movie. Just take it easy and pet or play with your pet. If you do find that 15 minutes of doing such work still lands you in procrastination then lower the bar and pressure even more. And take a smaller step. Page 6

7 Just work for 5 minutes on this task. That is all. Then you can take a minute break. If you find yourself working a little longer than those 5 minutes and reach 15 or 30 minutes then that is OK. But if you just work those 5 minutes then that is totally OK too. After your break go into your cone of stillness again and work for another 5 minutes (or 30 or whatever works for you at the moment to not start the procrastination). Cycle between being fully focused on making a dent or two in one of your most important tasks of the day and just relaxing and/or playing. Do as many of these cycles as you feel comfortable with during your work day (and in your private life too as you may have things you procrastinate on there too). But I recommend to not do too many of them at first, just ease yourself into this process and you may want to do a little less of them than you think you actually can to not trigger procrastination. Doing 2, 3 or 5 sessions each day for 5 days a week is better than triggering inner resistance and procrastination and then getting nothing done on this important task or project for days or perhaps even weeks or months. Alternating between working and playing/relaxing like this will make it easier to focus fully when you do your work and you ll be less likely to procrastinate because your view on your work and resistance to it will change for the better. And over time you can step things up slowly and do more cycles and, for example, go from doing 5 minute sessions to doing 10 minute or 20 minute sessions. Page 7

8 To make sure that you stick with your set time limits I recommend using an egg timer or the stop watch app on your phone (while still keeping the phone in another room or several meters out of your reach while working). 3. Compartmentalize and have a single focus for a time period. When you know what you next task is or the smaller step you want to get done then as you go into your work session focusing only on this. Not on other tasks or plans, not on something happening later on that day or what happened yesterday at work or in your private life. When it is time to work, when it is action-time after a bit of rest/play then think as little as you can about such things. Just take the action and say to yourself that for the next X minutes the only thing I need to do and focus on in the world is this one step or task. That is it. I have found that when I bring no mental baggage from the previous step or task and when I do not plan or think about the next thing on my schedule it becomes a lot easier to focus. Taking action becomes lighter because for now and for some minutes into the future there is just one thing I need to have my attention on and take care of. I do of course need to think, evaluate and sometimes course correct but I do that during a later work session in my day or week. By working this way not always possible of course, but I do the best I can I also spend my daily and limited energy in an effective way. And so I have less inner stress and more Page 8

9 of that energy to spare as I head into my evening and weekends to enjoy my personal time. So I highly recommend to compartmentalize and to have just one focus at a time to make the most out of your day and what you have to offer. 4. Setting a few more boundaries for your day and week. This is the last way to create a better balance that we ll explore this week. Here are a few more helpful limits that I use: No work in the evenings. Since I am fortunate enough to have two computers I use the one I am writing on right now for work. It is powered down by 7 o clock or earlier. And then it stays shut off until the next morning. This way I draw a boundary that helps me to stick to my work schedule for about 95% of the time. I highly recommend setting your own firm end of work time for your days. A time when you leave work and let the rest of the work wait until tomorrow, a time when you shut off your work phone and just focus 100% on your personal life. Page 9

10 Make a firm decision to not even do 5 minutes of work this weekend. If possible don t check your or use your work phone at all. If not, don t check your more than necessary (I do it just once a weekend and reply only to absolutely critical s). And keep your work phone shut off and check it only once a day or once per weekend. If you take a minute to think about it instead of just reacting then you likely see that almost everything can wait until Monday without the world collapsing. These two boundaries plus the previously mentioned habits in this weekly guide not only helps to keep your motivation and energy up and procrastination away. No, a big, big benefit of learning to balance your life this way is that you also train your mind to not fall into the destructive grey zone. What is the grey zone? Well, when you set no firm limits between your work hours and your personal time, when you bring your work home, work late a lot or are always available via your cell phone then your work life and home life blurs together. There are no clear borders between them. And so you may be worrying about something at work while trying to go to sleep at night. Or you may be thinking of something you have to get done tomorrow while your family or a friend tries to have some quality time with you. Page 10

11 And then when you are back at work the next day it is quite likely that you will at some point start to think and worry about your home life or your relationship with your child, partner or a friend. No matter when you slip back into the grey zone you are distracted and you are wasting energy. And being in the grey zone will over time spill over and not only have an effect on your own stress levels and worries but affect other people and the relationships in your life too. So when I feel like skipping working in the way that I described in this guide I remind myself that if I do I tend to over time drift back more and more often into the grey zone. And I know how much stress, worries and wasted time and energy that waits for me there. So this reminder is a powerful way for me to stay on track and work in a smart way. Now, have a look at the next page to find the action-steps for this week. Page 11

12 The Action-Steps for This Week Here s a quick summary of the action-steps to take this week: 1. Recap: Continue to use the two step combo of being still and taking a small (or very small) step forward whenever you start procrastinating. Start your day with doing your quick personal cone of stillness routine. 2. Day 1: First, plan in the fun part of your week into your schedule. Make a firm decision to stick with a strict stop time for your work each day this week. 3. This week: As best you can, try to focus only on just one step at a time by compartmentalizing. And cycle between fully focused work sessions and generous amounts of rewards in the form of rest/play during your work days. 4. This weekend: Do no work at all or no more than 5 minutes of work to truly recharge. 5. Day 7: Use your worksheet to see how this week went. Page 12

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