Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Active procrastinators: just get going
Stress for Success
May 24, 2011

"Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow." -- Mark Twain

Seriously, procrastination is a frustrating habit. Since it’s a learned one it can be overcome but only if you become conscious when you’re doing it.

If you’re a professional procrastinator you need to acknowledge when you say "later" you really don't mean it. Thousands of “laters” create thousands of opportunities lost. To stay conscious, when you say "later" follow up with, "Later to me means never. Do I really want to get this done or not?"

Also become very cognizant of your avoidance habits, which you’ve probably perfected to the point that you engage in them automatically and unconsciously whenever you face an unpleasant task. Keep a journal of your thoughts and emotions when you're delaying. Follow these steps:
· Choose something you procrastinate on regularly.
· Describe the activity you put off. Is it unpleasant, confusing, uncomfortable or threatening?
· Write what you’re thinking and feeling when you begin to delay. For instance, "I can’t concentrate enough right now." Continue to record what you say and/or what you do to prolong your postponement.
· Ask yourself why you're avoiding action. Is it a legitimate reason or just an excuse? Also answer, "What discomfort am I evading?" Usually your answer is based on some unfounded fear.
· What’s your outcome?

To get going try these ideas:
· Timothy A. Pychyl, of Ottawa's Carlton University, runs a procrastination research group and suggests, "Follow the 10-minute rule.” Acknowledge your desire to procrastinate then do the task for 10 minutes anyway. Initiating is the hardest step for chronic procrastinators. After working on it for 10 minutes decide whether to continue. Once you're involved, it's easy to stay with the task.
· If you have something to do, do it now or schedule it. If it's not worth the amount of time it takes to schedule, it's not going to get done later.
· For larger projects write out your goal and list each step you have to take to accomplish it. Schedule each step in your calendar.
· Invest your energy on the important and ignore the trivial.
· Don't demean yourself when you dally because it makes more likely you’ll continue procrastinating.
· Keep a next steps list for all projects with an estimate of how long it’ll take to accomplish each one. If you have 15 minutes, look over your lists for something you can get done in less than 15 minutes. This furthers your progress in bits and pieces, which is great for those who procrastinate.
· Put the task right in front of you to avoid “out of sight out of mind.”
· Public commitment: Tell someone what you’re working on and when you’ll have it finished.
· Reward yourself when you’ve completed it. Do something just for fun. Give yourself a mental complement.

For chronic procrastinators remember the most important thing to do is just start! So get going!

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html and request she speak to your organization.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Survival instincts may be cause of procrastination
Stress for Success
May 17, 2011

Do you repeatedly procrastinate? Do you wonder why you don’t just get on with it? If procrastination is a “gap between intention and action” what keeps you from putting your intention into action?

You’re in good company since virtually everyone procrastinates. But not everyone is a procrastinator. Those reporting they procrastinate swelled from only 5% in 1978, to 20 – 25% today based on two recent large studies by psychologist Joseph Ferrari of DePaul University.

Procrastination is impulsivity winning out over future rewards. This is probably why it’s on the increase: our modern world has limitless distractions too many TV channels, electronic games and Internet temptations. Referring to all of these amusements, University of Calgary psychologist Piers Steel speaking of procrastination says, “You couldn’t design a worse working environment if you tried.”

Historically, it was said procrastination was caused by perfectionism, fear of failure, and rebellion against overbearing parents that one has never outgrown. Then there were the thrill seekers who profess they work best under pressure and use procrastination to create that pressure.

Steel reviewed 553 studies of procrastination and concluded it has four related variables regarding your task:
1. Your confidence in your ability to do it;
2. Its value;
3. Your need for immediate gratification and sensitivity to its delay;
4. Impulsiveness;

He suggests about the task:
· The more confident you are, the less you’ll delay.
· Its value is determined by how much fun it will be and its meaning to you. The more fun or the more meaningful the less you’ll procrastinate.
· The need for instant gratification looks at both how much time will pass before you’re rewarded for doing the assignment and how badly you need a reward to work on it. You’re more likely to finish a job due next week if it results in an immediate reward. If the reward comes much later, dawdling increases.
· Impulsiveness is determined by how easily distracted you are. The more distractible you are, the more likely you are to procrastinate.
He created a formula to predict your procrastination likelihood: Your confidence multiplied by the task’s importance/fun, divided by how badly you need the reward for finishing it, multiplied by how easily distractible you are.

Impulsivity, he says, is the most important part of his equation. “There’s a huge correlation between procrastination and impulsivity … that has to do with evolution. Procrastination reflects the difficulty of coping with some aspects of modern society with hunter-gatherer brains because our forebears lived in a world without delay. For them … meat kept for three days and danger lurked around every corner. It was a very immediate environment. We learned to value the now much more than the later to survive.”

Without going into the details about the functioning of our survival brain, he says we do less well planning for the future, where goals exist. “So, a second piece of chocolate cake wins out over a trim figure down the road.”

Next week we’ll look at ideas to get going.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html and request she speak to your organization.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Excessive stress can end up in workplace violence
Stress for Success
May 10, 2011

Work shouldn’t be a scary place. But it is for many people. Unfortunately, America has the highest violent crime rate of any industrialized nation. On average 20 workers are murdered each week in the U. S. making homicide the second highest cause of workplace deaths and the leading cause for women. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over two million Americans are affected by workplace violence annually.

What can you do to protect yourself? Be on the lookout for tell-tales signs that trouble is brewing.

Rich Cordivari, V-P of Learning and Development at Allied Barton Security Services, which provides security personnel, shares the following warning signs as originally reported in a 2004 USA Today analysis of deadly workplace violence incidents. Anyone exhibiting these traits may need help and you should notify someone in authority.

1. A normally prompt employee is excessively late or absent; or one who has consistently worked full days leaves work without authorization or gives frequent excuses for shortening the work day;
2. An experienced employee who requires increased supervision;
3. A classic warning sign of employee dissatisfaction is when a normally efficient and productive employee displays a sudden or dramatic drop in performance. Meet with her immediately to develop a plan of action.
4. Significant change in someone’s work habits;
5. Mounting signs of stress may signal trouble is brewing and is often a significant contributor to workplace violence: Like a normally safety-minded employee suddenly is involved in accidents or safety violations; or someone who has trouble focusing and concentrating. Notify the manager who can encourage him to get help.
6. A persistent change in attitude and behavior can be a red flag the person is having problems. Since you’re probably familiar with her personality you’re in a position to notice these changes.
7. A classic warning sign is when a person has a weapons fascination! Don’t ignore this. Report it.
8. Watch for changes in a person’s temperament when under the influence of drugs or alcohol because it’s often associated with violence in the workplace. Follow your organization’s procedure to identify and assist drug or alcohol abusers.
9. Another classic red flag easy to identify but usually ignored is when a person frequently uses excuses and blames others rather than takes personal responsibility for their own actions. A worker who engages in this behavior is typically signaling a need for assistance and may require counseling.

Don’t assume everyone who exhibits any of the behaviors is going to behave violently, however. Consider telling someone about your suspicions when:
· A colleague exhibits a noticeable change in any of the above behaviors;
· When the behavior is displayed constantly;
· Or when any of these behaviors are observed in combination;

These are just a few of the possible warning signs of possible workplace violence. As with any work related issue, report unusual behavior to a manager or someone who has the authority to take action instead of waiting until it’s too late.
Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html and request she speak to your organization.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Does volunteering protect you from the damage of stress?
Stress for Success
May 3, 2011

I know I admonish you to lower stress through a variety of ways like exercise (to which I can hear your collective eye-rolling), relaxing, etc. Regularly doing so protects you from the damage of excessive stress hormones.

There are other non-eye-rolling ways to reduce stress, too. Since National Volunteer Week is in April, let me suggest volunteering as a way to balance your stress.

Volunteering can be an especially rewarding stress break because it’s believed you release the hormone oxytocin when you connect and bond with people, which is believed to protect you from the ravages of stress. Plus, some believe it’s actually impossible to be depressed when you help someone.

I’ve personally volunteered at something all of my life: tutored inner-city kids in Spanish, served in the Peace Corps for over two years, sat on countless boards of directors, and helped the Red Cross after Hurricane Charley. For the past five years I’ve volunteered weekly at Healthpark as a cuddler working with premature babies and sing in and am now on the organizing board for the newly formed Symphonic Chorale of SW FL, formerly known as the SW FL Symphony Chorus.

Sure, some nights I’m exhausted and don’t want to go out and honor these commitments. But once there I realize these activities are my reward: the music we sing fills my heart in a way that nothing else can and the babies, well, they’re adorable little babies.

To reduce your stress, check out volunteer options such as:
· Volunteermatch.org: This matches up volunteer opportunities with over 70,000 nonprofit organizations;
· AmeriCorps: Each year, AmeriCorps offers opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve through partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups. Members who complete service may be eligible for an education award of up to $4,725 to pay for college, graduate school, or to pay back qualified student loans. You receive a living allowance during your term of service;
· Points of Light Institute: a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to engaging more people and resources in solving serious social problems;
· The Red Cross: helps prepare communities for emergencies;
· SCORE: Senior Corps of Retired Executives is a nonprofit organization which provides small business counseling and training under a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SCORE members are successful, retired business men and women who volunteer their time to assist aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. There are SCORE chapters in every state. My husband and I had a wonderful SCORE counselor who helped us when we started my husband’s business. We met monthly and felt a commitment to him to have our homework done and to meet the goals we set with his help.
· Help a neighbor in need;

What better use of your spare time is there than to help others? Whether you’re a medical professional, attorney, retired businessperson or a stay-at-home parent, do your stress level and the world a favor; share your talents with those who need them.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html and request she speak to your organization.