Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book, Procrastination

Procrastination, by Jane B. Burka & Lenora M. Yuen, 2008
I bought this book on 2012.12.30, but I didn’t finish it until 4.5 years later. What a procrastinator!
4 factors make procrastination more likely to happen:
  1. low confidence in succeeding
  2. task aversiveness
  3. distractibility and impulsiveness
  4. having goals and rewards be too far off in the future.
Finding the context for your procrastination is critical, for when we accept ourselves as we really are, rather than as we wish to be, we are most able to act in our best interest, and not live at the mercy of procrastination.

1 understanding

procrastination is like dandelion, you pull it up and think you got it. But then it turns out the roots are so deep, it just grows back.
emotional root: inner feelings, fears, hopes, memories, dreams, doubts,and pressure.
They use procrastination to avoid uncomfortable feelings. To judge yourself is painful, and self-criticism may be easier to tolerate than the feelings of vulnerability and exposure.
procrastinators often have a wishful thinking approach to time or see it as an opponent to outwit. The subjective time is in conflict with clock time.
explore and understand these emotional, biological, and social influences without criticism or blame. It can be exciting and interesting to learn from your experience — not denying it, forgetting it, or judging it, but accepting what is and making the most of it.
People have different types. Some people thrive on keeping very busy, loaded with projects and activities, living from one deadline to the next, they love intense pressure. Others like to take life easy. it makes take them a long time to get something done but they enjoy the journey. They use procrastination to give themselves time for reflection, to focus on what seems most important.

procrastinator’s code

  • I must be perfect
  • Everything I do should go easily and without effort.
  • It’s safer to do nothing than to take a risk and fail
  • I should have no limitations
  • If it’s not done right, it’s not worth doing at all.
  • I must avoid being challenged.
  • If I succeed, someone will get hurt.
  • If I do well this time, I must always do well.
  • Following someone else’s rules means that I’m giving in and I’ m not in control
  • I can’t afford to let go of anything or anyone
  • If I show my real self, people won’t like me.
  • there is a right answer, and I’ll wait until I find it.
if you think you should be perfect, then it may seem safer to procrastinate than to work hard and risk a judgement of failure.

2 fear of failure

Richard Beery observed that people who fear failure may be living with a set of assumptions that turn striving fro accomplishment into a frightening risk.
These assumptions are: self-worth = ability = performance
procrastination breaks in between ability and performance.
Some people would rather suffer the consequences of procrastination than the humiliation of trying and not doing as well as they had hoped.
the perfectionistic procrastinator usually expects more of herself than is realistic.
An important question to ask yourself:
  • are you setting standards for yourself that enable you to make progress?
  • or, do your standards lead you to become discouraged, frustrated, and stuck?
several beliefs cherished by perfectionists:
  • mediocrity breeds contempt. They can’t accept the fact that they are simply average.
  • excellence without effort. They use impossible standard: creativity should flow ceaselessly. Study should be a pure intellectual joy. Decisions should be made immediately with total certainty. if you can’t stand not knowing, you can’t learn.
  • Going it alone. They believe it’s a sign of weakness to get the help of any kind. No room to admit that sometimes you don’t have the answer. Non-western culture doesn’t endorse asking for help, where needing help is seen as a sign of weakness and a source of shame.
  • there is a right way. Rather than take the risk of making the wrong choice, they do nothing. They never make the move.
  • I can’t stand to lose. They delay action to protect your ego and your self-esteem.
  • All or nothing. If you can only be satisfied with perfection, you are doomed to be disappointed.

Carol Dweck: fixed mindset vs growth mindset.

In fact, it’s more interesting to do things you’re not good at, because it’s a way to stretch yourself and to learn.
Failures may hurt or disappoint, but they don’t define a person.
Adopting the growth mindset is one way to undo the self-worth equation. because performance is no longer a central concern. What matters is what you learn, what you feel excited about and how you’ve improved.
It is both interesting and helpful for procrastinators to articulate the nameless fantasies of dread that haunt them.

3 fear of success

Clarry Lay, define success as the timely pursuit of your intentions
Most people who fear success want to do well, but because of unconscious worries, the desire fails to turn into reality.
common reasons for avoiding success:
  • success demands too much: I have to retreat
  • competition: take it or leave it, hide ambition
  • commitment phobia
  • I’ ll turn into workaholic

4 fear of losing the battle

People want to have ultimate freedom, total control of his own time, pace and schedule.
Defy control by others or the traditional rule.

5 fear of separation and intimacy

Delay making any choice about how many relationships to maintain, the degree of our commitment to each, how much time we spend with others, and how much time we need to be alone.
People may feel they need the presence of another person to get going.
In the comfort zone: keep the past alive. Procrastination keeps you in familiar patterns and reenacts your usual relations with other people, mitigates the feeling of being separate.
This whole business doesn’t revolve around you!
Procrastination may keep other people at the comfortable distance you feel you need, but it prevents you from growing as a person. A good relationship needs a balance between being dependent and indepedent.

7 Neuroscience: plasticity

If you have some degree of attention deficit disorder, executive dysfunction, seasonal affective disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, chronic stress, or sleep deprivation, you are more likely to procrastinate.
your feelings are linked to your unique self— only you can experience your feelings, and feelings are an essential part of being conscious.
It’s important to be able to say, “this feels right to me”, or “that just doesn’t feel right”. This is as important as the “logical” answer.
Consciousness is a very limited part of the mind. Your feeling may be conscious, but most of the time, you are not consciously aware of the feeling that lead you to avoid a project. Even if you don’t know exactly which emotions are happening outside of your conscious awareness, your body is reacting.
To stop procrastinating, you have to tolerate uncomfortable feelings in your body(e.g., fear, anxiety). Going ahead in spite of fear takes deliberate effort, because fear is triggered instantaneously(14 ms vs 500 ms of sensation), once registered in the body it lasts forever, and it sends very strong signals in the brain that are hard to override.
Your body remember the fear, even if you don’t remember it. You don’t know why you avoid a particular task, but you avoid it every time.
Fear invades our consciousness more easily than our thoughts can control our emotions.
People develop defensive patterns to protect themselves from the pain of feeling stupid and hating themselves when they struggle to understand complex concepts.
Suppression is another defense mechanism against unwanted feelings. paradoxically, people who suppress their feelings are more likely to remain vulnerable to negative emotion and to experience higher levels of stress.
cognitive reappraisal is an essential part of being able to soothe yourself. respond to that feeling of danger by:
  • think things through
  • consider what the realistic dangers are
  • consider the context of the danger
  • remind yourself about your competency and resilience
  • give yourself encouragement
After emotional regulation, we become free to decide how to respond.
mirror neurons: watch how other people behave and feel activates the same neurons in our brains that are active their brains. So a caregiver does much more than change diapers and provides food.
The brain grows and develops in response to how it is treated and how it observes.
Mark Twain,
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
It will take courage to give up the familiarity and the usefulness of procrastination.

II overcoming procrastination

When you try to make a change, you will probably have a push/pull relationship with them, you will encounter resistance and make excuses. This resistance can be an ally if you ask:
  • what specifically do I feel uncomfortable about?
  • Is this touching on something from my past?
  • Am I confronting something I usually try to push out of my mind?
  • what makes me think I can’t do this now?
When you observe your behavior and clarify what’s behind the resistance, you may realize you are automatically reacting with old patterns and fears from the past, rather than responding to circumstances in the present situation.
James Prochaska identified a predictable sequence called stages of change:
  1. precontemplation
  2. contemplation
  3. preparation
  4. action
This is why it is hard to “just do it”.
Michael Hargrove uses a similar 4-step model:
  1. Unconscious incompetence / pre-change
  2. conscious incompetence/ waking up. Awareness.
  3. conscious competence/ choosing change. This can be awkward, because learning new behavior takes effort, practice and repetition, and many frustrations along the way.
  4. Unconscious Competence. It becomes a habit and we can do it without the struggle.

free writing

write down whatever is on your mind for a limited period of time without stopping, without judging, and without editing. The purpose is not to produce a gem but to explore your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
It helps you bypass the inner prosecutor who judges your ideas. It also allows your brain to follow a chain of associations that are linked together, often without your being aware of it. Remember, 80% of brain activity occurs outside of awareness.

consider Psychotherapy

Many non-western cultures disapprove of taking problems outside the familty or the church, and there is shame attached to seeking counseling. Immigrants from Africa, Asia and Hispanic generally do not look for help from mental health services, but prefer to get help from family, friends, spiritual leaders, traditional healers.
It can be difficult to disavow cultural values in order to get help. but procrastination has complicated roots that make it difficult to fix by yourself. A psychological perspective can be very helpful.
The type of therapy and the credentials of the therapist are not as important as finding a therapist with whom you’re comfortable.
When you have the struggle to implement the techniques, remember, repetition is important and every step matters in changing your brain.

14 learning to say yes and no

say yes:
  • seek support from others
  • surround yourself with high-quality people: kind, encouraging, and nonjudgemental, but also realistic and able to focus on your task.
  • make a public commitment: tell people what you’re working on and when you’re aiming for completion
  • make a plan together: find someone with complementary strength
  • ask for help when you’re stuck
  • work together: find a partner, set up a regular meeting
  • use work time for work, use the family time for family
say no:
  • to time waster and downers
  • to empty tasks
  • to unnecessary commitments
  • to wrong people
  • to physical clutter, emotional clutter, e-clutter: do you really need to watch or listen to news reports 4 or 5 times a day?
  • to virtual world: video games, internet porn