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Problems, worry and stress hold us back, so we don’t get it done. Here are 4 ways I have learnt to fix problems, worry and stress. These 4 always work.
Problems make me worry. I always seem to have problems, and I always seem to be worrying. I’ve always been a worrier. At school it was problems like my inability to remember my French vocab, or why I was so unsuccessful with girls. I’ve even added a new daily morning problem and source of worry – every weekday morning I have to think about and write a blog post, which is hopefully as entertaining as it is useful. All while worrying about what problems I have to deal with today at work. So, this morning I was worrying about worry, doing some research which made me get behind in my packed morning schedule. It turns out that it was a Very Good Thing. But more of that in a minute, after we consider how similar we are.
We all worry, and we all think we have a unique set of problems to deal with. Nobody in the history of the world ever has had to deal with our problems. We are going to have to deal with them on our own. It is all very stressful. And so obviously untrue.
4 THINGS WE ALL SHARE IN COMMON ABOUT PROBLEMS
1. There isn’t a problem we have that somebody hasn’t fixed before. Friends, books, and a quick search online will give us ideas for effective solutions we can try. However, the reality of most of our problems is that we usually already know the answers to them, and we usually don’t like them and so are paralysed into inaction. People have fixed our problems before, so we can too.
2. Problems left undealt with grow out of proportion in our heads and, in reality, usually turn into bigger problems because they are not being dealt with. Time and time again I have had this tough lesson delivered to me, and I will until I finally learn that the best answer to a problem and the stress it brings is to do something about it. Today.
3. Problems undealt with manifest themselves in all sorts of ways. Sometimes I suffer from stress rashes. They are always because I am worrying about something that I am not dealing with.
4. We will always have problems. There is always something stressful going on. If there isn’t you have probably made your life so small that you are only living a fraction of the life you could. That too is a problem that you’ll know deep down, and which will eat away at you somehow.
4 WAYS TO DEAL WITH PROBLEMS, WORRY AND STRESS
This morning I was starting to stress about writing about problems, worry, and stress. Walking to the bus I glanced down at my watch and realised that I might miss my bus, so miss my train, so be late for my 8am meeting. Chaos.
So I ran for the last minute. Got my bus, and was able to write all this. All because three things happened, which are true of all problems, and so the answer to reduce the stress they cause:
1. EVALUATE: I looked at my watch and realised that I was going to be late.
2. BE POSITIVE: “What is good about this problem?” is a powerful question we can all ask ourselves, which enables us to reframe the problem as an opportunity, through a challenge, to be stretched and help us grow. I have dealt with many problems in my life, some of them really serious. The more I do it, the more I become A Person Who Can Fix Problems.
2. SEEK HELP: In this instance I didn’t need it but, with most problems, getting other people involved leads to more creative, effective, and faster solutions. This comes from a fresh perspective, new ideas, and simply the relief of sharing the problem. Sometimes help can be ‘self-help’ – simply writing down the problem externalises it, and so helps to put it in perspective.
4. TAKE ACTION: I ran to get my bus. Acting to fix a problem, no matter how much or how little you do is always better than doing nothing. And an instant stress reducer.
And the RESULTS? I made my train. I fixed my problem.
Problems cause us the most stress when we don’t deal with them. How are you going to use these four steps to sort your stressful problems today?
Fear is a decision.
It’s a choice we make. Whether it’s the right one or not, it is simply a choice. A decision to feel fear.
That decision can paralyse us. It can stop us moving forward.
So to progress, to GET IT DONE, we have to move through fear.
We have to decide to “feel the fear and do it anyway”.
We decide through a combination of logic and emotions.
LOGIC is analytical…
It doesn’t like fuzziness.
Looks for truths.
Works on the basis of rules.
Looks at the pros and cons.
Runs ‘What If Scenarios’.
Logic makes a decision based on facts.
So, it doesn’t like uncertainty or shifting situations.
EMOTIONS are all about people and social situations…
“What is my heart telling me about this?” it says.
Emotions looks for the solution that will make the most people happy.
So can change rapidly according to how intense they feel.
Emotions make decisions based on people.
And people can be unpredictable, capricious, and fearful.
So we decide to be fearful through a combination of logic and emotions that are different for every person in every situation.
One person’s terror is another person’s adrenaline rush.
Another person’s passion completely overwhelms somebody else.
FEAR IS A DECISION BASED ON LOGIC & EMOTIONS.
We can over-think and we can over-feel.
We can under-think and we can under-feel.
So we cannot entirely trust either our logic or our emotions.
We cannot trust the decisions we make about fear.
There is a simple truth on which we can rely:
THAT WHICH WE FEAR MOST IS THAT WHICH WE MOST HAVE TO DO.
And you always know what you fear the most about anything.
You know you have to make the call, say you’re sorry, say yes, make the choice, leap into the unknown…
The thing that is making you most afraid is the door you have to pass through.
The door that will take you from where you are now to where you want to be.
So there is only one thing you can do.
There is only one solution to your fear.
DO SOMETHING. Anything. No matter how small.
But do something RIGHT NOW that will help you move through your fear to where you want to be.
Do something right now.
You know what to do.
We’ve all done it. Too often. Started out with great intentions – several status updates liked, articles read, cat videos watched, and we’ve frittered away the valuable time we’d set aside to complete a really important personal or work project. Or we simply don’t get started, putting it off until some other time – like never.
Overcoming procrastination is hard – but is easier if you understand exactly why you are doing it. We’ll look first at why you might be procrastinating, and then I’ll give you some ideas of how to stop procrastinating and get it done.
Why do we procrastinate?
The task seems SO important
We are a daunted, put off by the scale, the stakes, and the consequences of doing a bad job. So, we never get going. Better not to try, than to try and fail. Wrong, wrong, wrong! When was the last time you tried something, and it had terminal effects? Exactly. It is extremely unlikely that what you are avoiding doing is life-or-death. Failure will not be that bad. You will recover. You will even learn and get better. However – chances are – you won’t fail, you will smash it, and you will feel amazing.
You are going to have your efforts evaluated
When your work is being evaluated the stakes feel higher. Perhaps it is something important like a driving test, or that big presentation. We put off doing the work we have to because we fear failure and, absurdly, make it more likely that we will fail because we leave ourselves too little time. The reality is that that you will get negative feedback. There will always be people unhappy with what you do and how you do it. That’s simply a fact of life. Leave them to it. Treat any negative feedback either as an opportunity to learn, or simply ignore people who would rather criticise than actually achieve anything in life.
We think it will take longer and/or be harder to do than it actually is
Daunting tasks take forever don’t they? Not necessarily. Once you properly get into the flow of what you have to do, you’ll often find you lose yourself in what you are doing, and find it easier, more enjoyable, and make faster progress than you had thought. You just have to get started.
We believe that we work best under pressure
The student all-nighter to get the paper finished. Most of us have done it, caffeine-fuelled as we make up for not getting our act together. A review of 24 studies into the procrastination of nearly 4,000 students found that those who put off their work tended to have lower grades than those who didn’t. Most people simply don’t work better under pressure – it’s just an excuse for not pulling your finger out.
We are prone to perfectionism so never finish or, worse, never start because it needs to be ‘perfect’
How many people who you meet claim to be a perfectionist, like it’s some badge of honour? People who keep polishing or fiddling, way beyond both what anyone else would notice, or adding any additional value. Really high standards are great, and you should have them. Polishing and fluffing beyond what matters or, worse, not even starting because “it won’t be right” – just don’t.
How do we overcome procrastination?
Be honest about what is making you delay
You have a big presentation to your boss. You want to impress with your thinking and your presentation skills but it’s two days away now and you haven’t even got started. Why? Being honest with yourself about why you are procrastinating is the first step to dealing with it. A simple, yet powerful, technique can help you – ask yourself “Why”. 5 times. Let’s look at how it could play out in this example:
“Why haven’t I started this presentation.” Answer: “Because the stakes are so high.”
“Why: Because I know my boss is concerned I won’t deliver.”
“Why: Because my last presentation didn’t go down that well.”
“Why: Because I didn’t think hard enough about matching business and customer needs.”
“Why: Because I didn’t start with the customer and do enough research, so the presentation wasn’t grounded enough.”
So, after 5 Whys, you know the block that you need to overcome to create a presentation that will delight your boss – solid research into customers, matched with business needs. So, step to it!
When was the last time you did something similar to the thing you are procrastinating about now – and it worked? Think about the success you had. How did that feel? Really get yourself into what that moment was like. This is a technique I use when I am public speaking and the nerves are kicking in just beforehand. I focus on last time I spoke and how good I felt on-stage, the audience enjoying themselves and me in flow having a good time with no nerves. It really works. It beats procrastination because it helps overcome any negative feelings with positive ones. You’ve got a difficult phone call? Remember the last time you had one and what it felt like when you’d finished the call. Try to recreate the conditions that set you up for success last time and repeat them again now. Did you make the call outside with a cup of coffee? Do that again now.
Get feedback early
This will combat the perfectionist in you. Share your thinking early. Got an inkling of how to tackle something you are sticking on? Then share that with someone you trust. Not only will they provide valuable input, you will get great ideas from them and the end results will be far better. Sharing your thinking early also builds confidence because you’ve overcome the hurdle of getting it out there.
Give yourself a break
We all procrastinate. You are not a peculiarly bad or useless person, so relax, forgive yourself, move on, and just get started on whatever it is you are currently putting off.
Get It Done
I have been a life coach for many years and procrastination is one of the most common problems I work with people on. In my own life I too have found at times that I wasn’t making progress in areas that were important to me and need focused coaching support. That’s why I decided to create Get It Done – Life coaching reinvented:
Life coaching on WhatsApp. Get unstuck and reach your personal goal in 1 month through one-to-one coaching, feedback, accountability & inspiration. For only £25.
Find out more about what Get It Done could do for you at www.getitdone.works