Procrastinators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from chronic procrastination.

"The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore

I have this book but haven't looked at it recently. I'm not sure I ever actually read it - perhaps I just skimmed it. If you've read this book and have an opinion on it, please add a comment.

Planned Relaxation

I read The Now Habit a few months back. I really like the idea of the Unschedule where you must plan relaxation into the day. Neil Fiore recommends at least an hour a day of guilt free exercise, play or dance.

Does anyone else make sure that they do this each day?



I feel like I would do better if I did...

...but I don't. :-(



The Hero's Code:

Show up. Pay Attention. Speak the Truth. Let Go of the Outcome.

planned relaxation

I do make exercise a part of my schedule most days, but I don't really consider that my relaxation time :)   I want an hour of exercise AND an hour of relaxation!


There is a proper balance between not asking enough of oneself and asking or expecting too much.  - May Sarton

MP3's by Neil Fiore (Now Habit Author)

Neil Fiore has made some MP3's available here:

Relaxation exercises basically, and a one minute 'centering' exercise to do between activities. I've listened to it a couple of times and it seems like it might be useful.


reading "The Now Habit"

I've had this book for years, and never read it. I bought several books on procrastination at the same time. I read the first one, it didn't help, and I didn't read the rest. I also didn't read the summary posted here because it was so long - I figured I may as well read the book. Smile

Anyway, I've now started it, and it's interesting - it's different from other procrastination books I've read. I like the main thesis - that procrastination is not something you do because you're lazy or crazy. It's a way to cope with fear and anxiety that you don't know how else to cope with. The book teaches you alternative strategies and it's meant to be very practical - not just analytical.

I've only just started reading it, but so far I like it. I'll post about it more when I'm done.

Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.

procrastinator's handbook

Hi pro.  I am new to this board.  I am reading procrastinator's handbook.  so far it is really enlightening, but I have come to believe I have a disease.
I am 47 yo with 5 children.  2 marriages, and the pain from the marriages, abuse, etc. is what really set me in motion as far as procrastination, although I was bad before, it has become pathological.  Her is the funny thing - I am a nurse, function fairly wwell at work, but I hide charts till I have to do them.  I have a job where I am almost my own boss, and I am on the inet all day.  I was taking cymbalta and it helped only slightly, but it was messing with meother ways.
CONFESSION - I have not filed taxes for 04 or 05 and they are at the tax office.  now I have 3 yrs to do!!  thing is, i should get a refund, but it will probably be eaten up with penalties.  this is ridiculous. i can't explain it and i can't get out.  I am going to read around on this board for awhile, since i am on the inet anyway.  :-?   ::puzzled::  perlpexed.....

Hey geegirl, I'm reading TPH too.

Please post your ideas and insights about the book, and I will too. I think it's a great book, and know it'll be of help to alot of people. Other folks please do also.

back tax returns

As I mentioned in my other post, I've got you beat on the tax return problem. I made a suggestion in the other post - I won't repeat it here (keep everything in one thread).

Re Cymbalta... I was on it for a while and the physical side effects nearly killed me. It's particularly hard to get off of. I'm now on Wellbutrin.

Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.

the procrastination cycle (per Neil Fiore)

I'm going to post interesting tidbits from this book as I read them...

The procrastination cycle: get overwhelmed, feel pressured, fear failure, try harder, work longer, feel resentful, lose motivation, procrastinate.

I don't know about any of you, but this sure describes me!

He notes that the cycle starts with "get overwhelmed", and this leads to his definition of procrastination. Instead of being a product of laziness or poor organization skills, he says:

Procrastination is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision.

The solution, therefore, is to find alternative ways to deal with the anxiety!

I like this perspective on procrastination. I think it's helpful.

Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.

Sounds like it might be

Sounds like it might be worth checking out...

summary by flexiblefine

One of our members, flexiblefine, wrote this summary for his own Web site:


and kindly gave us permission to reproduce it here.

Now Habit Summary - Intro (flexiblefine)



Remember there are two sides to this program, as outlined in the book's subtitle. On the one side, there is "overcoming procrastination," and on the other side, "enjoying guilt-free play." This program can be used by people whose schedules keep them too busy to take a break, as well as people who are avoiding tasks and projects.

Procrastination traps you in a cycle: procrastinate, get overwhelmed, procrastinate some more. Guilt about not doing what you _should_ be doing eventually leaks out into the rest of your life so you can't even enjoy your time off. As the repercussions of procrastination spread through your life, procrastination can even become part of your identity and self-image.

How do you break out of this cycle? The Now Habit program begins with a positive view of the human spirit. "This spirit's inherent motivation and driving curiosity has gotten us out of our caves and into condos, up from the comfort of crawling to the risks of standing and walking." If we can tap into our spirit's "need for meaningful work, for responsibility, and for creativeness," we can break the cycle.

The first step toward breaking the procrastination habit is redefining and re-understanding procrastination. Many of us call ourselves procrastinators, as if procrastination is the problem. Procrastination is not the problem, but a response to "a variety of underlying issues, including low self-esteem, perfectionism, fear of failure and of success, indecisiveness, an imbalance between work and play, ineffective goal-settings, and negative concepts about work and self."

For a new definition, Dr. Fiore suggests "Procrastination is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision." Procrastination isn't a problem, a disorder, or a character flaw -- it's a behavior and a habit, and those can be unlearned.

In our early years, we are often given the message that life and work are supposed to be dull, dreadful, and difficult. We're supposed to put aside our hopes of having fun in order to be productive grownups. To fight procrastination, we're told we need more discipline -- we need to work harder and sacrifice more.

The Now Habit starts at a more basic, internal level -- working to relieve the anxiety attached to tasks and decisions. Without that anxiety -- with "a sense of inner safety and a positive inner dialogue" -- we become more capable of taking risks and starting on things sooner rather than later.

The Now Habit is not a collection of small bits of advice, but "a plan based on the dynamics of procrastination and motivation." In the end, we should all be "able to work virtually free of stress and enjoy your leisure time free of guilt."

The basic tools of the Now Habit program are designed to fight procrastination at its underlying source, relieving anxieties and helping to form new, more productive habits.

-- "Creating safety": To help reduce fear of failure and learn how to bounce back from mistakes easily.

-- "Reprogramming negative attitudes through positive self-talk": To identify the ways we work against ourselves and develop positive alternatives to direct our energy more productively.

-- "Using the symptom to trigger the cure": To use old habits to trigger new behaviors and habits.

-- "Guilt-free play": To schedule leisure time and shift the pressure in ways to create an urge to work.

-- "Three-dimensional thinking and the reverse calendar": To create a step-by-step calendar for achievement including time to rest and appreciate progress.

-- "Making worry work for you": To develop alternate plans for reaching goals and reduce anxiety about things going wrong.

-- "The Unschedule": To create a realistic picture of the time available and provide a way to keep track of time and accomplishments.

-- "Setting realistic goals": To keep focus on worthwhile goals that are achievable now.

-- "Working in the flow state": To help you work at your most productive and creative level.

-- "Controlled setbacks": To prepare for real setbacks, learn to turn them into opportunities, and build persistence in the overall habit.

Dr. Fiore himself has used this system with many clients and organizations to improve performance and enhance self-esteem and confidence. He has also used this program to fight his own procrastination, finding the time to write books and articles while maintaining a commitment to guilt-free play time and training for running half-marathons.

"The Now Habit program for quality work and guilt-free play has worked for me and my clients. It can work for you too!"

Now Habit Summary - Chapter 1 (flexiblefine)


Chapter 1: Why We Procrastinate

Before we can change our behavior, we must identify our procrastination patterns. This points us to the right tools to use so we can change ourselves from procrastinators to producers.

* Warning Signs of Procrastination

1. Does life feel like a long series of obligations that cannot be met?
2. Are you unrealistic about time?
3. Are you vague abour goals and values?
4. Are you unfulfilled, frustrated, depressed?
5. Are you indecisive and afraid of making a mistake?
6. Are low self-esteem and lack of assertiveness holding you back from becoming productive?

If you can relate to most of these, you already know you have a problem. If only a few of these warning signs apply to you, you may be procrastinating in some parts of life but not in others.

Procrastination has real costs in life: Distress at missed deadlines, inferior work, constant anxiety, and deep regrets about missed opportunities.

* A Positive View of the Human Spirit

You do not procrastinate because you are lazy -- we all have areas where we devote ourselves and accomplish much. Sports, hobbies, reading, dancing, taking care of others, gardening -- we may do these things well and often and still call ourselves procrastinators.

If human nature can be so positive and so productive, then why do we procrastinate? We procrastinate to relieve deep inner fears, such as the fear of failure, the fear of being imperfect, and the fear of impossible expectations. These fears keep us from respecting who and what we are _now_.

Procrastination is an attempt to cope with the fear of having our self-worth held up for judgement. When we tie our self-worth to our work, we drive ourselves toward perfectionism, self-criticism, and fear.

* Our Worst Critic: Ourselves

We begin with the story of Clare, a woman who fears she might lose her new job. She feels overmatched, embarrassed, humiliated, anxious... and her procrastination has only been making it worse. She has serious fears that she won't measure up.

"As Clare spoke the words 'mediocre, just average,' a look of disgust crossed her face... at this moment she had become the judge and the critic." For as long as Clare could remember, she had always thought this way -- "you should be the best at everything you try; anything less is failure."

This training began in her early life. Parents may withhold praise "so it won't go to a child's head." This can leave the child feeling as if she isn't good enough -- there is no way to satisfy parents, teachers, and the rest of the world. The child learns that life and work are hard, there is no rest, and things will only get tougher.

"Her early training taught Clare that part of her was lazy and that this part would need discipline, pressure, and threats in order to do all the hard work that awaited her. She learned to take for granted that a judgmental and authoritarian part of her would have to push and threaten a lazy and childlike part."

Clare has learned that acceptance is conditional -- she learned that she could not please her parents and teachers without high performance, and she has internalized that lesson. Clare expects to be judged harshly, but she has not seen that she herself is the authoritarian judge. "Thus Clare learned to talk to herself, not as a loving partner, but as a threatening and parental judge."

* Procrastination is Rewarding

Yes, procrastination gets rewards. For Clare, procrastination lessened her fear of being judged. The more painful work is for us, the more we try to seek relief by procrastinating. Delay can lead to other rewards -- problems may go away, other people may do your postponed work, an item you've been procrastinating about buying may go on sale.

Procrastination is often seen as the problem, rather than a symptom of other problems. This approach often makes matters worse by blaming the procrastinator for choosing such a bad habit. When they see hesitation, supervisors and family members may add encouragement or pressure to get you going -- which only adds to the anxiety. This leads to a nasty cycle:

"Perfectionistic demands -> fear of failure -> PROCRASTINATION -> self-criticism -> anxiety and depression -> loss of confidence -> greater fear of failure -> stronger need to use PROCRASTINATION"

Procrastination does not start the pattern -- perfectionism or overwhelming demands lead to fear, which starts the ball rolling. The Now Habit program works to deal with those demands and those fears in order to overcome procrastination.

We can use procrastination in three main ways: as a way of resisting pressure from authorities, as a way of lessening fear of failure, and as a defense against fear of success. Which of these major reasons may reveal your own procrastination patterns?

-- Procrastination Can Express Resentment

"Pay the bills or go to jail, give up your vacation or lose your job. Procrastination in such situations reflects your resentment at the authority who placed you in this no-win dilemma." As a powerless victim, you can't openly rebel, but procrastination can help you temporarily dethrone this authority.

Larry had grown bitter about the younger people who were being promoted over him. He knew he couldn't express his feelings directly at his manager, and he felt stuck in his job. Larry began to procrastinate, ignoring requests from his manager for reports, or "forgetting" things.

Larry still believed in his ability to do his job well, but he saw that his behavior was confirming the negative opinion his manager had of him. Changing Larry's self-talk and highlighting empowering choices helped change Larry's attitude. Larry and his manager would never be friends, but they didn't have to be enemies.

Larry adopted the attitude that he should help his boss look good, not get in his way. With more positive self-talk and some initiative, Larry let go of his resentment about where he thought he should be in the company, and he is now one of his manager's most trusted employees. Larry no longer feels like a victim.

-- Procrastination Can Defend Against Fear of Failure

Perfectionism and salf-criticism are the chief causes of fear of failure. Perfectionists are more sensitive to to failure because being "average" is tantamount to being a failure. Tying your sense of self-worth to one part of your life leads to stress and procrastination.

Gaining a sense of identity from many areas helps spread your self-worth around and lessen the burden. "A professional tennis player is more likely to be upset by losing a match than is an amateur player for whom tennis is only one of many activities in the week."

"Elaine was raised in a family of intense, high-energy, high achievers." Performance anxiety and procrastination were making her life miserable. She felt as if she were in a fishbowl, with all eyes critically examining her performance.

When Elaine was first asked about her innate sense of self-worth, she was confused. "How can self-worth be innate? Where will it come from if it doesn't come from what I do?" She felt that people less capable than herself deserved respect, but she could not be as generous with herself.

To overcome procrastination, Elaine had to learn to remind herself of her worth and forgive herself for not being perfect when she made mistakes.

-- Procrastination Can Keep You from Facing Your Fear of Success

Fear of success centers of three issues:

1. Conflict over the choice between advancement and friends.
2. Continued success may lead to future disincentives, like moving to a new city or looking for a new job.
3. Success means advancement to positions with even tougher demands.

Procrastination may be an attempt to walk a middle ground between the two choices... but it can lead to resenting both types of behavior. Facing the real effects and benefits of success can help you make decisions quickly.

Reluctance to leave the familiar for the unknown can lead to stagnation. Fear of making a mistake by moving on can be reduced by seeing that there are always other options in case of a mistake, which reduces the risk. Here also, reducing self-criticism in case of a mistake is important.

Delayed Fear of Failure
Procrastination can keep you from succeeding now, so you won't have to face tougher future demands. To overcome procrastination in this case, we need to reduce the pain associated with work, increase rewards of work and play, and take control of reducing tension.

Now Habit Summary - Chapter 2 (flexiblefine)


Chapter 2: How We Procrastinate

Before we can change our behavior to overcome procrastination, we must first identify what we are doing that we want to change. "Once we've identified specific negative behaviors, we can actually use their onset to rechannel our behavior in a more desirable direction."

* Knowing How You Spend Your Time

The first step is easy: Just procrastinate at your normal level for a week.

Yes, really -- but observe your behavior objectively and see where your time is going. What are you doing when you're really productive? What are you doing when you're busy but not producing anything? What are you doing when you're just procrastinating?

"Divide your day into three or four segments to better assess when you are the most and the least productive. Record the time spent on each activity throughout the day." This sort of time log can help you identify when you are at your most productive, so you can rearrange activities to take advantage of those times.

You may find that much of your day is not related to high-priority activities. Don't be surprised by this -- much legitimate work isn't directly productive. Look for areas of improvement, and look for lost time you can control.

You may find that you take a long time to "settle in" before getting started at work. "What would happen to your efficiency if you started on a high-priority project first thing in the morning, rather than reading the mail or making phone calls? ... Use your record to identify the events that precede procrastination or low-priority work. Knowing which events trigger negative habits will help you switch to more productive activities."

* The Procrastination Log

Keeping track of how you spend your time will help you find inefficiencies and lost time. By itself, though, it will not help you find the signals in your work situation that lead you into your procrastination patterns. For that, keep a procrastination log.

A procrastination log links the avoided activity to specific thoughts, justifications, attempted solutions, and resulting thoughts. "Think back to last week. Do you know what you did, how much time was lost, and what you were feeling that led you to procrastinate? Probably not." Keeping a procrastination log provides a system to identify and gain control of time and behavior.

Frank, an insurance salesman, was very productive with the important projects of his life. His hatred of details and correspondence, though, made him feel like a procrastinator. "His desk at home was perennially covered with overdue bills, uncashed checks, and unanswered letters, which frequently would be lost in the pile."

Examining Frank's procrastination log, he discovered that he felt overwhelmed with the work his messy desk represented, and his mind turned toward higher-priority projects. Frank's pile of small tasks had become overwhelming and easily avoided in favor of other, more easily identifiable projects.

"With the Now Habit tools, Frank was able to replace self-criticism... with a commitment to start now on accomplishing one task" at a time and break the big job of organizing his desk into smaller pieces. He also reordered his breaks and rewards to follow short periods of work at his desk.

"This may sound too easy. The fact is that it is easy -- after you've used the procrastination log to identify the attitudes and self-talk that are keeping you from getting started and then replaced them with a focus on one small step." The log is a key to identifying patterns, so we can change them.

Your procrastination log can help you identify which thoughts lead toward delay and self-criticism, and which thoughts lead toward achievement. Breaking things down this way shows you what thoughts and feelings should be targeted to turn you towards production.

You may also see which types of situations make you likely to procrastinate. Detail activities, chores at home, big or difficult projects, or performance tasks may drive you to procrastinate. The log can help you see these patterns.

The log can also reveal the types of thoughts and feelings that lead to procrastination. Doing something you don't want to do, fear of mistakes, or pressure to be perfect can lead you to delay.

"Your procrastination log will alert you to your inner dialogue and how it is helping or hindering your goal achievement. Awareness of your inner dialogue and how it connects to your procrastination patterns will allow you to get the most out of the Now Habit strategy."

* Creating Safety: The First Major Step Out of Procrastination

Imagine a scenario where your task is to walk across a board. The board is 30 feet long, 4 inches thick, and 12 inches wide. You have all the physical and emotional skills to do this, don't you? It's easy!

Now imagine the board is suspended 100 feet above the ground, between two buildings. There is a new set of risks and emotions attached to the task now -- the fear of falling is significant, and that fear keeps you from taking the first step. But it's the same task!

"Ironically, on a psychological level you are often the one who raises the board off the ground by changing a straightforward task into a test of your worth, proof that you are acceptable, a prediction that you will be successful and happy or a failure and miserable."

Imagine a third scenario. The same board is still suspended between the same buildings, and you are still frozen on your end of the board. But suddenly you notice that the building you're standing on... is on fire. Under this new pressure, you find a way to get across the board one way or another. It may not be the quickest or most elegant way to get across, but you'll get there.

"What you procrastinate, it's as if you are the one raising the board off the ground, getting yourself frozen, and then lighting that fire to create the pressure of a real deadline."

First you let the task define your worth or happiness, then you require perfection. You freeze with anxiety, which brings the deadline closer, and eventually the fear of the approaching deadline relieves you of responsibility -- it just has to get done, no matter how.

Again, imagine the board, 100 feet in the air between the buildings. No fire this time, but a safety net -- a strong, supportive net, just below the board. Walking across the board is easy again, isn't it?

Just as you lift that board 100 feet in the air and your procrastination patterns set the building on fire, you need to build safety nets to defuse the situation so you can take action easily. You must be able to recover from mistakes or loss with your sense of self-worth intact.

"The successful person fails many times and bounces back; but the failure fails only once, letting that one failure become a judgment of his worth, and thus his label." Failure and mistakes need not stop you if you have a firm sense of inner worth and drive.

"No book can teach you self-worth. It can only show you how to act as if you have self-worth." True self-worth comes when you learn to talk to yourself in positive ways -- ways that heal the self-alienation you have learned over the years.

Make a guarantee to yourself: "Whatever happens, I will survive. I make myself safe." This feeling of safety removes the threat to your survival, attacking the idea that your self-worth is based on your performance. With this connection broken, the anxiety that leads to procrastination will also go away.

"You're unlearning procrastination by changing how you talk to yourself."

Now Habit Summary - Chapter 3 (flexiblefine)


Chapter 3: How to Talk to Yourself

"The self-talk of procrastinators often unconsciously suggests and reinforces feelings of victimhood, burden, and resistance to authority." Changing self-talk can change attitudes, and those new, better attitudes can be more productive and more appropriate for your place in life.

* Counterproductive Messages

Typical self-talk like "I should do it" or "I have to" reinforces the idea that we don't _want_ to do these things, and we have to be forced to do them. This only highlights our inner conflict and self-alienation. Instead, we can learn new ways to talk and think to ourselves that point the way to things we want to do and choose to do. We can take back the power we have given to the authoritarian voice in our heads.

- The "Have To's" -- Messages of Stress

The "have to" message creates the image of a helpless victim. We tell ourselves we don't want to do it, but we have do. We're being forced to do it against our will, or else something bad will happen. It's a no-win situation: do it and go against ourselves, or don't do it and be punished.
This damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't feeling leaves us stuck, ambivalent and conflicted. We tell ourselves we have no choice, and we resent it.

"Of all the characteristics that separate producers from procrastinators, none is more liberating than the producer's focus on 'choice' and 'choosing.'"
Betty was very competent as an administrator for an insurance company, but she hated doing the annual report. She would procrastinate, lose sleep, complain, and lose sleep. When the annual report was due, there was no freedom or fun for her.

Dr. Fiore gave her an instruction in her first session: "Every 'I have to' needs to be replaced with an adult decision about how you will begin the project or how you will explain to your boss that you will not do it." The next day, she chose to work on a part of the report she hated least, and she asked her boss for help on the more difficult parts. "She also promised herself that if she _chose_ to do this report it would be her last."

She gave herself more options, she stood up for herself, and she no longer feels a need to procrastinate. She is in charge of her own life, and with her new language of choice she copes with work pressures much better.

- The "Should's" -- Messages of Depression

"_Should_ for procrastinators has lost its original meaning: 'I dislike the way things are, and I'm going to do something about it.' Instead it has come to mean 'I'm angry and disappointed about the way things are (that is, different than they should be), and I'm going to complain and feel badly.'"
These "should" messages build up a negative message. "I'm bad. Where I am is bad. Life is bad. My level of progress is bad. Nothing is the way it should be." This message only brings up feelings of burden, victimhood, and failure.

"Have to" and "should" messages are not empowering -- they do not produce pictures of what you choose to do, when you choose to do it, and where you choose to start it.

Paul was an art dealer. He loved art, but he hated the detail of the management side of the business. He always had plenty of "shoulds" to make himself feel bad: "I should've kept better records; I should have started earlier; I should be putting more energy into promotion."

Dr. Fiore worked on interrupting Paul's patterns of depressive self-talk. Missed opportunities are in the past, and there's nothing to do about that -- what can I do now? When is the next time I can start working toward my goals?

"By talking to himself in ways that disrupted his old patterns, Paul became very efficient in diverting self-criticism and depression about the impossible toward something constructive that he could accomplish."

* The Power of Choice

Dr. Fiore tells a story about his first parachute jump, as a member of the 101st Airborne. Many of the soldiers on their first jump were tense, hesitant, or fearful about the task of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane at 150 miles per hour.

"Even though I hadn't totally chosen to be in such a crazy situation and my choices were rotten ones, I knew that I was _not_ going to be kicked out of that plane. 'One way or the other,' I told myself, 'if I'm going to leave this plane, it will be under my own power. I'm going to maximize my chances of a safe exit.' The change in my feelings at that moment was quite dramatic. Stress was replaced with purposeful action; a sense of victimhood was transformed into empowerment."
Changing "have to" into a choice is empowering, and he never forgot that lesson.

- From Resistance to Commitment

Dieters and smokers often change from resistance to commitment when faced with a life-threatening situation or with pregnancy. "When Gina got pregnant, 'Out went cigarettes and junk food. In came breakfast. Her usual lunch of cashews and a Diet Pepsi was replaced by a sandwich and a glass of milk.' She now _wanted_ to eat right. It was her personal commitment, her choice, not simply an externally imposed 'should.'

"You don't have to jump out of airplanes, get sick, or become pregnant to experience this powerful change in perspective." The power of choice can redirect all the energy blocked by resistance and victimhood toward constructive effort.
You don't have to _want_ to do things, or love doing them. You just have to choose to do them and commit to them. "I _am going_ to the store; I _will be_ at the dentist's at 3:00pm; I _am going_ to traffic court this morning." You might as well make your chosen tasks as pleasant as possible.
And when you find yourself losing motivation, look for the hidden "have to" and make a decision. Choose to embrace your path or let it go. It _is_ your choice.

- Learning How to Say No
"Saying no is an important practice for procrastinators. It lessens the likelihood that you'll rush into a task in order to make up for a perceived lack of worth. A direct and maturely stated 'No' clears the air much more quickly than a passive 'Yes, I guess I have to' that you then resent and rebel against by procrastinating."

Saying no means choosing and committing to alternatives. Developing self-statements that encourage these things is a necessary step toward having more possibilities in working on tasks and becoming a producer. The power to commit to doing something comes with the power to say no as well.

* Five Self-Statements that Distinguish Procrastinators from Producers
1. Negative thinking of "I have to."
"I have to" brings a sense of ambivalence and victimization.
-- Replace "I have to" with "I choose to."
2. Negative thinking of "I must finish."
Focus on finishing makes tasks seem even more overwhelming.
-- Replace "I must finish" with "When can I start?"
3. Negative thinking of "This is so big."
Here's some more overwhelming. Rome wasn't built in a day.
-- Replace "This is so big" with "I can take one small step."
4. Negative thinking of "I must be perfect."
Perfectionism only breeds self-criticism.
-- Replace "I must be perfect" with "I can be human."
5. Negative thinking of "I don't have time to play."
This statement creates resentment about work and guilt about play.
-- Replace "I don't have time to play" with "I must take time to play."
"The counterproductive self-statements of the procrastinator join together into 'I have to finish something big and do it perfectly while working hard for long periods of time without play.' What you need to do is to challenge and reprogram that confusing and counterproductive statement with the powerful focus of a producer: 'I choose to start on one small imperfect step knowing I have plenty of time for play.'"
Each time you replace the procrastinator's self-talk with the producer's self-talk, you take a small step toward unlearning procrastination. Repetition strengthens the associations and helps build the new habits of a producer.

Now Habit Summary - Chapter 4 (flexiblefine)


Chapter 4: Guilt-Free Play, Quality Work

"'Putting off living' is the most tragic form of procrastination we can engage in."

The cycle of procrastination keeps us from enjoying both the rewards of accomplishment in our work and the fullness of our play. In order to maintain motivation and lessen the urge to procrastinate, we must be able to play without guilt, to recharge and renew ourselves. Procrastinators and workaholics (of all things) share some attributes and attitudes: - We see ourselves as burdened by work, but undeserving of rest. - We think of our lives as being on hold, but maybe we can enjoy life someday. - We think people are generally lazy and need discipline. (Workaholics respond to negative self-talk by staying constantly busy, while procrastinators are overwhelmed by anxiety.) - We maintain negative attitudes toward work. Peak performers, on the other hand, actually play more than workaholics and feel less guilt about it. They get more done _and_ they play more! *

The Importance of Play "When someone tells you their job really isn't work, they're telling you, 'I don't have to force myself to come to work. I've escaped the confines of the archaic definitions of work, play, and human nature. I have my own sense of purpose that helps me combine work and play. _Work_ is fun for me; not the hard, arduous task my early training in the work ethic told me in would be. And I am energetic and motivated -- not at all lazy, the way I was taught to believe all people are by nature. I don't need anyone to put pressure on me to make me do my work.'"

A firm commitment to guilt-free play can recharge your batteries and restore your motivation. Knowing that a large project will be interrupted by commitments to free time, to friends, and to play will help keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Instead of something being too big to handle, scheduled guilt-free play lets you know that there will be breaks and support along the way. In his first assignment at the UC-Berkeley Counseling Center, Dr. Fiore worked with graduate students that were procrastinating on their doctoral dissertations. What struck him was that those who took the longest to complete their dissertations (up to 19 years!) _suffered_ more. They believed they were always working. They believed that parties, fun, and exercise were on hold until their dissertations were done. They believed that work required deprivation and sacrifice. They felt guilty if they spent time on recreation or with friends. On the other hand, the students who completed their dissertations more quickly were dedicated to their leisure time. They "had to" run, swim, or dance almost daily. They "had to" be with friends several times a week. They used their recreation to "re-create" themselves in a way that kept them motivated and interested in getting back to their work. "They were living now -- not waiting to begin living when their work was completed."

"One of the reasons we procrastinate is out of fear that once we start working there'll be no time for play; work will deprive us of play and the enjoyment of life. ... Making play a priority in your life is part of learning to overcome procrastination." Children do not have motivation problems -- they want to be involved, even in things like sweeping and washing dishes. For the child, it's all play and learning. The loss of guilt-free play in our lives makes life seem more depriving and difficult than it has to be. Guilt-free play can help revive that early excitement about learning and doing. *

The Pull Method of Self-Motivation "When attempting to motivate yourself to start working on a goal, do you use pressure to push yourself toward the goal with threats, or do you use your attraction to the goal to push you forward? Unfortunately, most people use the 'push method' or motivation and are unaware that there are alternatives."

The push method of motivation assumes that people are basically lazy and attempts to work through fear. Instead of provoking movement toward the goal, though, the push method provokes movement away from the fear, like procrastination. The "pull method," on the other hand, assumes that we are naturally inquisitive, and that we will persevere with even the most difficult of tasks if we are rewarded for our efforts.

Distant and indefinite rewards do not produce much motivation -- rewards must be more immediate and definite. "In other words, to control your work habits you must make the periods of work shorter (less painful) and the rewards more frequent and immediate (more pleasurable) -- interlacing short periods of work with breaks and rewards."

The Now Habit approaches the old "work hard, play hard" tradition with a bit of reverse psychology, so it reads "Play hard in order to work more productively." Jeff was a college professor who was stuck. He felt guilty about not making a contribution to his field, and he felt pressure to publish. He wasn't willing to make the commitment to the long hours of solitary work that would be necessary to write.

Dr. Fiore turned the situation around. "Take a rest and do something you really love -- something you've wanted to do for a long time."

Jeff took up acting with a community theater. He auditioned for a play and got a role... and soon found himself committed to 20-30 hours a week for rehearsals and production. By some definitions, Jeff had worked hard -- enough time for a part-time job. But Jeff felt rested and energized because it was a labor of love. He looked forward to it each day. When the play was done, Jeff was unhappy... but he had learned a lesson.

"Jeff began to realize that, having cleared twenty to thirty hours a week from his schedule for two months, with a little commitment he could find plenty of time to write an article. But first he would need to change his thinking about this large, imposing task. Jeff now knew how important it was to have something in his week that he really loved to do to lessen the sense of burden and deprivation from working on his research project. He changed the task in his mind from being an all-consuming one -- requiring all his spare time -- to being one that he would work on part-time, ten to twenty hours a week."

With this new attitude about the task, Jeff set aside time for exercise and friends and still found the time to work on writing. His own natural interest in the topic carried him through to completion. After a few months, he had his first article ready, and it was eventually accepted for publication. * From Guilt-Free Play to Quality Work "Enjoying guilt-free play is part of a cycle that will lead you to higher levels of quality, creative work." Guilt-free play give you a feeling of freedom about your life that enables you to settle in for a short period of quality work. Doing the work improves your feelings of self-control and confidence and improves your ability to enjoy guilt-free play.

The feeling that you have earned time away from work help you relax, enjoy your play, and rest so you can do more quality work. Recreation can even become the source of great ideas and creative solutions. An emphasis on the importance of play is not meant to deny the need and importance of work. Rather, we want to change our view of work.

"The type of work and commitment that is more compatible with the Now Habit is a _commitment to a mission_ that focuses your energies and brings about an inner harmony, a commitment that comes from a pull _toward_ a goal and an excitement about getting there."

Now Habit Summary - Chapter 5 (flexiblefine)


Chapter 5: Overcoming Blocks to Action

If you've ever suffered pain from harsh criticism, or if you've been humiliated by not being able to solve a problem others found easy, you may have developed a phobic response to some kinds of work. To cope with these blocks to action, you need alternatives to procrastination's addictive and counterproductive behaviors.

"By using the tools provided in this chapter -- three-dimensional thinking, the work of worrying, and persistent starting -- and by providing yourself with a safety net and positive self-talk, you can approach feared tasks in small, do-able steps." And each time you choose action over procrastination, you will be helping yourself to unlearn your old habits.

* Three Major Blocks "The three major fears that block action and create procrastination are the terror of being overwhelmed, the fear of failure, and the fear of finishing. These three blocks usually interact with each other and escalate any initial fears and stresses. Overcoming any one of the three quickens the destruction of the remaining blocks because you build confidence as you face and live through any fear." To overcome these three fears, the Now Habit uses three methods: - against the fear of being overwhelmed: three-dimensional thinking and the reverse calendar - against the fear of failure: the work of worrying - against the fear of finishing: persistent starting

Tool #1: Three-Dimensional Thinking

Often, when we consider any large task or project, we create a "two-dimensional" picture of the work, telescoping all the stages of the project together as if we have to work on it all simultaneously. This clearly leads to a feeling of being overwhelmed and anxious. Applying three-dimensional thinking, you should be able to see that there are multiple adequate starting points on the project -- your path through the work is not set in stone from any particular starting point, and you can switch to work on other parts as progress develops.

You do not have to be supremely competent at all the necessary work in order to complete the project, because there is time to learn and develop the needed competencies and skills as the project continues. And you should see that the project is not an all-or-nothing thing -- making the transition between the start and your picture of an ideal finish is not a single step.

The Reverse Calendar When you take the three-dimensional view, you see the project as a whole and direct your effort toward breaking the project into smaller, more manageable parts. When you do this, you also diffuse the effort, energy, and anxiety attached to the project.

"Now, instead of facing a large, looming, impossible task, you're facing only small units that you can see yourself accomplishing." This is the reverse calendar -- taking these smaller parts and setting smaller deadlines, under your control. Setting those deadlines gives you some control over your work and allows you to create breathing room between each step. Smaller pieces lead to less stress and anxiety, and allow you to focus your abilities on those pieces, not on the whole project at once.

"The reverse calendar starts with the ultimate deadline for your project and then moves back, step by step, to the present where you can focus your energy on starting. ... You'll want a reverse calendar to see what you can tackle right now, what you can delegate, and when you'll have a chance to catch your breath." Instead of facing a single imposed deadline, you now have control of all the individual milestones on the way to completing your project. And if you have multiple projects organized this way, you can see in advance where you may have scheduling difficulties.

Tool #2: The Work of Worrying

Worrying can be useful. Yes, really. Most counterproductive worrying, however, is like screaming "Danger!" without coming up with any ideas of what to do to escape the threat. "You've left out the positive 'work of worrying' -- developing an action plan." Procrastination stalls action and piles up more worries -- it is not an effective way of dealing with the worrying in the first place.

"Breaking through this block to action requires that you go beyond just scaring yourself with images of potential catastrophes. You want to do the work of worrying to direct the energy of worry and panic into plans to remove the threat."

Judith grew up in a family where individual progess was rarely praised unless it compared well with what others were doing. She was pressured to be the _best_, no matter what she was trying to do. Now, in an insurance company, it did not surprise her to find that her boss was similarly scarce with praise. From his point of view, her motivation should come from her salary, along with the pressure and threats he supplied. Her constant fear of being criticized or fired led to procrastination.

Judith was not a poor worker, but the pressure and her fear of failure began to block her ability to work. Procrastination became a way to express to escape her job and express her resentment. Judith began to consider "what if the worst happened." What if she were fired? She relalized thet even though it would be embarrassing, she could face it -- and in some ways it would be a relief.

"Having faced the worst that could happen -- being fired -- Judith had prepared herself with safety nets of compassionate self-talk and concrete alternatives that would help her cope while looking for a new job."

The work of worrying involves six steps that face fears and create safety.
1. What is the worst that could happen?
2. What would I do if the worst really happened?
3. How would I lessen the pain and get on with as much happiness as possible if the worst did occur?
4. What alternatives would I have?
5. What can I do now to lessen the probability of this dreaded event occuring?
6. Is there anything I can do now to increase my chances of achieving my goal? "By using the work of worrying, creating safety, and using the language of the producer, you are establishing skills for maintaining genuine self-confidence. ...

True confidence is the ability to say, 'I am prepared for the worst, now I can focus on the work that will lead to the best.'"

* Tool #3: Persistent Starting

Many procrastinators can get started, but their feelings and attitudes can still create blocks to finishing. Procrastination on finishing takes more effort than actually finishing, and it lacks the satisfaction of getting something completed and making room for new opportunities.

Laura was a strong starter in every aspect of her life, but she was having trouble finishing a research project that would complete her master's degree. Her eventual attitude change was brought home by her commitment to guilt-free play -- her commitment to training for a marathon. She prepared for months to run her first marathon, but she had never learned how to complete the last six to eight miles, when most people "hit the wall."

Deep into her marathon, after nineteen miles of running, she felt the pain of her body screaming for nutrients -- she had hit her wall. "But before she could think about quitting, she found herself saying something that later helped her get beyond procrastination and on to finishing her research project: 'I'm in pain. It hurts to run and it hurts to just stand here. It hurts to walk and it would hurt to lie down. Regardless of what I do, it hurts, so I might as well run and get it over with as soon as possible.'

" Procrastinating on finishing requires work, and finishing requires work -- there is no escape from some sort of work. Why not take on the work that will reap benefits? Laura identified her tendency to give up just as her efforts neared completion -- the time when she would be judged. She was able to link this tendency to her negative self-statements and challenge them, directing her efforts toward finishing. Learn to anticipate negative self-statements like these:

"I need to do more preparation before I can start." "At this rate I'll never finish." "I should have started earlier." "There's only more work after this." "I'm trying, but tt's not working." "I only need a little more time."

- Keep On Starting

All large tasks are essentially completed in a series of starts. Use your recognition of negative self-talk and your strategies to overcome the blocks to action to conquer your fears of being overwhelmed, of failure, and of finishing.

"Keep on starting, and finishing will take care of itself."

Now Habit Summary - Chapter 6 (flexiblefine)


Chapter 6: The Unschedule

We have to face it -- none of us can look forward to a life of complete play. We all have to work sometime, and procrastinating only makes us more anxious about working. At some point, we have to admit that the only thing that really helps reduce our anxiety about work is to start working. But work means deprivation, insecurity, pain, pressure, and all those other things that push us to procrastinate. But there is a method that can help us face our fears, tolerate our imperfections, and get some quality work done so we really can enjoy our leisure time. That method is the Unschedule.

"The Unschedule asks you to aim at starting for just thirty minutes. That's right. By committing no more than thirty minutes to work each day, you can begin a program that turns you from a procrastinator to a producer." By starting, we see that it is only work, and not all the worry and anxiety that we have dreaded.

* Even Producers Need a System When Dr. Fiore was in graduate school in couseling and psychology, he found that he and his fellow students would "agoniz[e] for days over papers that would eventually take less than two hours to write." These students of human behavior acted like they had no idea how to control their _own_ behavior. So Dr. Fiore went looking for a system that really worked.

"I discovered that B.F. Skinner, the founder of modern behaviorism, had a time clock connected to his chair. Whenever he sat down to work, he 'punched in.' Whenever he left his chair the clock stopped, ad if he were 'punching out.' This very prolific writer used a time clock! He maintained flow charts that amounted to giving himself a gold star every time he completed a small amount of work! This amazed me. I said to myself, 'If B.F. Skinner has to use a system, then so do I.'" And so he began to develop the Unschedule.

With this new tool, he found himself being more productive. He finished his dissertation in a year, while working a part-time job. With the Unschedule, he knew how he spent his time, and how he still had time for his guilt-free play.

"The Unschedule is a weekly calendar of committed recreational activities that divides the week into manageable pieces with breaks, meals, scheduled socializing, and play, plus a record of periods of productive work completed. It provides producers with a prescheduled commitment to guilt-free time for recreation and socializing, plus a relistic look at the actual time available for work."

Starting with a scheduled list of non-work activities shows just how little time there is left for work -- and committing to only 30 minutes at a time keeps work from being intimidating, while still being enough to make progress and earn a reward.

The Unschedule starts with guaranteed play, which defuses the procrastinator's fear of a life without fun and freedom. Recording work in small increments gives frequent rewards, instead of waiting until tasks are completed.

And finally, the habit of recording the time spent working builds confidence by showing how much actual, uninterrupted time was spent on work each week.

* Reverse Psychology

The Unschedule turns one of the main causes of procrastination -- the resistance to imposed structure -- against itself. The Unschedule helps you put more time into leisure and more quality into your work.

"By requiring you to schedule and stick to recreational time, and to limit your work activity at first to predermined periods of thirty minutes, _the Unschedule builds up an unconscious desire to work more and play less_."

Alan was a graduate student in his late twenties who was procrastinating on his dissertation. Dr. Fiore presented him with a novel idea: he didn't have to do the work. "There are plenty of people in the world without a Ph.D. after their names who are wonderfully happy and successful. You don't have to do it." Dr. Fiore agreed to work with Alan, but only under a certain set of conditions. Alan would promise to _not_ work more than 20 hours a week on his dissertation, and not more than 5 hours a day. Alan was surprised -- he hadn't done 5 hours of quality work in a _week_ in years, and Dr. Fiore was making him promise to do less than 5 hours a day? "This created a surprising reversal of pressures."

Alan had been rebelling against authority by not working -- now, to rebel against this new authority, he would have to _work_. The next week, Alan showed off an Unschedule with 18 hours of quality work -- more work than he had done in years. Several weeks later, his defiance rose to the point where his Unschedule showed _22_ hours of work, and _6_ hours in one day. *

How to Use the Unschedule

1. Schedule only non-work activities. This will remove the misconception that you have 24 hours a day to get anything done and give you a clearer picture of how much time you really do have.

2. Fill in time spent on work projects _only_ after you have spent at least 30 minutes. Think of the Unschedule as a way to keep focus on work actually done, not how much is left to do.

3. Take credit only for uninterrupted work periods. This builds confidence and pride in real achievements.

4. Reward yourself after each work period. You got started -- and rewarding yourself for starting helps build momentum to start again, which is a cornerstone of the Now Habit.

5. Keep track of the amount of quality time worked each day and week. Focus on what you _did_ accomplish.

6. Always leave at least one full day each week for _no_ work. Do not let yourself burn out -- take time now to enjoy life, and to deal with low-priority things.

7. Before going to a recreational activity or a social event, take 30 minutes to work. This helps motivate you by tying the work to the pleasurable activity that comes after.

8. Focus on starting. Don't worry about finishing -- think about the next time you can start on your work.

9. Think small. Don't try to finish the whole project or work for a long time -- aim for thirty minutes of uninterrupted, quality work.

10. "Keep starting. Finishing will take care of itself." Even the last 30 minutes of work on your project must be started.

11. Never stop work at the end of a section or when you're stuck. Never take a break when you're ready to give up -- stick with it a little longer, so you can at least some up with a partial solution or a new approach. Start with a blank, 24-hour schedule for the week. There is one in the book, or you can make your own -- look around at for the Calendar Pack, which includes a good set of forms. A 24-hour schedule helps you account for _all_ your time, including eating and sleeping, and you can use it for night shifts or other unusual work habits.

Color-coding your activities can help you find patterns in your Unschedule, so you can find days that are dominated by one kind of activity and work to get more balance there. After a few weeks of working with the Unschedule, you should be able to recognize other patterns -- which days and times do you work best, and when should you start earlier on work? (See pages 126-129 in the book for detailed examples.)

* Adjusting Your Unschedule
When people begin to use the Unschedule, they soon come to some common discoveries. - "You're probably busier than you thought." - "Certain days are less productive than others." - "Other days are so busy that you need to lower your expectations about getting started on a big project." - "Even a half-hour of work on your project is enough to maintain momentum and avoid the extra burden of having to overcome inertia tomorrow."

Don't get out of the habit of scheduling your non-work activities -- keeping these in front of you keeps you on track for your guilt-free leisure activities. These are legitimate commitments, and should not be ignored. There are lots of other ways to change the Unschedule to fit your situation.

Start your week on an odd day, or choose a specific time for your first half-hour of work. "The real key to forming your own Now Habit is to adapt its strategies and tools so they fit your personal style."

The Unschedule provides benefits to help you enjoy your guilt-free play and move along the path to becoming a producer.

1. "Realistic timekeeping." By recording all your non-work commitments first, you get a clear picture of how much time you really have to do your work.

2. "Thirty minutes of quality time." By aiming to _start_ rather than finish, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed.

3. "Experiencing success." Recording time spent working reminds you of the progess you have made, rather than how much work remains.

4. "Self-imposed deadlines." Your new deadlines are now when you will be rewarded for making progress, not when you are judged on your work -- and you control the deadlines.

5. "Newfound 'free time.'" When one of your scheduled non-work activities is cancelled, you now have free time to work. The benefits of reverse psychology help you feel motivated to get something done with the unexpected time.

Now Habit Summary - Chapter 7 (flexiblefine)


Chapter 7: Working in the Flow State

Being in a creative state of mind can help reduce the burden of work, and so can help reduce the fear and anxiety that trigger procrastination. We all experience different shifts of consciousness and states of mind during the day, but what if we could cause ourselves to work in our most productive, creative, stress-free state whenever we wished?

"You can learn methods to reach this state and thus work at genius or near-genius level. This technique, which I call 'working in the flow state,' will teach you to more readily shift levels of consciousness and brain function so that you can work with greater energy, enthusiasm, and efficiency."

"Characteristics of the flow state include calm, focused energy; time expansion; delight at new ideas; ease of avoiding or solving problems; and enhanced concentration.... Peak performers in sports, music, medicine, and business have these experiences when they are fully absorbed with almost effortless attention in a challenging task."

This is the same flow state described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his famous book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience."

I haven't read the book... and I can't believe I spelled his name right. :)

* Using More of Your Brain Is your critical mind getting in the way of your creative side? Do you hear yourself saying: - "But is this the right direction?" - "Will it be good enough?" - "What if the boss/teacher/audience isn't happy with it?" - "Can I do it?" - "I have to finish soon." - "When will I ever learn to start earlier?" - "There's so much to do."

This critical, left-brain function must be temporarily suspended to leave your creative right-brain abilities free to work at their best. Let the right brain run free for a while, and then you can use your left brain to organize and evaluate the ideas the right brain generated for you.

"Trying to cram all the emotion and experience of a spontaneous creative idea into a linear form is one of the major causes of 'creative blocks' and procrastination. That's why it's important to know how to use more of your brain and how to shift into the flow state."

* It's Only Your First Draft No great work springs fully formed from the brow of genius. Even the most gifted writers and artists struggle with early drafts and sketches before returning to them and polishing them into a more finished form.

Generating these unorganized, seemingly random ideas is important to the _process_ of developing and creating the finished product. By seeing and understanding this, we can accept it and move more quickly into using our own creative side to get us started and defuse the thoughts that lead us to procrastinate.

* Learning to Focus "_Focusing_ is a two-minute procedure for shifting rapidliy to the flow state by replacing guilt and stress with a stress-free focus on the present." Deep relaxation helps performance, for ordinary people like you and me and for Olympic athletes.

The focusing exercise is just two minutes long, so you can use it during your day to help get you back on the right path to relaxation and creativity. Using this exercise at your desk will associate relaxation with your work, and it will help lead you past pressure and worry and into the flow state.

"This focusing exercise also serves as a good example of the reassuring, present-focused self-talk of the producer."

* Focusing Exercise I'm not sure how best to summarize this. It's a relaxation (maybe self-hypnosis) exercise, so it's fairly detailed about what to think about. Here's my attempt at a short version... Sit upright in your chair, feet flat on the floor, hands on thighs. Breathe deeply and slowly, letting go of tension and drifting to a different level of mind. Focus on different parts of your body, releasing muscle tension and letting the chair support you. Keep breathing and exhaling tension as you go. Notice that your eyelids are becoming heavy. As you let your eyes drift closed, allow relaxation to flow over your whole body. - Let go of the past.

"With your next three slow, deep breaths, tell yourself to let go of all thoughts and images about work from the past." Let go of it all... - Let go of the future.

"And with your next three slow, deep breaths, let go of what you anticipate happening in the 'future' -- a constructed concept of a time that really doesn't exist." - Centering in the present.

"With your next three slow, deep breaths, notice -- just notice -- that it really doesn't take much energy to just _be_ in the present." Now you can find yourself at a deep level of relaxation where you can give yourself any positive suggestion you wish. "With your next three slow, deep breaths, you can begin to link the power of the right and left hemispheres of your brina, reaching the flow state under your conscious control." Here, Dr. Fiore offers specific conclusions to deal with specific issues. One is for starting and getting focused on work, one is for getting unstuck, and one is for relieving fear in social situations.

* Relaxation Exercise This exercise is 12 to 15 minutes long, and is a good preparation for the focusing exercise. Again, this summary may be terribly inadequate. Much like the focusing exercise, we begin seated in a chair, relaxing through slow, deep breaths.

The text Dr. Fiore gives to repeat to yourself in this relaxed state focuses on feeling quiet, calm, and comfortable, to reach deep relaxation, ease, and serenity.

* Incorporating Flow States into Your Program "The flow state provides a magical bridge from anxiety into tranquillity and safety by teaching you how to rapidly shift your brain's survival functions to its creative functions. You know how to give yourself clear, resolute statements such as 'I will be at my desk at 3:00 p.m. for thirty quality minutes, with great curiosity and interest'....
"These statements combine the three elements of effective work imagery (when, where, and on what you will start) and imply _choice_, _safety_, and _starting_.

"The fourth step necessary to complete the process and tap into the power of working in the flow state is one we discussed earlier in this chapter -- _focusing_.

" Relaxation and focusing give you the opportunity to take a breather, recharge, and evaluate your progress. It give you time to push aside fears and worries and remind yourself that things don't all have to be done at once. By linking these periods of calm with periods of quality work, you can control your anxiety, deal with setbacks, and become a producer

Now Habit Summary - Chapter 8 (flexiblefine)


Chapter 8: Fine-Tuning Your Progress

"Any program of habit change, if it is to continue working for you over time, needs to be fine-tuned and tailored to fit you. It must prepare you to cope with setbacks and give you the tools to quickly turn them into _opportunities_ that further, instead of delay, your progress. Each of us faces diificult times during which we are more apt to turn to procrastination as a familiar crutch."

* Planned Setbacks

To test your new habits, you may want to _plan_ a setback in order to rehearse your new reactions. Try it -- choose a project, notice the warning signs of procrastination, _choose_ to procrastinate for a while, pay attention to your self-talk, and notice how it leads to guilt and depression while keeping you from getting things done.

Now use your setback as a chance to reinforce the Now Habit techniques. Notice how the producer's self-talk leads to feelings of empowerment, use the Unschedule to focus on starting and progress, and use the focusing exercise to unleash your creative self.

* Resilience and Hardiness

"'Planned setbacks' allow you to build resilience (the ability to bounce back) and hardiness (the ability to withstand and avoid pitfalls) into the start, the middle, and the completion of your projects."

- Resilience

Don't look as a setback as a failure and consider yourself done. Instead, remember that you can direct your energies to finding a solution. A mistake is not the end of the world, and you can try again. Avoid self-criticism and let go of the "why me" response.

"What distinguishes a champion from others of comparable ability is the learned skill of bouncing back from disappointing performances." You must learn and remember to forgive yourself for errors, maintain your sense of self-worth and safety, and keep moving forward.

The Now Habit give you the tools to break "the familiar cycle of resentment, resistance, fear, and perfectionism that leads to procrastination." Remembering to use those tools can keep you from falling into old habits and procrastinating again.

- Hardiness

"Suzanne Kobasa, a professor at City University of New York, has identified what she calls 'hardiness,' a constellation of three personality characteristics -- commitment, control, and challenge.... Hardy execuitves have an overall life plan, flexible goals, and the ability to _turn stressful events into opportunities_ that mitigate for them the disruption caused by any single stressful event."

Don't think so much about finishing, but think instead about the process and the things you _can_ do. In work with marathon runners, Dr. Fiore has seen that runners let go of the goal of finishing the race and focus on staying _in_ the race, even if they have to slow down. Continuing to make progress in spite of all the times they think they can't do it keeps them moving until they reach the finish line.

* Concentration: Controlling Distractions

Our minds are always working. "The point is that you cannot _not_ concentrate. Thus, the problem is not that you _can't_ concentrate, but that your attention is drawn to something you'd rather not be conentrating on or worrying about, such as your boss's potential criticism or how badly you'd like to be finished."

There are at least five types of distractions:

1. Strong emotions. To deal with this distraction, spend a little time thinking about what you can do to cope with the situation or change it Where can you get help? When you have some plan to cope with your emotions, you are more ready to move on and concentrate on work.

2. Warnings of danger. In this case, remember that you always have alternative ways of dealing with even the worst that could happen. You can remove the feelings of danger by reminding yourself of your worth and your innate sense of safety.

3. "To-Do" reminders. Write these down, so you don't have to worry about remembering or forgetting them. Depending on the distraction, you may be able to use it as a reward after a period of quiality work.

4. Escape fantasies. Would you rather be relaxing on a beach instead of working? Remember the Unschedule, and make sure you have guilt-free play scheduled to drive away the feeling that work means deprivation.

5. "UFOs -- Unidentified Flights of Originality." Again, write down these original, creative thoughts for safekeeping and come back to them later, for more examination.

* Mental Rehearsal and Reprogramming

In earlier chapters, we saw how visualization could be used to cope with anxiety and maintain safety and survival by doing the work of worrying. You can also use imagery to rehearse optimal performance on other tasks. These rehearsals can help you push aside distractions and focus on the task at hand.

Visualize yourself getting started at a given time, finding your materials, and working productively. See yourself solving problems and making progress. Then, when you are in the setting you have visualized, you have preprogrammed yourself for better performance and productivity.

* Effective Goal Setting

"How you set your goals strongly influences your ability to recommit to them and bounce back after a setback. A final set of steps is appropriate, therefore, to ensure effective goal setitng that lessens eproblems with procrastination and enhances the ease with which you work and persevere along the path to achievement."

Do not set too many goals. We all have a limited amount of time and energy, so we must prioritize and admit that sometimes we must take time to make progress on one goal at the expense of others. "One of the best-kept secrets of successful producers is their ability to let go of goals that cannot be achieved or started in the near future."

You are the master of your goals. Don't let them become vehicles for self-criticism or procrastination. You know which onoes to pursue now, which ones to pursue later, and which ones to let go of.

* Avoiding Setbacks

The journey toward any goal includes the potential for setbacks and unforeseen events. To deal with them, remember these steps.

- "Recognize the work of procrastinating." Procrastination is work too -- but it doesn't lead anywhere.

- "Freely choose the entire goal." Remember that _choosing_ makes a huge difference in the way you feel about the task. Make the choice, feel the power, and discover a new experience.

- "Create functional, observable goals." Functional goals are measurable, and this helps them break down into smaller pieces and sub-goals that help you identify what to do to stay on track.

* A Last Word

The techniques presented in this book are not a one-size-fits-all solution for procrastination. Experiment and find out what works for you and what changes can make them fit your personal situation better. Stay open to change, and remember that you have these tools to help you replace the old habits of procrastination.

Overcoming procrastination is a goal, and you should be committed to it. Statements like "I'll try" reveal a testing attitude, rather than a commitment. "It's not working" is a defeatist statement that leads back to procrastination. Instead, think "How can I make this work for me?" Use your commitment and drive to adapt the Now Habit methods to your own unique life and "get in touch with your own abilities, motivation, and inner genius."

Now Habit Summary - Chapter 9 (flexiblefine)


Chapter 9: The Procrastinator in Your Life

All of us must deal with procrastinators -- in life, in work, in anything. If we do not understand the causes and patterns of procrastination, we run the risk of reinforcing those causes and patterns.

* Managing People who Procrastinate

To effectively manage procratinators, you must help lead them toward the things that help -- choice, safety, and acknowledgement for what they do. Avoid the critical talk that procrastinators are so familiar with.

Remember that the self-talk of the procrastinator is much like "I _have to finish_ something _important_ and do it _perfectly_ while enduring long periods of _isolation_ from the people and things I love." Managers should be aware of this and avoid making similar statements themselves.

"The abililty to communicate in the language, images, and emotions that evoke understanding, inspiration, and direction in the governed is the hallmark of effective leadership. The effective manager, coach, or leader can empathize with the various learning styles and emotional perspectives of the governed."

To work with procrastinators, remember the three things that are at the root of most procrastination:
- Feelings of victimhood. Seek commitment, rather than compliance.
- Feeling overwhelmed. Focus on manageable objectives.
- Fear of failure. Praise steps taken in the right direction.

* Commitment vs. Compliance

Demands for compliance include statements like:
- "You'd better have it finished by noon."
- "You have to get here on time, or else.
- "You should do it exactly as I showed you."
- "I'm in charge, so just do as your told."

These messages reinforce the feelings of victimhood and powerlessness that lead to procrastination. Giving employees ways to express their power and have control over their work is a more motivating and more productive way to manage.

Invitations for commitment include statements like:
- "What can you get to me in rough form by noon?"
- "I've placed you in a responsible position, and I'm depending on you to be here at nine o'clock."
- We need to be able to trust each other's work, so I need you to follow the guidelines precisely. Let me know if you have any problems with them."
- "I have responsibility for this unit, but there are things I don't see -- blind spots in my way of working -- so I need your help in keeping me informed if I miss some things."

* Focusing on Starting vs. Finishing

An emphasis on finishing leads to statements like:
- "When will you finish this project?"
- "You've got to complete this by Friday."
- "There's a lot to get done."
- "Remember, that deadline is only two months away."

Statements like these only help the procrastinator feel more overwhelmed. They also focus on the goal instead of on a starting point. Good managers understand that getting started can be half the battle, and so they help to pick a piece and get started.

To be clear about where to start, try:
- "When can you start on a very rough draft?"
- "I need this by next Friday. Plan to have a rough sketch to me in time for our meeting on Tuesday at ten o'clock so we can go over it together."
- "Would you draw up a rough agenda of the necessary steps for closing the Jones account, and have it for me by three o'clock? Then we can set a realistic time frame for its completion."
- "If we're going to meet that deadline of two months on the Smith case, I'll need to see at least an outline by Friday. Do you need someone to take over your responsibilities while you get started?"

These questions help to focus on defined starting points, while giving the chance to make sure the task has been understood.

* Getting Results or Giving Criticism

Criticism leads to statements like:
- "You can't do it right, what's wrong with you?"
- "This report is totally off the point. You'll never get it done this way."
- "That's just like you, you're always late."
- "You really screwed up this time."

Personal attacks and broad criticism do not point the way toward any improvement. Managers are not responsible for employees' insecurities, but people learn faster in environments where praise is abundant and criticism is constructive and focused.

Praise can sound like:
- "I really liked what you did with the Jones account."
- "The write-up was clear and concise."
- "You maintained good follow-through on the phone with Mr. Jones."
- "You did a good job handling the customer service problems."

Does someone need improvement? Try something like:
- "I really liked what you did with the Jones account. And I think you can achieve even better results -- and avoid some tension on your next project -- if you follow the usual deadlines for informing the central office."
- "Your write-up was terrific. It was clear, concise, and on target. With some minor work on the last section, it will be excellent."
- "You maintained good follow-through on the phone with Mr. Jones. And I'd like you to really cement that contact by a personal visit to his plant. Next time when you're assigned a new account, set up a site visit as soon as possible."
- "You did a good job handling the customer service problems, and I'd like to see if more can be done to prevent those complaints."

The point of combining praise with constructive recommendations is to identify which actions are correct and which need some improvement, without causing extra stress. When recognition comes first, it relieves the fear of failure that comes with mistakes.

Here are some more guidelines to help managers avoid actions that contribute to procrastination.

-- State Your Priorities Clearly: Let your staff know which work is priority work, and stick to those priorities. Reduce the use of emergencies. When real emergencies arise, distribute them among your employees and give them relief from their other assignments.

-- Be Decisive: When you make decisions, stick with them. Making employees repeat work only wastes effort and encourages procrastination. If you aren't sure which work should be done, involve your staff in your decision making process. Let them help draft plans, to help choose the best option.

-- Be Fair and Frequent in Your Rewards: Even small acknowledgements help people feel motivated. Break projects down into smaller subgoals and tasks to keep achievement flowing and provide changes to offer rewards and direction. Use scheduled meetings to reward progress and offer constructive feedback.

-- Give Constructive Feedback: Keep feedback focused on what needs to be done to make corrections, achieve the goal, and prevent future errors. Goals and communication are team efforts, and failures are shared as well.

* Living with a Procrastinator

Procrastination can lead to relationship problems. No one wants to be nagged, and no one wants to be pushed into the position of nagging. Adding pressure by nagging does not help the underlying causes of procrastination.

Using three-dimensional thinking and the reverse calendar can help set realistic goals and timelines which give the procrastinator an image of what needs to be done.

"Blaming the procrastinator is both ineffective and inappropriate." Instead, confess to being a little neurotic about being on time -- you're human, you're imperfect, and you want control so much that you use a reverse calendar approach to getting things done on time. "'I'm not as good as you are with all the excitement of last-minute preparations,' you might add. Now that you've gotten their attention, you can honestly ask for their understanding and cooperation in helping you keep your anxiety under control."

Become more interested in results than in control. Avoid blame and the nagging trap, learn to respect the other's values while making your needs known, and use the Now Habit strategies as a model for communication. Even if the procrastinators in your life never read the book, you can "model for them the quality work and guilt-free play of the producer."

Now Habit Summary

[[I deleted Teri's post of flexiblefine's summary because it was too much for one message. I'm reposting it in smaller chunks. -pro]]

Yes, the whole thing

Yes, that looks like my whole summary. Pro, would you prefer to have that posted somewhere as individual files by chapter or something?


flexible fine's summary

It's okay with me if it's posted like this. I just wanted to make sure the author (that would be you, right?) was giving permission for us to post it here.

Too much at once

I think it's overwhelming all in one lump like that - if I hadn't already read it in sections on The Now Habit Yahoo Group I don't think I'd have bothered reading it.

I don't know if this Drupal thing allows it, but maybe a Links section would be worth having? If not, or if it's too much hassle, maybe we could just have a post in the Articles section with hotlinks.

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links section

I'll put that on the list of things to add to the site. I don't dare do it now. If I don't get some work done today, it will be three days in a row of total procrastination.

Thanks Pro

The Summary's much easier to read now - thanks for the input.

I put a basic Links thread in the Q,A,&I section which should do the trick for the other bit, but feel free to move it around at a later date if you want to pretty it up.

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your info

If I post this somewhere in the future, how do you want credit?

Would it be ok to note this under the title or somewhere?

I need to figure it out

I need to figure out how I want to be credited, actually. When I wrote those summaries, it was for the Yahoo Group, and I wasn't thinking about later redistribution.

As I've explained to pro, the summaries are entirely on-topic for this site, so I'm happy for them to be posted here.

I'll have to work out a link/disclaimer block to put into those files, to make sure that they're my summary of someone else's work.


"The Now Habit" summary

flexiblefine - did you see how I organized and credited the summary on this site? Are you okay with this?

sorry and thanks

Flexifine - I just saw this reply.
Sorry I didn't get your permission and thanks for allowing it to stay here :)
I enjoy your forum. I haven't visited it much lately though :)

Great summary BTW. I have it in my school notebook and review it often ;)

not copyrighted material, right?

flexiblefine - are you the person who wrote this? I just want to make sure you aren't quoting from someone else's copyrighted material. If you are, unfortunately I will have to delete it. Please let me know.

good point

Pro - i got this summary from a forum - probably flexifin's. I was hoping it's all legit. I'm not too savvy on copyrights - but please inform me if I've made an error here?
I plan on publishing someday for my thesis, so I need to know the rules anyway :)

TL - please send me the URL

Please post the URL for where you got it so I can take a look.

here you go

It's in individual files for ea chapter. I copied ea chapter in one word.doc.

will this work? Flexifine will be able to help more.

If I wasn't so passive aggressive - I'd learn more about writing codes, or whatever I need here. I just call my tech support :)

looks like flexiblefine wrote it

It looks like flexiblefine wrote it. He (she?) will have to say whether it's okay to repost here.

I haven't caught up on all posts yet. Did flexiblefine see your post and say it was okay to post here? If so, could you give me the link to the okay?

flexiblefine spent a lot of time creating those summaries, and might prefer that they be used as a draw to his own Web site, not this one. In the US, anything you write is automatically copyrighted, so it's flexiblefine's right to say whether or not we can post it here.

I'm sensitive to copyright violaton - partly because I don't want to be legally vulnerable (I'm broke enough already!), and partly because I'm a writer and want people to respect my own copyrights.

I was a little surprised...

...but I'm okay with the summaries being reproduced here. After all, I wrote them to help procrastinators.

It might be better to post them separately somewhere here on the site, instead of as a comment in this forum thread. Pro, I'll send you an e-mail so we can discuss how we want to handle it.

(Oh, and I'm a "he".:))


thanks, flexiblefine

I'll break it up into chapter chunks, put your Web site on each page as the source, and say it was reproduced with permission.

Teri - please do make sure that you get flexiblefine's explicit permission before you repost this anywhere else. Copyrights matter. It's important to respect the rights of the person who did the work - not just for legal reasons (though there's that, too), but because it's the right thing to do.

Now Habit

There's another thread here somewhere about this book. Flexiblefine has found it really helpful and has included a link to his (maybe 'her' but I think 'his') Yahoo group (including summaries). I've tried it a couple of times (first time in 2001, and again recently after getting encouragement here), but haven't got much out of it.

One of the problems for me is that it seems to me that the exercises in it don't take account of the fact that the people doing them are ~procrastinators~! Make it too fiddly, difficult, whatever and we won't do them. I also think there's a lot of talk and not much action. Maybe Fiore is good at working with procrastinators in the flesh, but the book has been of limited help to me.

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that was my impression, too

I just skimmed the book, but that was my impression, too - too much analysis, and not enough real understanding of "procrastinator psychology".

My impressions of "The Now Habit"

When I first started to focus on my procrastination, I looked around for book recommendations online, and I found a bunch of pointers to "The Now Habit." (Many of these pointers came in discussions of David Allen's "Getting Things Done" (GTD) method -- other groups may have other recommendations.)

After reading GTD, which is very practical and direct in its advice, "The Now Habit" seemed awfully laid-back in contrast. The feeling I got was more "you could use this method" instead of "do this" at many points.

Even so, the book resonated with me -- the "are you a procrastinator" checklist at the beginning nearly had me in tears, because Dr. Fiore clearly understood where I was coming from. It took me a couple of readings to really get the ideas, though I've admittedly been spotty in using them.

When I formed my Yahoo Group (see link in my signature), I called it "The Now Habit" but didn't want to exclude any other approaches to fighting procrastination. (As an aside, I'm a guy. :)) I do have a summary of the book in the group's "files" section, broken down by chapter.

I should re-read "The Procrastinator's Handbook" and summarize it for the group too. I know pro has enjoyed it, and so have I. A lot of the underlying message is similar to "The Now Habit," but you may prefer Rita Emmett's approach to Dr. Fiore's.

We've discussed the book more in another forum topic, and I have some other summaries and stuff in the "links" area of my Yahoo Group.


Now Habit and GTD

I think The Now Habit was one of the first anti-proc books I read. GTD was something I discovered much more recently and I found it phenomenally helpful (it was a major factor in getting me started on finally addressing my procrastination). A couple of years earlier, though, and it would have been too much. We have to be ready for these things I think, and I think I've just not found my time for the Now Habit.

(and I'm a 'her' BTW ;))
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So do you use GTD now? W/what programs? I only use Outlook. It works, but getting my physical in basket and email empty has not happened yet.

I really need help w/this?!?!?

Do you also do Flylady?

I use GTD, too, though...

...GTD doesn't help with procrastination. It just helps me to work efficiently when I am working.

I use Outlook to implement GTD - no paper. I also have a to-do list program that integrates with Outlook. I only use Outlook "tasks" for things that need alarms.

If you want more info on how I use Outlook to implement GTD, I can start a thread on it (or write an article).

GTD forum

I've finally listened to the GTD audio. I'd love to get your advice on GTD and Outlook. I tried some other GTD forums, but they are a collage of various softwares to implement GTD, so I procrastinated. I'd get much more from this site.
But don't proc on something to get GTD & Outlook going here :)

GTD and anti-procrastination

Here's the link to the booklet about using Outlook to implement GTD - it's got everything you need to implement GTD on your computer step-by-step.

(Actually, I can't remember how to do links so you'll just have to copy and paste it in to your browser).

One of the things about procrastination is that there's no simple answer because the reasons for it are so complex. GTD will be an anti-proc tool for some people, and an organising tool for others (and a waste of time for others!). For me, it's both.

I think there are a number of reasons why it helps me with anti-procrastination. Here are some of them:

1) Re-allocating the tasks - I get fed up with reallocating them, or seeing them in red if they're overdue, so I either decide to do them or decide to ditch them - i.e. I make a decision!

2)Probably the main one - is when I break projects down into 'next actions' the next step sometimes looks really easy, and I do it, whereas if I just have 'the project' as my goal it overwhelms me and gets put aside.

3) Sometimes I think 'I could do this quicker than it would take me to type this up' (and I type pretty fast!).

4) I can sort the list by date (I don't think DA advocates dates, but I reckon if I've got a deadline I might as well have a date!), and by category, and it breaks it down into manageable chunks. I can use Advanced Find to print out exactly what I want so I can have my list on the move so I don't forget errands etc. I can club things together that go together very easily.

5) I've got things sorted so like tasks are done on the same day each week e.g. Accounts tasks on Thursdays (but if you prefer tasks spread over several days you could use it to do that too).

6) Reminders! Audible and visible alarms remind me of things I've forgotten (or chosen to forget). Some things I just never remember without a reminder - e.g. for some reason I always forget to wash towels without a reminder (I don't know why - I don't need reminders for other items of laundry!)

7) There are fun things on that list too! Sometimes when I'm bogged down nothing seems to motivate me. There are things on that list that I can do even if I'm brain dead, or things that can give me a break from another task, and I still feel that I'm getting something done. If I just goof off (translation: play on the net/read a book) I tend to go into time-bingeing, but if I'm doing something fun ~and~ productive I can stay on task much better.

That's how it works for me - I'm sure there are other things that I can't think of off the top of my head.

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GTD Support?

I do both. For GTD I use Outlook and a physical filing system (including tickler) for GTD. I ~did~ get my Email inbox empty (it was an amazing feeling!) but it's full again now. My in-box is a disaster area. Maybe we could get a 'GTD Support' thread going? I know there are GTD sites, but I don't want to go to any more boards or I'll get too sidetracked.

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