Have you ever noticed that some tasks are incredibly easy to complete, but others feel nearly impossible to start? Here are some tips to help decrease procrastination:

1)   Break large tasks into smaller parts that are easily achieved.  Make sure each small task is manageable and realistic. Set aside a small chunk of time to work on a task. Sometimes even the smallest amount of time can be a great way to gain momentum. Set an alarm for 15 minutes and see what you can complete in that amount of time.

2)   Acknowledge your discomfort.  Usually, thinking or worrying about starting a task can feel even more difficult than actually doing it.  Practice noticing when discomfort is associated with certain tasks and remind yourself why they are hard for you. It can also be helpful to journal about your avoidance to gain self-awareness and clarity.

3)   Put away electronics or other distractions.  Leave your phone in the other room. If you need to work on the computer, disconnect your internet or block certain sites, like Facebook or Twitter. If you have pets, put them in the other room temporarily. Give yourself the space to focus.

4)   Remember that things only have to be good enough. They don’t have to be perfect! If you have high expectations you are more likely to be disappointed with your performance. The goal is completion, not perfection, especially with tasks that feel difficult.

5)   Balance out unpleasant tasks with fun and rewarding activities. Try not to schedule all the uncomfortable responsibilities at one time. Break them up with activities that feel easier and more enjoyable for you.

Sometimes all you can do is take small steps. Practice being aware of expectations you place on yourself and try to accept your limitations. We can’t be perfect and we definitely can’t be 100% productive all the time. Give yourself the opportunity to meet your goals by finding ways to manage procrastination.

Setting Boundaries

Boundaries help keep you safe in relationships by allowing you to clearly define what is okay and not okay with you. In more serious situations, especially if you are in physical danger, verbal boundaries are not enough.  But, in everyday life, asserting boundaries can be a positive relationship skill that can prevent conflict and long-term resentments.  Asserting boundaries ahead of time helps people understand what you want and how to show up for you.

Here are some simple steps to setting boundaries effectively:

1) Let the other person know how you feel when they do the thing that bothers you. This is your opportunity to share your feelings!

2)  Let them know how you experience their behavior. What meaning do you attribute to their behavior?  This helps the person understand WHY something bothers you.  However, it’s important that you speak from your own experience without blame.

3)  Tell them what you want. This changes depending on the situation, but should be concrete and realistic. People can’t change WHO they are, but they can try to modify their behavior in response to your requests.

4)  Remind them (and yourself!) that you are not in control of their behavior. Even if you want someone to change their actions, there is no way that you can make them change.

5)  Tell them what steps you will take to protect yourself in the future if they continue the specific behavior. This step is the most important! Boundaries don’t work unless there are consequences. In order for this to be effective, you have to take responsibility for your part – following through. The more you follow through, the more people learn how you want to be treated.  It also feels empowering to stand up for yourself by doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.

To put it all together, let’s use an example. Say you are feeling upset at a friend who consistently shows up late when you meet up to get dinner. You may need to let your friend know what this brings up for you and how you want to approach plans in the future. A simple boundary could look something like this:

When you show up more than 15 minutes late without contacting me, I feel hurt and angry. The story I tell myself is that you don’t care about me and my time. In the future, it would be great if you could let me know when you are running late ahead of time so that I can adjust my schedule. If you can’t, that’s okay, but in order to take care of myself I will leave the restaurant after 15 minutes if you haven’t arrived and I haven’t heard from you.

If you need to set a boundary, it can be helpful to write it out ahead of time so that you know what you want to say. Even though saying what you want can be uncomfortable at first, it can help bring you closer to the people you love. It is important to note that sometimes setting a verbal boundary may not feel appropriate.  If you can’t say it, practice taking actions to protect yourself in uncomfortable situations (see step 5).

Difference Between Guilt And Shame

Guilt vs. Shame

Guilt can be healthy. When you make a mistake, especially if it hurts another person, a certain amount of guilt can be appropriate.  It can be positive to acknowledge your mistake, feel some guilt, take action (in the form of taking responsibility, sharing with someone else, apologizing, etc.) and then move on.

Shame results when you are unable to move on.  Instead of feeling upset about a specific behavior, you judge yourself as a bad person.  This can lead to false beliefs that you are not worthy of love, incapable of getting what you want, and unable to love others.  Sometimes shame is so powerful that it blocks healthy feelings of guilt and keeps you stuck in negative thoughts about yourself.  You may assume that your mistakes mean something bad about you. And that they define you. You are your mistakes. YOU are a mistake. Thereby the shame spiral continues.  In this state, forgiving yourself seems impossible and fear of making mistakes increases.

Where does shame come from?

Shame often develops at an early age.  It differs for everyone, but frequently results out of relationships in which you believed that you were not loved unconditionally or that your wants and needs were somehow bad and inappropriate.   Shame can also be the result of behaviors or desires that you do not choose, but that are stigmatized in society.  If you want to be different, but cannot, shame may be present.

Negative core beliefs, define and reinforce shame.  These messages fuel and validate negative self -concepts. Some examples are: “I’m not good enough”, “I’m unlovable”, “I don’t deserve love”, “I don’t measure up.”  You can only imagine what havoc these beliefs create in relationships and in the world!  When you carry these beliefs around, you look for evidence that these beliefs are true.  In this world view, small disappointments and rejections can feel even more devastating because they confirm your negative beliefs.  If you don’t trust that you are good enough how can you reach your full potential?

How do I stop feeling shame?

Shame is difficult to face alone.  If you have lingering shame, it can be helpful to find a safe person to talk to about it with so that you have the space to let it go. You deserve to free yourself from such a heavy burden. In therapy, I work with clients to change core beliefs and shift their attitudes about themselves.  Confronting shame, as painful as it is, can open new opportunities in life and in self -awareness.  I have assisted people grow emotionally in ways that help them achieve things they never thought possible for themselves.

Compare and Despair

With social media, it is easy to get lost in a spiral of passively watching other people’s lives unfold instead of directly communicating with them.  This often leads us to compare ourselves to others and feel despair as a result.  You may notice who’s getting married, who’s having a baby, getting a promotion, going on a fabulous trip, having a party (that you weren’t invited to), or many other countless events that bring up painful realities in your own life. The result: you feel less than those around you.

Such comparisons can be misleading because social media only displays a snapshot of someone’s life; the best part, the part that they want everyone else to see. Events in people’s lives are influenced by so many factors that it is difficult to compare or judge who is doing things right and if people even have what you want.

Facebook and other social media sites are intended to connect people, to bring them together, but in reality social media can create emotional disconnect in relationships. When we put other people on a pedestal we are distancing ourselves from them – they become bigger than life and we can feel intimidated, maybe even turned off by their seeming prowess in the world.

In essence, people may have life experiences similar to yours, but if you assume they are better than or worse than you, it will be difficult to connect with them. Comparison can lead to competition and jealousy, which keeps people apart. You never know what you will find out about someone if you ask the deeper questions and connect rather than deduce based on observation alone.

Just something to keep in mind on your social media trails…