This week, Life Training Online is reviewing The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play, by Niel Fiore, the eighth of fifty-two books in the 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks series.

Guilt Free Play, Quality Work

One interesting note that Fiore makes in this chapter is that workaholics and procrastinators share many of the same problems. For example, they both see themselves as overburdened with incomplete work. They both see human beings as inherently lazy, requireing pressure to get going. And both procrastinators and workaholics are either working or feeling guilty about not working.

Although they both go about it different ways, they both see themselves as putting their lives on hold with a hope in the future that they’ll be able to organize themselves to really enjoy life. The solution to this is scheduling guilt-free play by planning your weekly recreation.

What regularly scheduled times of guilt-free play does is give you a fresh outlook on work. It also leads to higher levels of quality work because — post play — you’re more willing to settle down into short periods of quality work. All of this can be achieved using the Unschedule.

Overcoming Blocks to Action

You might have experienced pain from others criticism of you for doing less than perfect work or because you couldn’t do something that many others found easy. If it made a big enough impact on you, you may tend to avoid that kind of work or activity. Until you can effectively deal with that response, that phobia will always be a stumbing block to you taking action.

Fiore says that, “Procrastination,…is a phobic response to work that is associated with worry, struggle, failure, and anxiety.” The anxieties and worry that ultimately block you are: The fear of being overwhelmed, the fear of failure, and the fear of not finishing. Until you can learn to cope with those fears, procrastination will be a difficult habit to break. Here are three “tools” that Fiore offers that help you to overcome those fears:

  1. 3-D Thinking and the Reverse Calendar

    Both of these are tools that I’ve come across in many time management resources.3-D thinking is essentially taking a birds-eye view of your project in order to divide it into small, manageable parts and the reverse calendar is nothing but backplanning — starting from the end goal and working your way forward to the present time to discover what action to take next.

  2. The Work of Worrying

    When we worry many, of us add undue stress in our lives. We waste energy on the worrying process and at the end nothing productive comes out of it. The Work of Worrying tool is basically using your worries in a productive way. Step back and look at what you’re worrying about and instead of focusing on the problem, discover the possible solutions through questioning. What are my alternatives? What can I do now to lessen the probability of this dreaded event? and, Is there anything that I can do now to increase my chances of achieving my goal? are some of the questions you can ask yourself.

  3. Persistant Starting

    If you’ve used the previous two tools to get started, you may now have to overcome your fear of not finishing. You can do this through persistent starting. All large tasks can be completed with a series of starts. Since you’ve broken down the large project with 3-D Thinking and the Reverse Calendar, you now just need to focus on each task as a new start. If your fears of finishing emerge, just ask yourself, “When can I start?”

The Unschedule

I found this to be the gem of the entire book so far. Although not very complicated to do, it is a genious idea that I will be implementing in my life.

We all have to accept the fact that we can’t always be playing. There will come a time when we have to get to work. Escaping work by procrastination might lead to temporary relief but, it will only eventuall increase your anxiety. “Only work will diminish your anxiety,” Fiore says. And what better way of learning to work than through the Unschedule. It basically uses reverse psychology to get you to find pleasure in getting to work.

Here’s how you can implement the Unschedule:

1. Take out your calendar and schedule only:
- previously commited times such as meetings, meals and sleep
- free time, recreation, pleasure reading
- socializing with friends and family
- health activities such as working out, playing tennis etc.
- routine events such as commuting to/from work, classes, doctors appointments etc.

By scheduling all the non-work activities that you have you overcome the false notion that you have twenty-four hours a day to work on your projects. It also allows for the planning of guilt-free play. Make sure that you don’t schedule any project activities at this time!

2. Find one (and only one) empty spot on your first day and work for a half hour on your project. When you have finished at least a half hour you then write that block of time down on your schedule.

3. Take credit only for periods of work where you’ve spent at least 30 min. of uninterrupted work.

4. Reward yourself with a break or change to a more enjoyable task after each period you’ve worked.

5. Keep track of the number of hours you work each day and each week.

6. Always leave at least one full day a week for recreation and any small chores you want to work on.

7. Before deciding to take part in a recreational activity or social commitment, take time out for just 30 min of work on your project.

Once you feel comfortable playing around with the Unschedule, focus on increasing the number of productive 30 min (or more) activities, but remember to always leave plenty of time for guilt-free play. This way you can continually monitor and increase your productivity.

The Now Habit is the eighth of fifty-two books in Life Training – Online’s series 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks.

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