Posted in compassion, life hacks, psychology, wellbeing

Monday matters: Procrastination and 10 ways to minimise it

The second instalment of my Monday Matters series is focused on procrastination, something which effects most, if not all of us on a fairly regular basis. In fact, studies have shown that around 20% of the population are chronic procrastinators! In this post, I will consider what procrastination is and why we procrastinate, the forms it takes, and most importantly, steps we can take to minimise it in a bid to become more productive and achieve our goals.

What is procrastination?

The act or habit of procrastinating is where we put off or delay doing something, in particular a task which is unpleasant or burdensome, but which really requires our immediate attention. It can take on many forms such as not tackling the pile of ironing you’ve been meaning to do for the past week, leaving a bill payment until the last minute, avoiding a difficult conversation with someone at work or telling yourself you’ll start developing a more healthy lifestyle starting next week. Whatever it looks like, procrastinating can pre-occupy our thoughts and be a cause of stress, anxiety and even depression. It can even take over our lives and have a huge negative impact on our future.

Signs of procrastination include filling your day with low priority tasks, leaving a high priority item on your ‘to do’ list for a long time (for example, if you use the bullet journal system, you may repeatedly migrate a particular item to the next day or following week), making endless cups of tea, coffee or snacks, reading emails lots of times but not actually actioning any of them, or waiting for the right time or the right mood to get started with something.

So, why do we procrastinate?

Procrastination is a voluntary and unnecessary delay in undertaking something, but most people struggle to control it. There can be different reasons for not undertaking a task and these generally relate to poor time management, fear of failure (or sometimes even success), lack of motivation related to low mood or an unrealistic view of the self.

For some of us, as we think about starting a task, we can develop feelings of anxiety about getting it done. This can then cause us to become overwhelmed and then avoidance starts. Not getting the task done then becomes a source of guilt and shame and these negative feelings create a never ending vicious cycle.

Perfectionists are also frequent procrastinators. Because they hold such high standards, they often fear being unable to complete a task perfectly, so end up put it off for as long as they possibly can. This performance related anxiety causes them to seek out much less threatening or ‘safer’ options.

How can we minimise the effects of procrastination?

The first step to minimise procrastination is to begin to be more self compassionate. Forgive yourself for procrastinating and try not to feel guilty about it. Accept that everyone procrastinates at times and it’s okay to do so. Also, remember that it is particularly common in people who suffer from issues with anxiety or low mood.

When you have developed more understanding towards yourself, you can then work on your ability to take responsibility for your actions (or inaction!) and begin to believe in your ability to make small changes to enable yourself to be more productive. Here are some ideas I’ve collected from my compassion group work and from my reading:

  1. Ignore your mood and just get started – it doesn’t matter if you feel like doing it or if it seems like the right time, some tasks just have to be done. And besides, it might take you less time than you expected or you might feel a whole lot better when you get it out of the way!
  2. Break a project down into small manageable steps that can be accomplished – just a little bit of progress towards a goal will help us to feel better about the task and increase our self esteem and motivation to continue.
  3. Do some planning – at the start of each day, create a timeline of how you intend to spend each hour and try to stick to it as best you can, for longer projects, set deadlines for each task. That way, if you don’t finish what you had planned for today or this week it will affect your future plans.
  4. Get the worst or hardest bit done first – as Mark Twain once said ‘If it is your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.’ By completing your most important task first you’ll have the satisfaction of this achievement which will hopefully provide you with the motivation to get even more done.
  5. Think about your use of language – use positive affirmations as a way forward e.g. I can eat healthily, rather than I need to go on a diet, I am someone who exercises rather than I want to do some exercise. This helps to change the distance between yourself and your behaviour.
  6. Set time limits and then reward yourself for sticking with it e.g. 40 minutes of work and then I’ll have coffee, a biscuit and 10 minutes catch up on Facebook, when I’ve tidied and cleaned the living room, I’ll sit back and watch my favourite TV show.
  7. Minimise distractions – put your phone in another room, turn off your notifications, close all of your social media and email tabs, work in a clean and clutter free environment. Choose a place where you are most likely to be productive. This could be your home, the library or a quiet café.
  8. Change your internal dialogue – instead of fixating on how much you dread a given task and forcing yourself to do it, try changing your mindset, deciding in advance that its completion will make you happy. Also, rather than using phrases such as “I need to…” and “I have to…” try changing to “I chose to…” or “I would like to…” as these imply that you have a choice and help you to feel empowered in making a decision to act.
  9. Let others know what your goals are – telling family and friends what you want to achieve can help in several ways. Firstly, it can hold you accountable, and secondly, they can offer you support and encouragement along the way.
  10. Remember, done is better than perfect – focus on just completing a task rather than getting hung up on minute details. Then you can celebrate the fact that it is finished. You can always go back to it to make improvements another time.

I hope you’ve found today’s blog post helpful in terms of developing your understanding of procrastination and how we can minimise its effects. If you have any more tips, please do share them in the comments.

Posted in mental health, Mindfulness, Planning and journaling, wellbeing, wellness

Why I’m avoiding Pinterest this month and what I’m doing instead

Pinterest – banned for September!

I love Pinterest and find it a great source of inspiration and advice for my professional and personal life. I spend huge amounts of time pinning ideas to boards, organising my collections of pins and generally poring over infographics and beautiful images. However, with attractive images and information, for me, comes a huge desire for continual self improvement and feeling like I need to have it all. And this is the bit that I struggle with and ultimately why I’m taking time out from pinning and Pinterest this month.

Self improvement, in a nutshell, is the process of making yourself a better and more knowledgeable person. It’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for. But, one of the big problems for me is, that I end up with information overload from social media and find so many ways to ‘grow’ myself that I lose sight of what I actually want right now and become unhealthily obsessed with making massive changes and improvements.

What I really need to do, is simplify and think about my current goals and the small steps I might take in order to go about achieving them. But with Pinterest, and other social media platforms if I’m honest, I see stunning images and tempting ideas and basically, I want it all. A minimalist and clutter free home which is welcoming to anyone and always tidy. A stunning garden without a single weed or patch of unraked soil. Beautiful brush lettering that just flows naturally from my hand. A neat and ordered bullet journal with no mistakes or Tippex on the pages. A blog and a handmade business that everyone’s reading and talking about. Perfect, glossy hair that has that ‘just been to the hairdressers’ bounce. Skilfully applied ‘flawless’ make up. The list goes on, and on, and on.

So, for this month, I’m taking a step back. I’m reassessing my goals and thinking carefully about how I’m going to work towards achieving them. And for this, the only resources I need, are my vision board that I created back in January (which you can see here if you haven’t seen it already), my inspirational brand image board for my business (click here if you want to see) and a couple of goal related collections I made in my BuJo. By looking daily at my vision for this year and analysing what I actually want right now from my life, I hopefully won’t be distracted by all of the other stuff. This should help increase my productivity and in turn my achievements instead of creating total overwhelm and the feeling of personal dissatisfaction that often comes with creating an unachievable ideal.

I’m not going to totally avoid social media this month as I do like to know what’s going on in the world but I’m hoping my efforts to curb my tech time will help in some way. By writing my intention here to you all, I’m also hoping that my plan sticks and that I benefit from it, even if it’s just in some small way.

Have you ever given yourself some much needed time away from social media? How did it work for you. Let me know in the comments and wish me luck!

Bye for now, Laura xx

Posted in Business branding, creativity, Planning and journaling, Selling on Etsy

I made a vision board for my Etsy shop: my brand and its core values in photographs

I don’t know about you, but I love looking at inspirational images and spend many hours each week perusing Pinterest, Google Images and pretty pictures in magazines. I also love using glossy photographs to create my vision board for the year. You can see my board for 2019 which I shared in a previous post here.

A while ago, I spent several days considering brand identity and core values for my Etsy business. My shop has been open for over two and a half years now but I wanted to make sure that my products reflected what my brand was all about. I worked on developing a list of adjectives which describe what I want to be at the core of my business. Then, alongside this, I chose a range of images which reflected my beliefs about what LJ Designs NE is all about. Below is a list of what I came up with (in no particular order of importance!) and a photo story of how I went about making my vision board some weeks later.

  • nature inspired
  • fun
  • fresh
  • creative
  • reflective
  • organised
  • delightful
  • peaceful
  • colourful
  • productive
  • playful
  • simple
  • compassionate
  • efficient
  • friendly
Over 40 images printed on photograph paper. Colour themes, ideas and inspirational messages included.

After spending a good while cutting the above out I had a very sore wrist and a big pile of gorgeous images.

When I’d finished cutting out all of my images, I laid them all out on the floor to see how much room they would need to be displayed. I then popped to The Range and bought an A1 piece of mounting board in a lovely charcoal grey colour and a large Perspex clip frame. I chose a Perspex frame as I’ve had issues with clip frames getting broken in the past and didn’t want a recurrence of this.

To ensure I was happy with the placement of the pics, I started by placing them onto the board with small pieces of Blu-Tak so I could play with the arrangement a little.

I did have the intention of using double sided tape to adhere the images permanently but in the end, I glued them on with Pritt Stick so that if I put them on a little wonky I could sort them out!

The finished board with all of the images glued on and the Perspex frame clipped in place.

I’m so pleased with how my brand vision board turned out and can’t wait to put it on display in my craft room / office. I hope you find it visually appealing too and agree that it reflects my key ideas about my little Etsy shop.

Have you ever tried a similar process for your handmade business? If not, I thoroughly recommend it. I had great fun and I now have a board full of beautiful pictures to remind me of what’s at the heart of my brand and to inspire me when I’m working in my craft room each day.

Posted in mental health, Mindfulness, Planning and journaling, wellbeing, wellness

Currently… a little update on what’s going on for me in July 2019

It was so hot, we needed lots of sun cream and had to stroll round slowly looking at all of the tiny ducklings.

I’ve been absent from my blog for a while due to some personal issues that I needed to focus on but I’m now back, and getting fully on top of my game. So, I thought I’d post a little update on me now I’m in productive mode and enjoying life.

currently loving:

… our new wildlife pond. My husband, Michael, has done a great job on it and even though it is only dinky, we already have some resident water snails! The birds love it too and can regularly be seen drinking from it after hopping around our wonderfully bright and colourful garden. It’s very much a work in progress but we’re hoping to get some frogs in there soon (especially as next door have a similar pond and they might come visit ours!).

currently reading:

… a wonderful self care book from The Blurt Foundation founder, Jane Hardy. I’m using it as my current Miracle Morning text and using one of my Mildliners to highlight key points and ideas to help me improve my mental health by looking after myself better. I can already list the positive effects it’s had and there’s so many ideas for bullet journal spreads and things to implement.

The Self-Care Project is for those who have been feeling off-kilter for a while but have not been able to put the finger on the ‘why’. It is a no-nonsense, practical journey to help you do just that. It’ll walk you through the case for self-care (why it’s so darn important), why it isn’t selfish at all, help you explore what self-care means for you, what your obstacles might be and provide advice on how to chisel out daily space for self-care in a practical, achievable and realistic way.

Jane HARDY, founder and CEO of THE blurt foundation
Lots of great information in here if you’re interested in improving your self care habits

currently making:

projects from Daphne’s Diary magazine. This bird décor has been on my to go list for a few weeks now and I finally got it made. Couldn’t decide where to hang it so it’s currently attached to the knob of our under stairs cupboard where it get lots of light from our front door.

So cute!

currently celebrating:

… completing my two classes at The Recovery College. I did a course on Emotional Resilience in the Spring Term and then did a Beginners Tai Chi class in the Summer Term. The college is for anyone who is living with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

The Recovery College leaflet resting on my new Scribbles bullet journal notebook!

currently planning:

… how my niece Lexi and I will celebrate our birthdays next month. She was born on the same day as me (3rd August) and she will be turning 8, whereas I will be turning slightly older! Hopefully we’ll have glorious sunshine like today.

currently feeling:

… extremely motivated and as though I want to do it all in order to make up for lost time when I was unwell. This totally goes against the teachings of the self care book so I’m trying really hard to stick to a routine in which I plan some shop work, some household chores, a bit of gardening and at least 30 mins of relaxation.

Over to you…

I’d love it if you dropped me a comment about what you’re currently up to this month or what you have planned for August 2019. And don’t forget to raise a glass on the 3rd of next month (I’m sure you don’t need an excuse but I’m giving you one anyway!).