Category Archives: Procrastination

3 Spring Cleaning Principles For Busy People

Spring cleaning advice is sprouting up all over the Internet right now. Well, it is spring after all and old traditions that help rid us of winter’s gloom are very appealing. We all know that an annual deep cleaning ritual has both physical benefits — such as easier breathing and fewer bacteria; and psychological advantages — like stress reduction, better mental focus and a sense of achievement.

spring cleaning, improved productivity, productivityAnd don’t forget the environmental gains: having more space after throwing out old or broken things; finding, assessing and fixing problems; and recovering some of those objects that mysteriously vanished throughout the year.

But, honestly, who still has the time for that? To make spring cleaning more effective, efficient and tailored to your needs and values, I propose following these three principles.

1. Determine your order and cleanliness sweet spots. Most of us have different preferences when it comes to how color-coded our sock drawer should be, or whether the floors need to be clean enough to eat off of. I, for example, am very focused on tidiness while my partner is much more into hygiene. Before jumping into spring cleaning, be aware of where you stand and how much energy and time you can, and want to, dedicate to each preference.

2. Create cleaning modules of 60, 30 and 15 minutes. What held me back from doing the April rejuvenation in the past was the idea that I needed to do the cleaning in one big chunk. Eventually, I realized that a list of timed tasks (under 60 minutes each) that I can do first thing in the morning, after work or over the weekend hugely increased my productivity. Why not clean out drawers for 15 minutes after dinner? All these little accomplishments can add up to a cleaner and more organized house in a couple of weeks.

3. Only clean the areas of most impact. Doing research for this blog, I found lots of spring cleaning tips that are simply not viable when you have limited time — like dusting ceilings in every room. Instead, clean that dirty door handle that drives you crazy every time you touch it. That would probably fall into the 15-minutes module category. Why not quickly wipe a few other surfaces while you are at it? Addressing the messy and grimy hot spots in your house will be satisfying and motivating to continue on to the next cleaning module.

These are just some principles that can cut down on spring cleaning time without reducing the joy of living in a spring-fresh space. What are yours? I would love to hear your ideas. Please leave a message on the right hand side of this page.

The post also appeared on:

Huffington Post Canada

3 Ways To Productively Channel Spring’s Energy

(Also appeared on Huffington Post on March 28, 2016)

Spring is the time of renewal and high energy — a time of life bursting forth. Have you been feeling listless or restless lately? Why not fully embrace nature’s push to reinvent itself? You too can plug into the dynamism of the moment to get stronger, healthier and more productive.

Springtime, energy, productivity, 1. Immerse yourself in nature
For those of you who work in environments with recycled air and little natural light, going for a walk in green spaces or taking a hike in the woods can really energize you. Imagine taking a deep breath without choking on it and getting your heart pumping from exercise instead of anxiety.

It’s also a great way to start a workout regimen that doesn’t feel like work but rather like a stroll in the park. If you like more of a challenge: run, add some weights or use sticks. I use Nordic Walking poles in my local park. It’s surprising how many heads one can turn.

2. Eat seasonal fresh food
Fresh berries, greens and other seasonal produce are delicious offerings of spring that not only nurture the body but also the soul. If you’re unsure how to prepare or cook something irresistible and healthy for yourself or your family, the Internet offers all kinds of culinary support. From Canadian to Indian to Spanish cuisine; there are countless ways to prepare great meals with fresh food.

Another fun foodie thing to do is visit your local farmer’s market. They have made a comeback and often combine food shopping with social entertainment — including running into friends and making new ones. Why not enjoy it all?

3. Pick up a long-forgotten project
Like the beginning of a New Year, spring’s vigour can jump start an old project that has been neglected but that is still worth tackling. Want to finish that book? Start writing! Need to change jobs? This is a good time. Or maybe something around the house has been bothering you for a long time. Today is the day!

Once you have decided which goal to prioritize, make a plan. Depending on the size of your endeavour, you might need just a few minutes or a whole day to identify the steps and the sequencing of tasks. Even if you are only clear about the next thing to do, schedule the item on your daily planner and add an alarm for extra urgency. Nothing can stop you now!

5 Simple Steps To File Your Taxes On Time

Death and taxes; two of life’s unwelcome certainties. Even though it is the same procedure every year, tax time can bring up lots of unwelcome emotions: financial worries, the fear of getting something wrong and being punished, feeling helpless in the face of government, realizing that we earned less income than we’d hoped, hating paperwork — you name it.

taxes, planning, filing taxes on time
Blog published simultaneously on Huffington Post Canada

But help is on the way. Whenever facing a stressful task, breaking it down into chunks and focusing on each practical step separately can be immensely beneficial. That’s why I recommend using the “planning backwards method” when approaching tax season. I’ve implemented this tactic successfully for more than a decade.

Instead of starting at the beginning, backwards planning reverses the process and begins at the end — April 30 if you file in Canada or April 18 this year for people in the United States. However, since life has a tendency to meander, I advise making April 23 (Canada) or April 11 (U.S.) the target date. That will give you a buffer of a week to juggle unexpected delays.

How it works:

1. What is the step immediately before filing your taxes with the government? That might be seeing your tax preparer or filling out the tax forms yourself. If you’re working with a tax professional, make an appointment today if you haven’t already done so.

If you are preparing your own taxes, estimate how long it will take you to finalize the paperwork. Think back to the last time you did this to come up with a realistic time frame. Tip: If you have been late in the past you might want to double your estimate. All too often we miscalculate how long a big task will take.

2. Once you have an idea of how many hours you will need to complete the forms, schedule them on your daily planner. Can you do it in one day, one weekend or do you need to use hourly increments over a longer period? Tip: If you get easily overwhelmed by this work, you might want to break up the whole process into hourly modules. Assign these elements to your high-energy periods when you are mentally and emotionally at your best.

3. Before you can fill out the forms, you need all sorts of data: your personal information and that of others in the family, income numbers from all sources, vehicle and home details, health insurance and retirement contributions. All need to be available to complete the forms. How long will that take you? Again, block the appropriate time slots on your calendar prior to filling out those tax forms.

4. At the end of this backwards-planning process, you will arrive at the date and time you need to start working on your taxes. Have you passed that point already? Then you had better start rescheduling the various steps right now.

5. Feeling guilty or panicked? Relax as much as you can and concentrate only on the next task and finish it. Intense emotions like anxiety and guilt tend to slow you down when you need to be focused and steady. What works best to get you out of the grip of doom? Use it now and move on.

Scheduling necessary tax tasks ahead of time with the backwards planning method can prevent major headaches, or at least give you a buffer to deal with them on time.

In the end, filing taxes is mainly a bureaucratic exercise for most. And if some unexpected twist throws you off, look on the bright side: Whatever issue you might stumble upon this year can teach you how to be better prepared for the next tax season.

Carpe “tax” diem!

7 Easy Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Dive into a Dreaded Task

Also appeared on Huffington Post Canada

Starting something you don’t want to do can be daunting. You aren’t unusual if you procrastinate when faced with a complex or disagreeable undertaking, such as that needed household project, looming end-of-year term paper or doctor’s prescribed weight loss program. But, when something needs doing, no matter how strong your aversion to it, procrastinating will only send you on a downward spiral of guilt and regret.

Procrastination can have many causes. From everyday postponements to time management issues to fear or even perfectionism, the reasons for delay undermine our energy for what needs to get done. The important thing is to get past this self-defeating behaviour that keeps you from diving into the task at hand.

Try these seven proven approaches to getting over the initial procrastination hump.

1. Assess the timeframe. Make sure you actually have to do the difficult or despised job right now. Often, we think we need to do something immediately when, in fact, it would fit in much better at another time. Pick a time when you are most able to focus and can devote enough time to make significant progress. Then, schedule it on your calendar and add an alert so you won’t forget it.

2. Weigh the pros and cons of completing the chore. Write down the benefits of finishing. How will you feel about yourself? How will other people treat you? What are the financial or health outcomes? Also, consider the negative consequences of not attending to the task. The conscious awareness of both the gains and losses can give you the necessary push to get started.

3. Break down the objective into small steps. Plan out the task in increments of 15 minutes or less. Both larger projects, as well as small unpleasant tasks, profit from chunking them down into smaller pieces. Who can’t spend 15 minutes on something complicated or dreaded? In addition, make each step as concrete and detailed as possible. Something that is clear in your mind can be much more manageable than a fuzzy notion of needing to do something.

4. Start with the easiest part of the chore. Even hated tasks can have some appealing aspects. Start with something agreeable as a way to build momentum for tackling the task. For example, if you need information from a colleague you enjoy before completing the project, start with contacting him or her. Or, if you like to shop, check what supplies you need for the task and take a trip to the store first. Then hunker down to get it done.

5. Challenge yourself to get past the tedious piece. Sometimes it’s not the difficulty of a chore, but its boredom factor that holds you back. In this case, create a challenge for yourself to help you get into flow. Record your speed; commit to just a little while longer; or create a reward system for completing different pieces of the task.

6. Use the 5-minute rule. Commit to working at the project for just 5 minutes (or 15, or 30, if it makes more sense). Once the time is up, you can stop without feeling guilty. In most cases, this little trick gets you over the initial hurdle, and finishing the task makes more sense than picking it up again at later.

7. Set boundaries around distractions. Once you start in on the project, keep your mind on your work. Don’t allow yourself to give into the many distractions that can derail your focus. Tell yourself that you aren’t allowed to do anything else besides the project at hand. Turn off your phone; close your door; ignore emails; and if your mind wanders to something else you need to do, make a quick note to yourself and return to your task.

Traveling Among the Greats – My time at BookExpo America 2015

procrastination, productivity, self-help
Renate at BookExpo America 2015

I rarely use my own experiences to make a point, but showing my new book at BookExpo America (#BEA15) and BookCon last week in New York City is a highlight worth sharing.

Seeing “Beyond Procrastination” among all those incredible new books by some of the best writers in the world was humbling as well as unbelievable. How did I get there? One word, one action, one step at a time.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of moments when I was procrastination, productivity, self-help, successready to let go of the project – it took too much time and energy; the words just wouldn’t come; the financial investment was, and still is, burdensome and risky; and above all: is it worth it?

Yes it is, I decided time and again. The most encouraging sign that I made the right choice was that I followed my own advice to stay on track: take a break when it gets too much; enjoy the process when the ultimate goal seems too threatening; be patient! And many more of the tips and tricks in my book.

If you are working on a project that seems endless and overwhelming but is close to your heart and not bankrupting you, I would like to encourage you to keep going. The rewards along the way will stay with you for the rest of your life. I might never exhibit another book at BEA but nobody can take away those five days in May of 2015.

overcoming procrastination, self-help, work-life balancePS: “Beyond Procrastination: How to Stop Postponing Your Life” will be available at Amazon and in book stores September 21, 2015!



































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Happiness – A Mixed Bag After All

Happiness is a gift. Being happy all the time can be a curse. procrastination, good life, happiness, unhappiness, productivity, increase productivityPsychologists Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener point out that happy people tend to be less persuasive, lazy thinkers and too trusting. For example, they don’t take the time to properly develop an argument and consider objections others may have. Life simply feels too good to work hard.

What’s even more surprising, the conscious pursuit of happiness can make us unhappy. The more we chase it the more it eludes us. You might have experienced this. Let’s say you go to a party that you’ve been looking forward to all week. When you get there, you still feel a little stressed because of work, but tell yourself to be happy and smile. That forced smile takes immense energy and probably depresses you far beyond the original strain.

And then there is the always-positive, always-happy boss cheerleading you on to higher and higher performance only making you feel harassed and demoralized. Hint: according to Kashdan and Biswas-Diener, commiserating with your employees when the work is tough and expectations unrealistically high, can be much more productive and emotionally uplifting than high fiving without a cause.

happiness, procrastination, productivity, performance, emotions, sadness
Banksy – New York City 2013

In general, our tendency to divide our emotional experiences into good and bad often leads us to prioritize happiness over fear, anger and sadness. We forget that those “negative” emotions serve important functions such as dealing with loss.

When a client asked me how I was feeling shortly after my mother passed away, I spontaneously answered, “Not bad often enough.” I was as shocked by this statement as she was. There was deep truth to it, however. Because I prioritized work over my grief, it took me much longer to get beyond the initial raw pain.

What’s the take-away? All emotions are important and have their rightful place in life. And, yes, when happiness strikes, embrace it with all your heart and offer the world your most dazzling smile.

Unfinished Business

The onset of spring is a powerful time for new beginnings. But what if unfinished business is blocking nature’s push? An incomplete degree, a book that is missing its last chapter or a career change that ran out of steam, can make us feel demoralized and stuck.

Ready to Go!
Ready to Go!

Here is my suggestion: instead of half-heartedly launching a new venture, use this season’s energy to finish what is hanging over your head. What would it feel like to sit back and know that you finally did it – you can move on now?

In my life coaching experience, most people in this situation are actually much further ahead than they think. Therefore, the first order of business is to list everything that still needs to be done. Next, break down each item into small doable pieces and schedule when you are going to do the work.

Your action plan works best when it is both realistic and ambitious. Also make sure you give yourself a deadline – preferably a meaningful date like your birthday or an anniversary. Finally, make a commitment to your strategy and do something on your list today. Unfinished business be gone!

If this feels too overwhelming, ask a friend you trust to help you think through it and keep you on track along the way.

Anything that has been keeping you up at night for a long time might need more systematic support. To help people in your situation, I have developed a three-month program that specifically focuses on completing unfinished business. To find out how I can get you unstuck, contact me today to set up a free informational call. It’s worth a try!

3 Fun Tips to Eliminate Tax Procrastination

1. After-Filing Party: Plan a celebration two weekends before taxes are due and tell invitees that they have to finish their taxes before coming. The highlight of the evening could be creating tasty drinks like green tax tea or a refund martini – shaken not pic

2. Tax-Filing Party: Get together with a bunch of friends and family and do your taxes at the same time. For best results, invite your accounting buddy. If you don’t have an accountant in your network, why not hire somebody to come to your party and help out where needed. It’s fun, it’s cheap and you get it done. (Hold the alcohol until after filing!)

3. Swap Returns: If your tax situation is rather simple, choose somebody you really trust and ask them to exchange tax duties – you do her’s and she does yours. It’s often easier to deal with a friend’s paperwork than with your own. Just double check the numbers before you file.

You might as well share the pain doing your taxes and the joy of being done!