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Archive for April, 2010

What is it that causes us to put things off we know we should do? Is there a psychology to procrastination? Is there a cure? I took a trip inside Psychology Today to learn there really is an art and science to procrastination:

  1. Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators.
  2. It’s not trivial, although as a culture we don’t take it seriously as a problem. It represents a profound problem of self-regulation. And there may be more of it in the U.S. than in other countries because we are so nice; we don’t call people on their excuses.
  3. Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time, although they are more optimistic than others.
  4. Procrastinators are made not born. Procrastination is learned in the family system, but not directly. It can be a response to an authoritarian parenting style.
  5. Procrastination predicts higher levels of consumption of alcohol among those people who drink.
  6. Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow.” Or “I work best under pressure.”
  7. Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part.

There are big costs to procrastination. Health is one. Just over the course of a single academic term, procrastinating college students had such evidence of compromised immune systems as more colds and flu, more gastrointestinal problems. And they had insomnia. In addition, procrastination has a high cost to others as well as oneself; it shifts the burden of responsibilities onto others, who become resentful. Procrastination destroys teamwork in the workplace and private relationships. Procrastinators can change their behavior—but it takes work; a system and work.

What a procrastinator knows inherently is that they will never FIND the time; they have to MAKE the time! But what lies beneath the ability to make the time? The fear of failure. I can speak from personal experience on this one; overcoming the fear is the first and most important task at hand.

Fear is sometimes a grandiose avoidance of all the “what ifs” in life. Worrying about all the things that COULD happen is oftentimes worse than what could actually ever happen. When we live in fear of what if, we live in constant procrastination of the possibility of failure. It’s a comfortable cycle to continue, but at some point, we have to take the first step out of our comfort zone. Even back in the old days, famous Chinese philosophers were familiar with that mindset. “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

How do you take the first step out of procrastination? You just step!

A.  Recognize/admit you’re a procrastinator 

  1. Do you read emails more often than necessary?
  2. Do you have old, old, old to-do’s still lingering around
  3. Do you place low-priority tasks higher than important ones?

B.  Create a written plan of action

  1. Make sure it’s realistic
  2. Make sure it’s simple
  3. You gotta start somewhere

C.  Take baby steps

  1. Make some of your to-do’s, slam dunks so you stay motivated
  2. Allow for breaks
  3.  Do the big things first; fun things last

D.  Dive in

  1. Planning and doing are not the same thing; spend time DOING
  2. Don’t overcomplicate; don’t make excuses
  3. Earmark designated times to work your plan (and plan your work)

E.  Create new habits

  1. Reward yourself for good behavior
  2. Evoke peer pressure (accountability)
  3. Remind yourself of the unpleasant consequences of NOT doing the task

Sometimes you just have to have a little faith; mostly in yourself. There’s an old German Proverb that says, “Begin to weave and God will give the thread.” It’s part of the “Just Do It” mentality that Nike instills in us. Talking about it, planning for it and worrying about it just don’t get ‘er done. Putting off until tomorrow what you could do today is not a healthy option. And as our wonderful Spaniard friends from the Land of Mañana tell us, “Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.” Let’s get busy!

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Are you afraid of using the correct part of speech or the correct spelling or usage of a word?  Even more frightening, does it make you shiver when intelligent people (like your superiors) misuse common words that were differentiated at least in the 8th grade?

With the advent of social networking, texting and IM’ing we commonly use acronym’s like LOL and TTYL; and take short-cuts by using words like thru instead of through, so it’s no wonder folks can’t remember how to spell correctly let alone use the correct homophone or homonym.  As a reminder, homophones are those words that are pronounced the same way but differ in meaning or spelling.  Homonyms may be two words that are spelled the same but have different meanings.

This article stemmed from my apprehension every time I attempt to say “yippee” via text or on Facebook and find myself contemplating whether it’s “Yay, Yeah, or Yea.”  Maybe I should just use “yippee?”  Anyway, because MY friends are smarter than anyone else’s, I enlisted them to set the records straight.  It was unanimous; yippee should be communicated as Yay in the real world!  It’s official.  So, in that vein, I’m here to hopefully shed some light on the many misuses of our native tongue due to their homophonal qualities. I’d like to give thanks to my friend John for his insights and fodder.

I’ll start with ones that give me the most heartburn and work my way down to milder anxiety-laden words.  I’ll start with a quip from Carter Nipper:

My hare is just like hers, accept hers is strait, and mine is curly.  Its effecting hour relationship, to.

Not easy to read, is it?  If you read this passage out loud, it makes perfect sense.  How many mistakes do you see in these two short sentences?  I count eight — hare (hair), accept (except), strait (straight), Its (It’s), effecting (affecting), hour (our), and to (too).  Guess what: Microsoft Word did not find any errors!  Be afraid — be very afraid.  Homophones are everywhere!

Accept, except

Oh boy, does this one ever get people confused!

Accept means to receive, usually with the implication of voluntarily.

Except means a variance from a rule.

I accept gifts from anyone except my ex-wife.

Affect, effect

This is another real bugaboo.

Affect means to have an influence on.

Effect is the result of the influence.

One effect of war is to affect the lives of civilians.

By, buy, bye, bi

Reminds me of a song by ‘N Sync.

By means near.

Buy means to purchase.

Bye means farewell and for some reason means one who draws no opponent yet advances to the next level in sports.

Bi means in two parts or two.

The basketball team had a first round bye in the tournament, so by the time we arrived at the tournament, I was not able to buy a ticket, but I was able to get one for the bi-annual scrimmage.

Capital, capitol

I always have to look this one up.

Capital means the top or most important of something.  Also, the money to fund a certain operation.  The city that is the seat of a government.

A capitol is the building that is the seat of a government.

The columns on the Capitol Building have Corinthian capitals.

Complement, compliment

Complement is something that enhances or completes something else.  Also used to indicate a group of people, especially a complete group.

A compliment is a statement of praise.

I complimented the way her necklace complemented her dress.

It’s, its

Oh, the pain, pain of it all.

It’s is a contraction of “it is.”

Its is the possessive form of “it.”

It’s a shame that its efforts failed.

Principal, principle

Principals are CEOs of schools (I always remember it by the phrase, “the principal IS your pal”).  The greater meaning is the best or highest of something.

Principles are moral codes that one lives by.

Honor is a principal principle of the military life.

Sight, site

Sight is the sense of vision.  Also something observed using that sense.

A site is a location.

The construction site was a horrible sight.

Stationary, stationery

Stationary means fixed or motionless.

Stationery is paper goods used to communicate in writing.

I wrote on stationery that was stationary on the desk.

Than, then

This one bothers me more than most.  That thumping noise is the sound of a book hitting the wall when I see this.

Than is part of a comparative phrase.

Then is an indication of a particular time period that is not now.

Things were different then — calmer than they are now.

Their, there, they’re

Their means belonging to them.

There is anywhere that is not here.

They’re is a contraction of “they are.”

They’re practicing their martial arts over there.

To, too, two

The bugaboo of so, so many.

To means toward.

Too means also or very.

Two means one plus one.

Getting from one to two is too much for some people.

Want, wont, won’t

These three are all pronounced differently but similarly.

Want is a desire or lack.

Wont means to be inclined to behave a certain way.

Won’t is a contraction of “will not.”

He won’t indulge his wont to want ice cream.

Who’s, whose

Who’s is a contraction of “who is.”

Whose is a possessive form of who.

Whose car is that and who’s the driver?

You’re, your

You’re is a contraction of “you are.”

Your means belonging to you.

You’re not sure what your words mean at this point.

So, all this is to say that people you know and love; and those whom you truly believe are well-educated, will misuse many of these words in emails, texts and on Facebook.  Don’t be a hater and don’t feel it your place to correct them, just know that you know…and know that knowledge is power!

And finally, for my friend Sara who cannot stand when people misquote, misspell and misuse: the southern use of the contraction of “You all” is Y’all not Ya’ll!  It drives her nuts…and she bites her tongue (sometimes)…and it makes me giggle!

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Reposted from March 15, 2009.

I don’t have kids so it’s easy for me to say.  I know it sounds harsh, but if I did have kids I’d really rather know.  So often in business we are forced to work with people who won’t go to that place of, “tell it like it is,” and it’s frustrating for the rest of us who want to know the ugly truth.  I’m not suggesting you lose all regard and respect for common decency, I am asking you to be the person who’s known for telling the good, the bad and the ugly.  It’s a place you’ll share with few, but be respected by many. None of us want to hear bad news, but quite frankly once we hear it we can then begin to process it and even resolve it.

Here’s my story of how I learned a very important lesson in being forthright.  I was a rookie mortgage banker back in 2002.  Business was booming until about April of 2004 when the rates began to climb…had I even known enough to panic, I would have.  Instead I plodded along for another couple of weeks…that’s when the panic set in.  You see in the world of mortgages, you gamble daily on whether the rates are going up or down.  And you hope that you lock-in on the “good day” when they’re down so your clients are happy.  And when your clients are happy, everybody’s happy.  I had about 40 loans in the pipeline as they call it and hadn’t locked about 15 of them.  There’s a 50/50 rule on both the customer and the banker to agree upon and lock rates, but you can’t blame a customer when you’re equally as responsible.   Did I mention that rates were climbing?  I didn’t sleep.  I was worried and was bombarded with phone calls and emails from people asking me what rate they were locked in at…this went on for two weeks and I was just sick.

Finally, one night at about 7:30 I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to email all of the clients who were out there “dangling.”  It went something like this, “I have made a grave mistake in securing the lowest interest rate for you, given the influx in the economy, things have been unpredictable…and for all we have been through as a nation since 9/11, that one quarter of a percent on an interest rate seems insignificant in comparison.”  Then I went on to say, “…I will honor the rates you are expecting by taking personal financial shortages to keep my promises.”  I closed my eyes and hit the “send” button.  I felt relieved.

The next day, I was flooded with emails from customers telling me that they’d split the difference with me, or that they’ll take the eighth higher, of course some simply said, “OK.” By the end of that day that email would cost me nearly $16,000 and I only had $8,000 to work with.  I called my bosses boss and explained to him what had happened, how I handled it and then I quit talking.  He didn’t think twice about it; he picked up the difference, even chuckled at the mess I was in, called it a “split” then actually thanked me for my candor.

It was my willingness to go there that saved those loans.  Facing the customers wasn’t the hard part, it was all the drama I created leading up to the confrontation that was grueling.  While I didn’t have a very fruitful April, I did close over 30 loans.  Some of them even became repeat customers.  That year I was the top producer in the State of Tennessee…by only a few loans…ones I would have lost had I not been willing to tell my clients they had ugly babies.

From that experience I now have a formula for handling unwanted news:

  1. Procrastination: don’t avoid conflict, the wait is worse than reality
  2. Problems: should be dealt with up front, set the right expectations
  3. Promises: may be your only source of business integrity; keep them
  4. Planning: when organizing daily tasks, put the hard ones first; get ’em out of the way, hit your easy button and go on with your day

People really are willing to work with you if they know the facts.  And that in and of itself  is great to know.  Again, my post eludes to humility, but I have to be honest with you, prior to this incident, I avoided conflict at all costs.  I figured if I ignored it, it would eventually go away.  It never did.

Now I embrace being a “tell it like it is” person.  It makes me a better leader and a better sympathizer.  It also makes me a better manager of my time when I’m not wasting it worrying about all the “what if’s” that never come to pass.  Go ahead, tell me my baby’s ugly.  I can handle it.

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25 years ago I was a mediocre Lang Lit student who rarely completed a project on time and exerted as little effort as possible.  My journalism classes were easy enough to skate through and my creative writing courses at UNM were rudimentary at best, and yet I did the bare minimum and I got by.  Needless to say, writing wasn’t my strong suit.

I was in love with the idea of being a writer and even more loved the idea of living the lifestyle of a famous writer without all the notoriety of an actor or performer.  I always assumed I’d be a writer, but never knew how I was going to get there unless I actually started writing.  I really didn’t know how to write and definitely didn’t want to put forth the effort to learn a new skill at 43.  I’m not lazy; I just couldn’t see myself becoming something that I was not.

Nevertheless, I wanted to be a writer, so a little over a year ago I submitted some of my “work” to Women on Business editor Susan Gunelius.  It must have been one of those serendipitous things that I even found her site as she was looking for contributing writers.  Much to my surprise, she accepted my writing and welcomed me to the team.  I was given a choice of days, given some guidelines and one of the expectations was that I have a referring blog to toggle from.  I sat at my computer that night, figured out how to create a personal blog and committed to a weekly Monday article beginning two weeks later.  I figured the two weeks would give me time to actually write something for the first time in my life…something on a deadline…and something that someone else would find interesting.

WOW, who submits work to become a weekly writer without having old articles to fall back on or revive in a pinch?  I guess I do.  52 weeks ago I made a commitment to being a writer…and I have become one.  In one short year I have thought of, struggled with, conjured, edited, waffled over and produced an article a week for the award-winning www.WomenonBusiness.com. Me, the C student who liked taking short-cuts and reading Cliff’s notes was following through on a writing assignment in a big way.  ANYTHING is possible!

Anything IS possible, which is my very point here.  I wasn’t going to get a book deal just by believing I could write; I wasn’t going to get any better at it by NOT writing; I was only going to do it if I well, DID IT!  Now for my disclaimer, I’m not always good and I haven’t gotten a book deal…BUT I don’t stand a chance if I never begin in the first place.  Sometimes the opportunities are there and the intentions are there, but unless we take the first step into DOING, nothing is going to change.  And acting “as if” we’re already a writer (painter, singer, actor, insert your passion here) is the only first step you need to worry about.  The rest just comes.  The opportunities reveal themselves.  The story gets told and you have a chance at the happily ever after you dreamed of as a kid.

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