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Summer Reading List 2019

Summer Reading List: Ursina's Book Recommendations on Creative Decision Making and Goal AchievementSomehow it became a summer tradition of this blog: here’s my latest list of book recommendations (you can see the lists from previous years here). As usual, they all have something to do with creative decision making and goal achievement. The first is a novel, the rest is non-fiction:

Wood, Benjamin (2016). The Ecliptic. A Novel

More than the plot, it was the premise and setting that had me hooked from the start: an isolated artists’ colony on a small island – its anonymous residents lingering for years, all expenses paid. Relieved of their own ego and the burdens of everyday life, they should be free to create their next masterpieces. Needless to say, it doesn’t work out quite so smoothly for everyone. You can start reading here.

Two excerpts highlight why this book fits this particular reading list and the topic of my blog. Here’s the voice of the protagonist Elspeth, a Scottish painter: “Any guest who could not wait to talk about the project he was working on was usually a short-termer — that was our evaluation.

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Beat Procrastination Habits With A Three-step Intervention

Do you want to give your productivity a boost? This three-step intervention can help you diagnose and beat some of your most persistent procrastination habits.

Beat Procrastination Habits: Three Step Intervention

Step 1 – Assessment: Diagnose the Problems

Each person is different. What triggers your procrastination?

Procrastination is at its worst when we’re not aware of it. The first step in this intervention is therefore to increase your awareness of what’s tripping you up. You’ll want to get as much insight into yourself as possible, recognizing any problematic habits, or any patterns in your thoughts and behaviors that are getting in your way.

With that goal, keep a productivity journal to collect some data about yourself. You can download a template here and print it out.

Beat Procrastination Habits - Step 1: Assessment with Productivity Journal

Here is how it works: the night before your workday, write a to-do list and a schedule for the following day. Make sure to schedule realistically, including breaks and transition times.
Next to the planned schedule, have an empty column. As your workday unfolds, write into the empty column what you actually did.

– Warning: this may be painful!

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Common procrastination triggers and fixes

What are some of the most common procrastination triggers? Finding out why you procrastinate will help you tackle each problem one by one.



How to Monitor Goal Progress

Best Ways to Monitor Goal ProgressIf you want to achieve goals, one of the most effective things you can do is to measure and track your progress.

There are many ways to do that, and it turns out they are all helpful. However, some techniques are more effective than others, as was shown by a large metaanalysis, which included findings of 138 experiments. Three things in particular will make it more likely that you achieve your goals:

1. Measure frequently. The more often you monitor your progress, the greater your chance of success.

2. Share your information. You don’t have to make your information public; even reporting it in private to one other person helps. If you’re really not into sharing though, don’t despair – you’re in good company. This last point is still for you and becomes all the more important:

3. Record your information physically, such as in a written diary or spreadsheet. As an example, here’s a spreadsheet template for tracking your caloric deficit or surplus over time, and here are some insights from a guy who lost weight with a spreadsheet.

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Are You Scared of Your Next Decision?

Scared of Your Next Decision?

Edvard Munch (1893): The Scream. Oil, tempera & pastel on cardboard. [Image rights in the public domain.]

Tonight will be a scary night for the bravest of us, with countless children roaming the streets, high on sugar, threatening to knock on our very doors.

However, even today, our most crippling fears probably come from within. Are you scared of your next decision? Afraid of making the wrong choice? Funnily enough, while dogs and – some say – children can smell our fear; on our own we’re not always very good at recognizing when and why we’re scared.

Here’s how you can recognize whether your decision scares you:

  • You avoid making the decision altogether, for example by procrastinating or by shifting the responsibility to others.
  • You get overly emotional about your decision. Maybe you get angry or burst into tears when others are bringing up uncomfortable truths about your situation? Such emotional outbursts are effective ways of shutting down a conversation, and they can be warning signs that your fears are holding you back from thinking and acting in the best way.

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Binge Working and Procrastination – Revised

Thanks to all of you who shared your experiences and thoughts about binge working and procrastination! Your insights have given me food for thought and an opportunity to make an addition to my hamster-wheel image. It now includes an additional stage: what Danna Schaeffer called the “tidal wave of joy and relief when you finish the thing and it is a success!”

Binge Working and Procrastination Revised

It is clear though that there are many individual differences as to how people experience binge working. The figure only shows one type of a particularly stable loop of reinforcement.

For some people, for example, bouts of binge working are very positive and productive experiences, without any of the ill effects shown in the image. For them, intense phases of working around the clock are simply a temporary effort for special projects. Rather than leading to exhaustion and burnout, those phases are followed by perhaps a break and then a more normal schedule a again.

On the other end of the spectrum are those for whom the cycle has only negative effects: they don’t get the joy and relief at all, but sometimes finish their binge working with a mediocre result because of the earlier procrastination,

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Binge Working and Procrastination

Last-minute stress and binge working will improve your future procrastination as much as a hangover will improve your drinking habits.

At least that’s my hypotheses.

Guilt, Binge Working and Procrastination

Or what do you think? I’d love to hear about your experience. Do you sometimes work in somewhat excessive “binges”, for example through the night or throughout a weekend? If so, is this productive for you in the long run, or does it lead to the vicious circle in the image?

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Am I a Procrastinator?

Am I a procrastinator?“I know that I am a procrastinator, but taking this survey made me realize just how bad it is!”
– One of my students.

Clarry Lay, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto created the “General Procrastination Scale” as a research tool. While it is not intended for diagnosis, you can still get a general sense of your tendency to procrastinate across a pretty wide a range of situations.

In the interactive form below, you can simply move the sliders around and see your total score at the bottom. The total will be updated as you go along. A lower total score mean less procrastination, from 1, which would mean you don’t procrastinate at all in any of those situations, to 10, which would mean you procrastinate at every opportunity. Only the overall score at the bottom matters, because half of the individual items score in reverse.

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New Productivity Coaching Group

Productivity Coaching Group
Time is our most precious resource – are you getting the most out of yours? Or are you ready for a change? 

My next productivity coaching group will come in a new format, starting with one-on-one sessions and an in-depth assessment before the group meetings.

It is a 3-month package that includes:

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Productivity Wallpaper

Organize Your Desktop Strategically with this Productivity Wallpaper

Productivity WallpaperLoosely inspired by Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle, I designed a Productivity Wallpaper that  you can download here as a template. It is a customized desktop background that helps you stay focused by organizing your tasks in a spatial layout.

The idea is that it gives you room to arrange your documents, folders or apps according to when you want to use them:

  1. In the upper left quadrant of the screen, you would place stuff you need for your most important tasks. By important, I mean tasks that you truly care about, that have long-term significance, and that make your life more meaningful. Typically, those are bigger projects, often without a deadline (because they matter to YOU, more than to other people). They are therefore most in danger of being infringed upon by other people’s more urgent demands. For the same reason, they are also the most likely to fall victim to procrastination. Those are the tasks you’ll want to tackle during your “prime work time”, that is, during the time of day when you’re at your best,

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