Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, July 11, 2016

“Treat your future self well- stop procrastinating now”/ "Create hit list to target urgent to do items"

Mar. 17, 2015 “Treat your future self well- stop procrastinating now”: I cut out this article by Beverly Smith in the Globe and Mail on Dec. 10, 2012.  It talks about the psychology of procrastination and tips on how to get things done.  Here’s the whole article: 

Sloth is the human condition.

We are overly optimistic. We like to deceive ourselves. And we have a Stone Age brain that prefers immediate rewards.

Procrastination, which causes people to give in to the allure of immediate rewards and delay an intended act, wreaks havoc on work and life, not to mention the balance between them.

“We’ve got the deck stacked against us,” says Timothy Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa who researches procrastination.

About 20 per cent of people report chronic procrastination, when the condition interferes with the ability to just get on with things, Dr. Pychyl says. But almost all of us are procrastinators to some degree. Ninety-five per cent of student populations report a problem with procrastination, he says, and the other 5 per cent may not be admitting it.

“It’s rife on campus because there is so much evaluation apprehension, there’s always something else to do, and all the new technologies around them promise an immediate reward: Let’s just catch up on our e-mail, update our Facebook, take a minute to browse the Internet. One minute becomes two and two becomes three hours,” he says.

Allison Wolf, executive coach for her company Shift Works Strategic Inc., says, “My cellphone is a wonderful distraction. It now has 101 apps on it. It can do anything.”

“If you actually got bored, you might do your work,” Dr. Pychyl says.

Piers Steel, professor of psychology at the University of Calgary, and author of The Procrastination Equation, says we all make plans in the frontal cortex of our brains, but when we go to enact them, the limbic system comes into play. It’s the system that responds to environmental cues, has a direct line to the seat of emotions and is the stronger of the two.

The brain was not designed to withstand the plethora of modern temptations and distractions that derails people with good intentions.

Why do people procrastinate? Having an impulsive nature is a major factor, Dr. Steel says. Impulsive people can be distracted easily. They can’t protect one intention from another. They have difficulty focusing on the future. They are mostly concerned with the immediate and the concrete: what they smell, taste and feel. Therefore they don’t focus on deadlines until they become immediate. Low self-esteem or self-confidence can be a factor, too: people who have tried something and failed.

Also a person may not want to do a job if it has no value or interest to them – or worse, if the task is seen as unpleasant, Ms. Wolf says. To a full-fledged procrastinator, it doesn’t help if a deadline is a month away. They fill the stores on Dec. 24. And putting off tasks at work can creep into their personal lives and adversely affect it, too.

Procrastination has obvious downsides, costing, according to some measures, 25 per cent of people’s salary at work, and their personal health, Dr. Steel says.

The aversion to unpleasant experiences may keep people from that checkup to determine cancer. A study in the Netherlands is even looking at people who procrastinate about going to sleep at night.

People are less likely to procrastinate in the early phases of a project and if the task is personally meaningful, Dr. Pychyl says. “But that personal feeling doesn’t help us a lot when we get to the action phase.” If the task is not manageable, people dither.

People with great emotional intelligence can ask themselves the question: What am I getting out of procrastination? Others think only about feeling good now. “They are not thinking about the future self,” Dr. Pychyl says. “We really mistreat our future self. When we put things off, we’re putting it off for ourselves.”

In the end, the most precious commodity that people have is time, Dr. Pychyl says. And it’s non-renewable. “When we waste it, we waste life itself,” he says.

Get cracking

Here are nine steps to tackling procrastination:

1) Get started. It “primes the pump for action,” Dr. Pychyl says. Research shows that when people get started, they change their perception of the task and then wonder why they didn’t start sooner.

2) Set goals. Be specific about targets. Do it weekly.

3) Get rid of temptations. Turn off the ding of your e-mail and answer only during natural breaks in productivity. This tactic alone can add an extra month of productivity over a year, Dr. Steel says. Most people check e-mail 50 times a day, and because it takes 15 minutes to return to peak concentration, they never actually get to their A game, he adds.

4) Prioritize. Do the least interesting and dullest tasks first, early in the day, so you have a feeling of accomplishment.

5) Run a dash. Give yourself just 10 minutes to tackle a complicated task, coaching consultant Ms. Wolf says. At least you get started.

6) Act now. When you think about a task, do it immediately, so that you don’t think about it twice, Vancouver lawyer Ms. Chamzuk says.

7) Get lots of sleep. Fatigue makes every job more unpleasant. Energy is a limited resource. Choose where you spend it.

8) Develop self-control and willpower. Willpower is like a muscle, Dr. Pychyl says. It’s a limited resource, so don’t try to engage it in all areas of your life at once. Research shows that if you eat with your non-dominant hand for two weeks, it strengthens your willpower, Dr. Pychyl says.

9) Ask yourself: “What am I getting out of procrastination?” The answer for a procrastinator: “To feel better right now.” Look beyond the now. Think about your emotional state in the future.

Dec. 24, 2015 "Create hit list to target urgent to do items": I cut out this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail on Nov. 19, 2012.  This is a really good companion article to the above article.  It's really about prioritizing and writing things down:

If you want to be organized, you should have two to-do lists, not one. At least that’s the advice Laura Stack, president of Productivity Pro consultants, offers in her new book, What To Do When There’s Too Much To Do. Here’s how to make those two lists work for you:

HIT List

The first list is a limited, daily to-do list, which she calls the HIT List, because it only includes High Impact Tasks that gives the list its acronymic name and makes sure you are not focused on the trivial. It should contain a reasonable number of items, geared to how much time available in the day beyond meetings, e-mail, and social engagements. “The HIT list isn’t a repository for everything you want to accomplish,” she declares. The process of putting things on your list helps you to evaluate the value of different tasks and the priorities that need to be assigned.

The Master List

The Master List should include everything you need or want to do at some point. That will include strategic goals for your company or team, and ideas for activities you want to tackle some day when things are less hectic, such as revamping workflow systems, buying a new printer or learning a new language. “Your Master list keeps your daily HIT list from overflowing into uselessness, and may consist of dozen or hundreds of entries as a result,” she writes.

Choosing Lists

Whenever you think of something that needs to be tackled, you must decide which list it belongs on. Ask yourself: “Is this something that needs to be done today?” If it’s that vital and high impact, place it on the HIT list. If not, add it to your Master List.

Creating the Master List

If you use a paper planner, the HIT list items can go on the appropriate daily page, while the Master List might be filed elsewhere in the book, perhaps behind a tabbed section. But she recommends using Outlook Tasks for your Master List, as it can become the day’s HIT list automatically.

Start by changing the “Arrange By” field to Start Date (not the default Due Date). When you think of something to do, fill in the Start Date, picking the day you want to attack the item or the date you want to next think about it. Enter the Due Date for when it is due. Fill in Categories according to your key projects, allowing you to view your tasks by category to see everything required for a particular project. The Today flag in the To-Do bar now becomes your HIT list, since Tasks will move themselves forward automatically.

Three Reviews

She recommends three regular reviews of your lists. The first is a monthly forward think review, in which you study your calendar and project plans to determine what needs to be completed by the end of the month. The weekly reverse thinking review involves reviewing the week’s HIT lists for incomplete or missed items. Finally, every evening before leaving work you want to complete your daily hit list triage, cutting tasks that probably aren’t as important or urgent as you thought. “Stop viewing your HIT list as a “must do” list. Instead, consider it a “want to do’ list, and stay flexible,” she advises.


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