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Procrastination and Avoidance

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch May 13, 2019

Procrastination involves avoiding specific tasks; while avoidance tends to be a more general pattern that develops and can cause recurring issues both at work and at home. Most people can relate to occasional bouts of both procrastination and avoidance. About 95% of people admit to putting off work, according to Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation. But, just to ensure you don’t feel alone in these challenges, check out this TED talk from Tim Urban, “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator”.

In their research, Pychyl and Blunt found seven triggers which can make tasks feel even more aversive. Usually the task is:

  1. Boring
  2. Frustrating
  3. Difficult
  4. Ambiguous
  5. Unstructured
  6. Not intrinsically rewarding
  7. Lacking in personal meaning

That all sound about right! Unfortunately, we have many daily tasks that can be categorized in this way, so each person needs to develop their own coping mechanisms for overcoming procrastination and avoidance. Here are some ideas which might help you to be successful in your attempt to overcome avoidance.

REMOVE DISTRACTIONS We live in a world where we are constantly pinged and alerted….and distracted from tasks at hand. Sometimes, the distractions can be passing co-workers who want to chat. Sometimes, the distractions could be social media or news notifications on our phones. Whatever it might be, try to find a way to block out distractions to help you achieve focus. Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” or put on headphones as a way to signal to those around you that you are trying to focus. Whatever it might be, distractions only lead to more procrastination, so try to minimize those around you.

REFRAME THE TASK Some tasks are simply monotonous and boring and we want to avoid them as much as possible. Whether the chore is cleaning house or splitting cells, if you find yourself avoiding it, try to think of a way to make it more manageable. Try to pair an activity you dislike with one you enjoy. Perhaps when you clean is when you get to listen to your favorite Spotify playlist or catch up on the latest podcasts.

OVERCOME THE ACTIVATION BARRIER This is a fancy way of saying, “Just get started!” Once you start, there is more momentum to continue. Personal trainers use this technique all the time with clients. You don’t have to go to the gym, just get dressed for the gym. They say that knowing that you are much more likely to continue to follow through with the subsequent steps as long as you just put your gym shoes on.

From the Archive: Making the Most of Your Transition to NIH

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch May 27, 2019

Part Two of a Two-Part Series on Transitions *** Before reading this post, take a moment to read Part One - Understanding the Impact of Change*** If you are just arriving at the NIH as a summer student, postbac, graduate student or postdoctoral or clinical fellow, adjusting to your experience at NIH represents a transition that will be one of many transitions you will face in your career. You may be starting a new phase after leaving a comfortable niche in your undergraduate or graduate university. Or you may be exploring some new opportunities. Having a model or road map for your transition can be helpful. William Bridges is a writer whose model of transition may be of interest. Bridges' model highlights three stages that people go through when they experience change. These are: 1. Ending, Losing, and Letting Go 2. The Neutral Zone 3. The New Beginning Graphic image of William Bridges' Model of Transition   1. Ending, Losing, and Letting Go At this stage, you are probably experiencing a situational change which can trigger a psychological transition. Change can signal the start of a new opportunity which also means the end of an old opportunity. This could mean the temporary end of feeling sure of your daily tasks or the end of associating with a (comfortable) peer group. Even if this ending is a positive development, it could cause you to feel uncertain and question yourself and your values or abilities. As you are letting go of your previous experience, make sure you solicit the support and resources offered at NIH. The Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) offers many workshops and individual counseling appointments to help you get oriented and connected to the resources and opportunities at NIH. You may learn more at 2. The Neutral Zone The neutral zone or transition period can be a time of creative exploration and discovery while you are clarifying your options and goals. This is a great time to explore new ways of thinking about your career and to connect to people who are working as professionals in fields of interest to learn about their work. In order to learn more about your options and connect, you may want to start talking with people in informational interviews. Sometimes trainees find it helpful to plan how to set up informational interviews with a career counselor, especially if this is a new concept. If your experience has been primarily at the bench, you may also want to explore professional involvement in a FELCOM Committee, a professional society, or committees in your IC or community. 3. The New Beginning The new beginning is the final step in the transition process. It is usually marked by a decrease in anxiety, an increase in enthusiasm, and a clearer vision on how your recent change fits into your long- term plans. This might include starting medical school, a PhD program or moving on to a career as a faculty member, PI, science policy analyst, specialist in technology transfer, grants administrator, and beyond. Most people will go through each phase during a change; however, remember that each individual responds to change very differently. You might find that you breeze through transitions pretty quickly while others may struggle with each step. No matter what stage you are in related to your career goals and transitions, please take a look at the resources and services to support you at William Bridges' book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, offers suggestions about dealing with transitions and coping with change. You can find this book in most public libraries and it is also available in the OITE Career Library on the second floor of Building 2.