Starting Tomorrow

7 Steps to Lasting Change—Get Stuff Done and Have More Fun!

Kim Kensington, Psy.D.

Procrastination Press Copyright © 2015 Kim Kensington

All Rights Reserved.

This book may not be reproduced in any form, in whole or in part (beyond the copying permitted by US Copyright Law, Section 107, “fair use” in teaching or research, Section 108, certain library copying, or in published media by reviewers in limited excerpts), without written permission from the author.

Disclaimer

This book is for your personal enjoyment and education only. While best efforts have been used, the author and publisher are not offering legal, accounting, medical or any other professional advice and make no representations or warranties of any kind and assume no liabilities of any kind with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness of use for a particular purpose, nor shall they be held liable or responsible to any person or entity with respect to any loss or incidental or consequential damages caused, or alleged to have been caused, directly or indirectly, by the information or programs contained herein. Stories, characters, and entities are fictional. Any likeness to actual persons, either living or dead, is strictly coincidental.

All images are free to use or share, even commercially, according to Google at the time of publication unless otherwise noted.

The information, ideas and techniques in this book are not medical advice or treatment, but rather knowledge intended to assist the reader. It is the responsibility of the reader to seek treatment for any medical, mental or emotional conditions that might warrant professional care.

ISBN: 978-0-9896628-1-9

 

THE PROCRASTINATION DOCTOR’S SOLUTION REVIEWS

“I think that every aspect of my life is improved because of the organization skills I learned with this program. This is a great program for people ready to stop procrastinating and get down to business!”

Alison B., Commercial Actress

~~~~~

“Thank you so much!!! The (program) is a must-do for procrastinators. I can only say that it works!...and... The stars and rewards are fun. Kim is ‘positively‘ great, and very supportive. This program works for the ADD/free-spirited types and the extremely detail-oriented (and is not at all like boring seminar/self-help meetings or trips to the dentist).”

Zoey G., Actor/Artist

~~~~~

“Just wanted to reiterate my thanks to you. This really is the first program that has worked for me: for four weeks now, I’ve been working on my book weekly. HUGE success for me! I’ve also been able to incorporate it with my other priorities: eat healthy and exercise. It really IS a life-changing [system] in that it makes you start dealing with your life. It finally started me working on my goals instead of worrying about them! It’s structured, organized and it works!”

“I LOVED it!!!!!”

~~~~~

Sarah S., Librarian/Writer

“This program made the process of getting organized and motivated into a lifelong habit, not just a quick-fix solution. A very supportive teacher and atmosphere.”

Paul B., Actor/Writer

~~~~~

“Dr. Kensington’s teaching style is warm, light, and she creates a learning environment that is friendly and progressive. A simple system for getting things done.”

Delena K., Sales Coach and Consultant ~~~~~

“I just wanted to thank you for the class—I got heaps out of it. I really enjoyed your acknowledging, accepting and enthusiastic style of leading the class. Thanks again.”

J.H.

~~~~~

“I have so struggled with time management, and this is the only overall solution that I seem able and happy to incorporate. I also really like that it challenges me to reward and acknowledge the good work I’m doing and is built on a reward system—not a system of reprimands, sheer discipline, and other such negative reinforcement. The Master List is great at heightening my consciousness about what I WANT to be doing routinely, while the Star Sheet makes me feel so good about contributing daily to the four domains in life most important to me. The sequencing concept with the notion of turning distractions into incentives totally helps keep things prioritized while giving them forward momentum. This program has so helped me conceptualize the four core pillars/domains of my life and put them in balance so that I’m living a healthier, happier lifestyle. So thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Heidi H. Teacher

"I loved it!"Marla C., Producer

 

Contents

INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................... 

PART ONE: "SHE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE" ...................................................................................... 

PART TWO: THE PROCRASTINATION DOCTOR'S SOLUTION ................................................................. 

Step One: Mind Fields.......................................................................... 

Simplify .............................................................................................................

Step Two: “To-Do”-ing It Differently ....................................................

Plan Not to Plan ................................................................................................

Step Three: Anchors Away ...................................................................

Choose “When” and Develop a Routine

Step Four: Roll Over, Fido ....................................................................

Make Productivity Rewarding...........................................................................

Step Five: A Star Is Born .......................................................................

Prepare to Launch.............................................................................................

Step Six: It’s Showtime! .......................................................................

Iron Out the Kinks .............................................................................................

Step Seven: Make It Your Own.............................................................

Take It Home: 28 Days ......................................................................................

PART THREE: TROUBLESHOOTING ...................................................................................................... 

PART FOUR: MAINTENANCE AND BEYOND YOUR 28 DAYS ................................................................

Gamble on Your Future........................................................................

Habitus Interruptus..............................................................................

APPENDICES ......................................................................................................................................

Appendix One: Supplies and Supplemental Exercises...........................

Appendix Two: Worksheets .................................................................

Appendix Three: Changes and Categories ............................................

Appendix Four: Incentives by Category ................................................ ACKNOWLEDGMENTS................................................................................

THANK YOU...............................................................................................

ABOUT THE AUTHOR .......................................................................................................................... CONNECT WITH ME ............................................................................................................................

 

Starting Tomorrow

 

Part One

“She Blinded Me with Science”

—Thomas Dolby

 

Starting Tomorrow

Dogs, Dragons, and Elephants, Oh, My!

THE BOOK YOU HOLD in your hands starts with the premise that no matter how gung-ho and determined you were when you picked it up, your motivation is bound to fade. By tomorrow it could be gone, pushed aside by another emergency, interesting possibility or novel idea.

Relax. This book assumes sticking with anything for long isn’t your forté, it sure wasn’t mine, and that’s exactly why I designed this program the way I did.

The Procrastination Doctor’s Solution is a quick, painless, paint-by-numbers plan that doesn’t require grit or even willpower. It will help you create new habits and lock them into place.

It’s a plan my client, “Julie,” needed desperately. Julie (name changed to protect her) is an extraordinarily talented attorney. When she launched her practice she juggled multiple legal projects easily. But when her caseload increased quickly, she fell straight into overwhelm. Fewer and fewer clients sought her counsel. She won many cases worth literally millions of dollars, but had no cash flow because she had neglected to bill her clients! Nothing she tried worked to solve the problems and she was floundering. Understandably, she was pessimistic. And scared.

Like Julie, many clients come to me after they have been struggling for a long time. They are afraid there is no way out and complain of feeling depressed, hopeless and fearful. Throughout many years of working with clients, I have recognized that many suffer from something psychologists call “learned helplessness.”

Learned Helplessness

I remember walking out—or, to be more exact, running out in tears—of an experimental psychology class in which we were supposed to experiment on rats. I’m not wired for that sort of thing, but thankfully a lot of scientists are. They’ve gone to a lot of trouble to study how animals learn new behaviors and unlearn old ones, so we might as well make use of it.

In Psych 101 we were taught about an experimenter, Martin Seligman, and a famous study. Two groups of dogs received shocks.

  • Group one could stop the shock by pressing a lever.

  • Group two had no control over when the shocks began and ended.

    Nothing the dogs did made any difference. They learned they were powerless.

    Then, both groups were put in pens from which they could easily escape the shocks by jumping over a low partition. The dogs in group one jumped over and got away. The dogs from group two did not try to get over the partition. They had given up because they had learned nothing they tried made a difference.

    Behavioral researchers have found the same phenomenon among elephants and, yes, humans. When we are frustrated one time too many, we assume the same outcome will occur next time and quit trying. Elephants who are chained to strong iron stakes when young finally give up trying to get away. As adult elephants, huge as a hut, they can still be bound to a stake by a slender rope. They’ve learned that struggling is useless. They have learned, inaccurately, that they are helpless.

People can be broken this way too. Kids who encounter endless frustration at school might finally stop trying. They expect to fail. Grownups who can’t figure out how to stay on top of the mail might conclude they’ll never be in control of their finances and accept the chaos and shame of growing debts. They stop believing change is possible.

As a result of your own experiences, you might not believe you can escape your current situation and make real changes. Doubt your doubts. For now, consider that you have more capabilities than you think.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PROCRASTINATION DOCTOR’S SOLUTION

We can break the cycle of learned helplessness by being aware of it, then looking more closely at the reality of our situation.

The Changing Brain: Rewiring/Neuroplasticity

Until recently brain researchers told us that the brain we were born with is the brain we have for life. Over time, they said, our brains would shrink and become less efficient. It was a considered to be normal part of aging. But the best news I’ve heard as a psychologist is that brains can change for the better. And in fact, we can change the way our brains are “wired”—at any age.

The official word for this amazing possibility is “neuroplasticity.” Brain scans, called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), show that when learning a new task, multiple regions of the brain are activated in a different way than ever before. Performing the new task creates a brand-new pathway among neurons, the cells in the brain that control everything from our breathing to eating an apple.

When new behaviors are repeated over and over, the newly minted neural pathways grow stronger and more robust, increasing the likelihood that you will repeat that behavior. Each time you repeat a behavior, that behavior becomes easier to remember and reproduce.

So by creating new behaviors that we repeat again and again, we can change our “learned helplessness” into “learned industriousness.” We can make the switch from being a person who avoids unpleasant tasks to a person who readily jumps into action. We can begin to rewire our brains to create new neural pathways and fresh new habits that help the pounds melt away and, for Julie, get the invoices mailed to clients. The even better news is that you don’t have to give up your current fun-loving self in the process. You can have it all!

I compare mapping new neural pathways to taking a hike to a beautiful waterfall. If there is no path to the waterfall, you will have to clear away a lot of brush to get there. A few days later, you want to show your best friend the waterfall, so the two of you follow the same route, cutting a little more brush as you go, making the path easier to navigate. Each time you revisit the waterfall, the brush is trampled a little more, a trail emerges, and your trips get faster and more efficient.

The same thing happens with our brain circuits. The first time we try a new behavior, it’s slow-going. We need a lot of encouragement and perhaps some extra

incentive to stick with the task. The second time we try that same behavior, it’s still difficult, but we feel less burdened. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth times are progressively easier. And the old paths (those procrastination paths) get tangled with undergrowth and become less automatic. Our brain likes the new zippy neural circuits better than the old ones! This is good news: behaviors that might be difficult at first can become easy over time.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PROCRASTINATION DOCTOR’S SOLUTION

Thanks to neuroplasticity, you CAN change your brain. There is scientific evidence that yesterday’s procrastination can become tomorrow’s good habits with repetition, repetition, repetition.

Behavior Change

When I was in graduate school studying psychology, I was interested in the theories that focused on the deep-seated reasons people do what they do. I wasn’t nearly as interested in behavior therapy, where the focus was on symptoms. But as graduation loomed, and I realized that all the insight in the world wasn’t doing squat to make me revise my résumé and write cover letters, I did a 180.

The only thing that mattered at the time was actually getting a job. I was beyond caring that my procrastination might be a symptom of deep-seated fears and unresolved childhood issues. I no longer had the time to explore that. I needed to

change things right now! I needed to get a job now! I’d deal with my issues, yup, later.

Behavior modification works on monkeys and dogs and rats . . . and people. Teachers who want to stop disruptive behavior in the classroom have used it for years. It is the basis for most addiction-recovery programs that help people unlearn old habits and replace them with new, healthier ones.

Though I’ve hunted far and wide, I’ve never seen behavior modification used for help with procrastination. That will change right here in these pages. Using proven methods of behavior change correctly is a virtually foolproof way to get results. I’m going to show you how to use them to work around your procrastination and improve your life. Let’s start with a quick tour of how behavior modification makes a difference.

Avoiding Avoidance

When Julie thought about invoicing her clients for the work she had done months ago, she would start to feel sick to her stomach. She imagined her clients opening the bill, making sarcastic comments about her ineptitude and tossing the invoice aside, unpaid. She avoided the unpleasant possibilities by skirting the issue entirely. Unfortunately, her avoidance also had unpleasant consequences for her: no cash flow in her business.

Each time we open the escape hatch and walk away from an anxiety-producing task, we reinforce our procrastination habit. We approach the task, feel awful about doing the task and turn (or run) away. Avoiding the task makes us feel better for the moment, but in the long run, we are setting up a procrastination habit. After several rounds of this pattern, we barely need to think about that hated task before we run away emotionally or physically.

 

Fear is a basic human emotion. It keeps us safe. We avoid the heat of a roaring fire because we have learned it will sear our tender flesh. But fear can be misplaced and exaggerated in our mind’s eye. Tasks such as billing a client for legitimate, completed work take on disproportionate importance. We are convinced that sending the bill might actually be a life-threatening action, so we avoid it accordingly. Logically, we know it is absurd to fear mailing an envelope that contains an invoice, but our brains are quick to adopt unreasoning fear.

 

Psychologists often treat irrational fears with behavior modification, and we are going to use it in the Procrastination Doctor’s Solution as a way to gradually reduce your aversion to doing those much-needed tasks. As an extreme example, let’s pretend that you have a fear of dragons.

A traditional psychological approach might take a look at the dragon you fear most to reduce anxiety about the specific components of the monster. How many scales does she have on her head? How far can her fire-breath reach? Exactly what shade of green is she? The therapist might delve into the history of your fear of dragons. When did you first experience a fear of dragons? Did you have a dragon-related trauma? As a child, did your Puff the Magic Dragon action figure fall off a shelf and hit you on the head?

While that approach can be beneficial, it can also take a long time. We are instead going to practice exposure therapy, a powerful technique used by behavior therapists. This powerful technique brings you face to face with your fear (sending bills to clients) with gradually increasing exposure to the negative emotion associated with it (shame and fear of dismissal). Within a matter of weeks, you will feel less anxiety about those tasks. Your procrastination (which has been protecting you from perceived fearful tasks) will dissipate.

 

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PROCRASTINATION DOCTOR’S SOLUTION

Gradually facing your perceived fears will help you stop avoiding tasks that previously seemed too difficult or challenging.

 

Anchoring the Action

 

Dr. David Premack was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania when he brought forth his famous theory, the Premack Principle:

“More probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors.”

More probable behaviors are the activities we do daily (or habitually) and less probable behaviors are the actions we put off until tomorrow (those on which we procrastinate).

Let’s say you have an ice cream habit. You eat a bowl of ice cream almost every night (the probable behavior—you probably will eat that ice cream). But you know you should eat more leafy green veggies, such as kale or spinach (the less probable behavior—you probably won’t eat kale under normal circumstances).

To encourage yourself to eat kale, you make a promise: no ice cream until you eat leafy greens. Because you really want your nightly dish of ice cream, you are willing to eat kale before you indulge in Ben and Jerry’s. Thus you increase the likelihood that you will eat kale by anchoring it to your ice cream habit.

In behavior modification lingo, the probable behavior (eating ice cream) is known as an ANCHOR for the less probable behavior (eating kale). During the Procrastination Doctor’s Solution, we anchor positive, probable behaviors that you already perform (savoring a nightly bowl of ice cream, brushing your teeth, checking your email) with a behavior you want to incorporate into your life (going to the gym, decluttering your office, eating leafy greens).

In Part Two I’ll ask you to list some of your daily, regular anchors so we can use them as a tractor beam to attract and implement some of the things you have been procrastinating on for years. Anchors, used well, are pure gold.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PROCRASTINATION DOCTOR’S SOLUTION

You will use anchors (probable behaviors that are already firmly in place) to push through procrastination to do things you want or need (less probable behaviors that seemed out of reach until now).

Get a Cue

Ivan Pavlov is famous for his research with dogs on conditioned reflex. When Pavlov rang a bell, he fed the dogs. Again and again the bell rang and the dogs ate. When dogs anticipate food, they begin to salivate. Over time the dogs associated the bell with food and eventually they would begin to salivate when the bell rang. Pavlov linked two unrelated behaviors: a ringing bell and a drooling dog. The bell was the cue for the dogs to anticipate food and salivate.

The process of conditioned reflex works for us too. We will use Pavlov’s experiment to launch a chain of success in the Procrastination Doctor’s Solution. Though it might not involve bells and food, we will deliberately create cues that will trigger us to automatically begin the tasks that we previously avoided.

Cues or triggers are unique to each individual. Julie’s trigger that prompts her to eat ice cream might be sitting on the couch to watch television. This association has been repeated again and again so that sitting on the couch automatically triggers heading to the freezer. By repeatedly sitting on the couch, then eating kale, and then eating ice cream, sitting on the couch can become a new trigger for Julie to eat kale!

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PROCRASTINATION DOCTOR’S SOLUTION

Noticing and associating triggers already present in your life will ensure easier starts.

Roll Over, Fido

Animals can be taught to do a lot of crazy things. Dogs can learn to find your keys, dolphins jump through hoops, and rats press levers for food. The common thread among all these behaviors is rewards. To firmly establish a behavior, such as finding keys (which is certainly not natural for dogs), trainers use treats, treats and more treats.

We’re no different. Our brains are wired for reward. When we anticipate a juicy treat coming our way, the brain releases dopamine, a brain chemical that is linked to feeling good. As we make our way into unfamiliar territory, such as vanquishing procrastination, we need to make sure our brains are happy. That means lots and lots of treats.

Every time we “do it right,” for example, overcome our former reluctance to perform a task, we need to give the brain the equivalent of a lollipop. When the brain receives the figurative lollipop, it goes to its happy place. Liking to feel good, the brain wants more lollipops. And more and more. And we provide them . . . right away.

The trick is to reward our brain with a lollipop every single time we take action toward our goal. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we reinforce the good feeling of taking action with a treat/lollipop, but it must be done reliably. If you skip a treat here and there, your brain will start to mistrust you. You don’t want a mistrustful brain. Trust me.

Unless you truly love lollipops, that’s probably not going to work as a treat for your brain. But rewards/lollipops can be whatever you feel good about, such as a cup of tea, reading a chapter in a compelling novel, a new pair of earrings or simply taking 10 minutes to sit in the sun. Whatever gives YOU pleasure is your brain’s lollipop.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PROCRASTINATION DOCTOR’S SOLUTION

Regular, consistent rewards are essential to the success of the program. Without rewards, your brain will rebel, slack off and you might slip back into procrastination mode.

Recipe for Success: Putting It All Together

We know what to do. It’s the “doing” that’s the problem. It is recommended we eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Vegetables are good for us. So is staying on top of our finances. And flossing. Yeah, yeah, we know. The challenge for some of us is how to get ourselves to do that consistently.

Many parents out there know about Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, which gives recipes for how to “hide” vegetables in food so that kids unknowingly eat what they would normally refuse. Her recipe for macaroni and cheese includes finely ground cauliflower. She hides beets in colorful pancakes.

The Procrastination Doctor’s Solution is like Seinfeld’s recipes. We pair things you like doing (those probable behaviors again) with things that are less desirable (such as sending invoices—less probable behaviors) so you eat your mac and cheese cheerfully. It’s the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

During the next four weeks, we will increase the amount of “cauliflower” in your dish. As a result, you will gradually grow accustomed to being more productive with fewer struggles. Someday, raw cauliflower might even seem delicious to you.

~~~~~

Luis

I’d like to introduce you to Luis, one of my clients who had a long history of procrastination. He completed the Procrastination Doctor’s Solution with remarkable results. I share his story so you’ll have a sneak preview of what’s in store.

 

Luis was determined to get in shape, but despite his best intentions, he claimed he couldn’t find time to exercise. The truth was, Luis really didn’t like lifting weights and sweating. He preferred watching TV or talking long walks with Max, his beloved dog.

 

Luis’ goal in the Procrastination Doctor’s Solution was to add 30 minutes of exercise to his schedule. Max, his dog, became part of Luis’ transformation.

Max was accustomed to a long walk about 5:00 pm each day. That walk became Luis’ probable behavior or his ANCHOR for his new exercise regimen.

When it was near five o’clock, Max began following Luis from room to room staring at him, as if to REMIND Luis that Walk Time was here. Then Luis would put on his sneakers and take Max on his walk. Putting on his sneakers became the TRIGGER for him to exercise.

Luis inserted a small amount of exercise immediately before he took Max on a walk. That was his NEW BEHAVIOR.

Since Walk Time was something Luis and Max did every day, whether or not he exercised, it worked as an anchor, but wasn’t enough of for a reward. Luis needed something extra for each day that he included his new behavior. Though he often listened to the radio when he walked Max, there was a new podcast that had captured his interest. He used the new podcast as his REWARD, listening to it only after he worked out.

Eventually, the sequence looked like this:

  • Max stares at Luis—REMINDER.

  • Luis puts on sneakers—TRIGGER.

  • Luis exercises—NEW BEHAVIOR.

  • Luis walks Max—ANCHOR.

  • Luis listens to new podcast—REWARD.

    Though Luis started with just 5 minutes of exercise, at the end of his 28 day program, he was exercising for a full 30 minutes before Walk Time with Max. And he was not locked into a particular workout; as long as he did some form of exercise during that time, he counted it as a success.

 

Luis exercises for 30 minutes—NEW BEHAVIOR SUCCESS.

 

By day 28 of the program, Luis’ brain was becoming accustomed to its new neural pathways and the entire program was easier to follow. There were plenty of rewards, so his brain was full of dopamine and happy as a clam at high tide.

Unlike the many disclaimers you see on television in the fine print, Luis’ results ARE typical and your results might be even better than his.

The Procrastination Doctor’s Solution takes a bit of time and some practice to prepare at first, and there’s a real danger that you might give up too soon and return to counting carrot cake as a vegetable. Because you aren’t relying on grit, self-discipline or willpower, you’ll need a really powerful motivator to keep coming back to the test kitchen for 28 days.

Though the podcast was enough to draw Luis to his walks, he needed a much stronger motivator to encourage him to persist through the entire 28 day program. He decided to treat himself to tickets to see his favorite sport team compete if he worked toward his goal at least 24 of the 28 days in the program. He tracked his progress using the Procrastination Doctor’s Solution Star Chart, a strong visual reminder that he was making a change in his life.

Luis makes modifications and tracks his progress for 24 or 28 days—and receives his GRAND PRIZE REWARD.

This program is a unique combination of time-tested methods, designed with the chronic procrastinator in mind. You will not only reach your goals, but you will maintain your progress and perhaps venture into new areas of success.

No need to think; the sections that follow contain the how-to, the paint-by- numbers, the step-by-step success plan I promised. Get ready to move from inaction to being in action. Now let’s get started.

 

 

About the Author

Kim Kensington grew up in Hawaii and went to high school with US President Barack Obama. After receiving her bachelor of arts degree in psychology at Amherst College in Massachusetts, she earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from the Virginia Consortium Program in Psychology. An actor and psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles, California, Kim is known as The Procrastination Doctor. She has spent more than 20 years researching, testing, and creating solutions to overcome procrastination for her patients. Recognizing the need for an “out of the box” process, she developed this program. Kim, a member of CHADD and ADDA, regularly lectures and performs stand-up comedy about procrastination and adult ADHD for international audiences. She lives in Santa Monica, California, with her dog, Tazzy, who keeps her on a very tight schedule.

 

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