Actionable Book Summary: The Now Habit by Neil Fiore
The Book In Three Or More Sentences:
Whether you are a professional, an entrepreneur, a middle manager, a writer, or a student who struggles with procrastination, motivation, and creativity, the tips mentioned in The Now Habit by Neil Fiore will help you change your life for the better. The information inside is based on the experiences of thousands of coaching and therapy clients and seminar participants who have shared their difficulties and their triumphs with the author. The main thesis of Neil Fiore is that procrastination is a defense mechanism that people use to escape overwhelming projects. Or in other words, it’s mainly a book about beating procrastination.
The Core Idea:
Procrastination is a habit we develop to handle the anxiety accompanying certain tasks. However, hesitation to start a task doesn’t mean that you’re lazy per se, it usually means that there are some underlying issues rooted deep inside us: low self-esteem, perfectionism, fear of failure, imbalance between work and play, etc. The book offers a strategic program helping you cope with tasks that are boring or feel overwhelming. Also, to increase our level of motivation by giving us guilt-free time for play. The Now Habit will help you shift from Procrastinator into an efficient Producer making you feel positive and confident in situations that previously caused stress and delaying of work.
Procrastination doesn’t always mean that you’re lazy. On a lot of occasions, it’s what we do to avoid criticism.
You need to first figure out why you’re really procrastinating to start making progress.
To make progress and get better at things, you need to get comfortable with not being perfect.
If a task feels unpleasant, you previously experienced humiliation while doing it, criticism from your boss or from your parents you’ll surely postpone executing this specific assignment.
I mean, delaying a task doesn’t always mean that you’re lazy. It usually means that you’ve experienced some kind of insecurity related to the work in the past. Therefore, you stall the project as long as possible because you don’t want to experience the same unpleasant feelings again. Or in other words, procrastination is an attempt to escape possible negative feelings.
People who have been procrastinating for years on major life goals don’t just do it because they’re irrational (well, sometimes they do). They do it because it makes sense for them. They have doubts, fears, probably what’s on their to-do list doesn’t feel meaningful to them. In their minds they’re not procrastinating on the task itself, they are delaying feelings of insecurities coming along with the job. Eventually, procrastination turns into a habit.
So, the first step toward breaking this nasty habit and becoming a producer involves understanding the main reasons you delay work. Hence, questions like this one might help: Do you feel that committing to this project may lead to criticism, failure, or you’re just lazy?
Lesson #2: Identify Your Procrastination Patterns So You can Replace Them With Effective Alternative Patterns
Do you feel rushed, pressured, unhappy with your results at work? Do you miss deadlines for a job and school applications? Lose sales because you fail to achieve your targets, and even have difficulties in your relationships due to continually stalling certain things?
Often a simple thing like procrastination can hurt our life really badly. That’s why it’s so major to rid yourself from this habit and ignite motivation in your life.
The author provides several warning signs in the book that can help us quickly spot if we have issues with procrastination, goal achievement, or inefficient work habits. Here are the most important ones:
Do you keep an impossibly long “to do” list?
Do you talk about starting on projects in vague terms such as “sometime next week” or “next month”?
Do you find it difficult to stay committed to long-term projects?
Do you get easily distracted from a goal by another plan that seems to be free of problems and obstacles?
Do you find it that you’re never satisfied with what you accomplish?
Do you delay completing projects because you try to make them perfect?
Do you fear taking responsibility for decisions because you’re afraid of being blamed if something goes wrong?
Do you blame outside events for your failures because you’re afraid to admit to any deficiencies?
Obviously, if your answer is mostly yes to the questions above, you have issues with procrastination and time management. Probably you’re OK in some areas but you suck at others. To main idea here is to find where you fall behind. Where exactly you stall and fail to progress. The deeper you go – by asking questions – the better you’ll get to know yourself, thus find the best possible way to fix the situation.
Lesson #3: Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
How do you feel about you doing mediocre or just average work? Good? Bad? Disgusted with yourself?
If you’re raised to believe that you should be the best in everything you do. That anything less than perfect is a failure. Then, you’ll surely feel miserable if what you’re doing is not flawless.
The fear of failure, the fear of being imperfect (perfectionism), and the fear of impossible expectations (being overwhelmed) prevent us from doing our job properly. They stop our progress and are often the reasons we don’t follow our dreams and we don’t do anything new.
For example, you won’t pursue an acting career because you’ll initially suck and you can’t bear with this. However, most actors are bad at the beginning. And in essence, the main reason between an amateur and a pro is his ability to handle the initial setbacks and move forward despite them.
This type of behavior is common in all of us. Since we don’t want people to make fun of us, look stupid, feel stupid, we avoid doing these things.
Unfortunately, this game plan is not really optimal for your future progress in life. If you’re not trying new things only because you’re afraid of looking dull, you’ll never acquire new skills.
There’s only one solution: Get comfortable with not being special. Perfect. Perfection shouldn’t be your main goal. Improving should.
Lesson #4: The More Painful Work Is, The More You’ll Procrastinate
Procrastination is rewarding. It rewards us with temporary relief from stress and from our chores. It’s like a shelter we go to when the pending work feels scary, boring, hard. It’s the go-to place when we fear being judged by others.
As technology advances, this reward is becoming even more appealing. Nowadays you don’t simply avoid the hard task, you substitute it with something that gives you immediate pleasure: social media, video games, watching funny memes and pics online, YouTube, etc.
Basically, if you need to do something that requires a lot of efforts, you’ll probably first involve yourself in more pleasurable activities – checking your phone and other fun things.
Over time this becomes a habit:
You have work to do > You procrastinate.
The task is really hard > You procrastinate even longer.
You’re probably aware of this but for some reason you’re still doing it.
So, is there a way out of this vicious cycle?
There certainly is. But the path is not easy.
While patching your procrastination problem with quick life-hacks or tools (journaling, to-do lists, etc.) might help. They won’t resolve it in the long-term. They’ll only cure the surface problems. What you actually need is understanding the core reason for your work avoidance.
Probably you fear being judged, fear failure, or fear of doing imperfect work which might lead to negative consequences. In short, our fear prompts us to adopt the victim role where our work falls into the category “I have to do it or else I will be fired, publicly shamed, criticized.” But instead of forcing ourselves to “do the work,” we might simply transform this into “I choose to do the work.” To take responsibility for our job and break out of the victim role where we just follow our boss’s orders.
Lesson #5: Overcome Your Worry By Asking Yourself Questions
Worried about failing in a particular project? Losing your job? Not doing the best work possible? Well, that’s certainly something that can happen to all of us. A lot of times we stall projects and procrastinate for days because we’re afraid that our work might eventually suck.
To help us overcome these nasty feelings and allow us to break free from the hard times, Neil Fiore gives us a six-step process for facing fears and creating safety. These six short questions will help you gain back your focus and do the work:
What is the worst that could happen? Acknowledge the most dreaded scenario that could happen in a given situation.
What would I do if the worst really happened? Well, it will certainly be awful but also consider the following things: From where you can get help? What you can do to keep your cool? Then, think about what would you do? And what would you do after that? Continue asking yourself, “And then what would I do?” until you have a clear picture.
How would I lessen the pain and get on with as much happiness as possible if the worst did occur? Even if you fail, and the worse did happen, forgive yourself and move forward. Nothing good happens if you whine about it.
What alternatives would I have? If you really fuck up, what are the other options? For instance, if you do lose your job for not doing good work, what else you can do? Thinking about that in advance will give you a peace of mind.
What can I do now to lessen the probability of this dreaded event occurring? Is there something you have been procrastinating on – a telephone call, a specific task, a meeting – that you need to face in order to lessen worry, create safety, and move away from a bad outcome? If there is, if there’s even a small chance to dodge a dreadful situation by doing something, you should act, now.
Is there anything I can do now to increase my chances of achieving my goal? After considering the worst that could happen, make a plan to deal with it this situation.
Or in other words, if you want to escape future shitty situations, you should prepare yourself for the worse now.
Give yourself time to learn: Don’t allow outside people to lower your self-esteem or to make you feel negative about the work you’re doing. There are a lot of critics in our lives: our parents, teachers, and later our bosses. Unfortunately, this installs a feeling of “I’m never good enough” in our heads. But it shouldn’t be like that. If you think of yourself as a lifelong learner, you’ll accept the feedback and continue to learn.
Accept that you’re human: If you’re raised in a family of intense, high-energy, high achievers, where being the best is the default state, you’ll surely feel pressured to do everything perfectly. However, this pressure to do flawless work can cause you to freeze at crucial moments and actually lead to procrastination. To fix this, accept yourself as being perfectly human. Even if you make a mistake, remind yourself of your previous successes, forgive yourself for not doing perfect work this time and quickly start over.
Come in terms with success and failure: If you can’t stand failing, you’ll surely fear failure. You’ll strive to be the best at everything you do. Naturally, if you’re not good at doing a specific task, you won’t do it. This pressure, however, can be really dreadful and often leads to procrastination and creative block. That’s why you need to rethink the way you handle tasks that can lead to failure. You need to accept the fact that sometimes we fail. But that’s also how we get better.
Commentary And My Personal Takeaway
The key to ultimate success and happiness, after reading the book, I consider is the following: You should fight procrastination furiously. Every minute spared doing insignificant tasks is keeping you away from your main goal in life. However, criticizing or working yourself to the bone are both not long-term solutions. The best course of action is to find the real reason you’re stalling a project, your main fear, and try to slowly overcome it over time.
The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil Fiore (this is the full title) explains in great details the word procrastination. Along with that, the methods and exercises provided inside for battling procrastination seem perfectly valid and easily doable.
It’s a must-read for perfectionists, chronic procrastinators, and life long postponers.
I’m in pain. It hurts to run and it hurts to just stand here. It hurts to walk and it would hurt to lie down. Regardless of what I do, it hurts, so I might as well run and get it over with as soon as possible.”
Be alert to when preparation becomes procrastination. You get started and feel good about gathering all the information necessary to do the job, but you feel compelled to ask more questions and do more preparation before committing your own ideas to action because you’re wanting to feel more confident.”
The choice is not working or not working, but which type of work; even feeling guilty because of procrastinating takes some effort. When you commit to a goal, you’re committing to a form of work that brings ongoing rewards. When you procrastinate, you’re choosing a self-punishing form of work.”