30 Incorrectly Used Words… Avoid them and Improve your Business Writing Today

While I like to think I know a little about business writing, I often fall into a few word traps. For example, “who” and “whom.” I rarely use “whom” when I should. Even when spell check suggests “whom,” I think it sounds pretentious. So I don’t use it.

And I’m sure some people then think, “What a bozo.”

And that’s a problem, because just like that one misspelled word that gets a resumé tossed into the “nope” pile, using one wrong word can negatively impact your entire message.

Fair or unfair, it happens.

So let’s make sure it doesn’t:

Adverse and averse

Adverse means harmful or unfavorable; “Adverse market conditions caused the IPO to be poorly subscribed.” Averse means dislike or opposition; “I was averse to paying $18 a share for a company that generates no revenue.”

But you can feel free to have an aversion to adverse conditions.

Affect and effect

Verbs first. Affect means to influence; “Impatient investors affected our roll-out date.” Effectmeans to accomplish something; “The board effected a sweeping policy change.” How you use effect or affect can be tricky. For example, a board can affect changes by influencing them, or can effect changes by implementing them. Use effect if you’re making it happen, and affect if you’re having an impact on something someone else is trying to make happen.

As for nouns, effect is almost always correct; “Once he was fired he was given twenty minutes to gather his personal effects.” Affect refers to emotional states so unless you’re a psychologist, you’re probably not using it.

Compliment and complement

Compliment is to say something nice. Complement is to add to, enhance, improve, complete, or bring close to perfection. So, I can compliment your staff and their service, but if you have no current openings you have a full complement of staff. And your new app may complement your website.

For which I may decide to compliment you.

Criteria and criterion

“We made the decision based on one overriding criteria,” sounds pretty impressive but is wrong.

Remember: one criterion, two or more criteria. Although you could always use “reason” or “factors” and not worry about getting it wrong.

Discreet and discrete

Discreet means careful, cautious, showing good judgment; “We made discreet inquiries to determine whether the founder was interested in selling her company.”

Discrete means individual, separate, or distinct; “We analyzed data from a number of discrete market segments to determine overall pricing levels.” And if you get confused, remember you don’t use “discreetion” to work through sensitive issues; you exercise discretion.

Elicit and illicit

Elicit means to draw out or coax. Think of elicit as the mildest form of extract or, even worse, extort. So if one lucky survey respondent will win a trip to the Bahamas, the prize is designed to elicit responses.

Illicit means illegal or unlawful. I suppose you could “illicit” a response at gunpoint… but best not.

Farther and further

Farther involves a physical distance; “Florida is farther from New York than Tennessee.”Further involves a figurative distance; “We can take our business plan no further.” So, as we say in the South, “I don’t trust you any farther than I can throw you.” Or, “I ain’t gonna trust you no further.”

(Seriously. I’ve uttered both of those sentences. More than once.)

Imply and infer

The speaker or writer implies. The listener or reader infers. Imply means to suggest, while infer means to deduce (whether correctly or not.) So, I might imply you’re going to receive a raise. You might infer that a pay increase is imminent. (But not eminent unless the raise will be prominent and distinguished.)

Insure and ensure

This one’s easy. Insure refers to insurance. Ensure means to make sure. So if you promise an order will ship on time, ensure it actually happens. Unless, of course, you plan to arrange for compensation if the package is damaged or lost–then feel free to insure away.

Number and amount

I goof these up all the time. Use number when you can count what you refer to; “The number of subscribers who opted out increased last month.” Amount refers to a quantity of something you can’t count; “The amount of alcohol consumed at our last company picnic was staggering.”

Of course it can still be confusing: “I can’t believe the number of beers I drank,” is correct, but so is, “I can’t believe the amount of beer I drank.” The difference is I can count beers, but beer, especially if I was way too drunk to keep track, is an uncountable total–so amount is the correct usage.

Precede and proceed

Precede means to come before. Proceed means to begin or continue. Where it gets confusing is when an “ing” comes into play. “The proceeding announcement was brought to you by…” sounds fine, but “preceding” is correct since the announcement came before.

If it helps, think precedence: Anything that takes precedence is more important and therefore comes first.

Principal and principle

principle is a fundamental; “We’ve created a culture where we all share certain principles.”Principal means primary or of first importance; “Our startup’s principal is located in NYC.” (Sometimes you’ll also see the plural, “principals,” used to refer to executives or (relatively) co-equals at the top of a particular food chain.)

Principal can also refer to the most important item in a particular set; “Our principal account makes up 60 percent of our gross revenues.”

Principal can also refer to money, normally the original sum that was borrowed, but can be extended to refer to the amount you owe–hence principal and interest.

If you’re referring to laws, rules, guidelines, ethics, etc, use principle. If you’re referring to the CEO or the president (or the individual in charge of the high school), use principal. And now for those dreaded apostrophes:

It’s and its

It’s is the contraction of it is. That means it’s doesn’t own anything. If your dog is neutered (that way we make the dog, however much against his will, gender neutral) you don’t say, “It’s collar is blue.” You say, “Its collar is blue.” Here’s an easy test to apply. Whenever you use an apostrophe, un-contract the word to see how it sounds. In this case, turn it’s into it is. “It’s sunny,” becomes, “It is sunny.” Sounds good to me.

They’re and their

Same with these; they’re is the contraction for they are. Again, the apostrophe doesn’t own anything. We’re going to their house, and I sure hope they’re home.

Who’s and whose

“Whose password hasn’t been changed in six months?” is correct. “Who is (the un-contracted version of who’s) password hasn’t been changed in six months?” sounds silly.

You’re and your

One more. You’re is the contraction for you areYour means you own it; the apostrophe inyou’re doesn’t own anything. For a long time a local non-profit had a huge sign that said “You’re Community Place.”

Hmm. “You Are Community Place”?

Probably not.

 

 

Written by Jeff Hayden, Inc.

35 Questions That Will Change Your Life

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” – Voltaire

“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.” – Carl Sagan

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

As I turn 35 and think of my life so far and what’s to come, I realize how much I’m shaped by the questions I ask.  I’ve always been insatiably curious.  These are the 35 questions that have made the biggest impact on my life.

Self-Awareness

What are you pretending not to know? This was perhaps the most powerful question I was ever asked (by my best friend.  All possibilities open up when we stop deceiving ourselves.

Why don’t you do the things you know you should be doing? Life isn’t about figuring out what to do.  The real challenge is (not so) simply doing the things we know we should be doing.

What are your values and are you being true to them? Write down the 3 most important aspects of each of these areas: family, romantic relationships, friends, work, health, sex and spirituality.  These are your values.  When we don’t act congruently with what we value, symptoms of discomfort arise.

In what ways are you being perceived, that you’re not aware of? ­Perception is reality.  Make sure, for better or worse, you know what people really think of you.  (TIP: Watch “How to Persuade People”)

What don’t you know, that you don’t know?It’s always the obstacles that we don’t even see coming that are the biggest challenges in life.  Get in the habit of asking people that have been there and done it before for guidance.

Happiness / Peace of Mind

Are your “shoulds” getting in the way of your happiness? The desires of our ego are often in conflict with the emotions of our heart.  You’ll always have what you want, if you want what you have.

If you achieved all of your life’s goals how would you feel? How can you feel that along the way? The discipline of delayed gratification is one of the most powerful habits of successful individuals. But most actions we take are meant to elicit an emotion in the now.  We’re happier striving for our goals when we let ourselves feel that which we want to feel when our outcome is achieved.

What did I learn today? Who did I love? What made me laugh? I try and ask myself these 3 questions at the end of each day.  Regardless of anything else that happens, if you learned something new, loved a good person and got to laugh heartily, it was a day worth having and remembering.

Perspective

If you weren’t scared what would you do?Use the rocking chair test.  What would your 90-year-old self, looking back on your own life, advise you to do in the moment?  

If you were dying, would you worry about this?  We so easily lose perspective on what takes up our energy and focus.  We’re all dying.  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this to enjoy living.  (TIP: Read “The Last Lecture” and “Tuesdays with Morrie”)

Should you be focused on today or tomorrow? Savor the present but don’t forget your future.  Life is a balance of knowing when to enjoy the moment vs. when to plant seeds for tomorrow’s harvest.

Influence / Achievement

Why not?  What would happen if…? Don’t accept that things just are the way they are.  Question why something can’t be done.  And when you get pushback to these questions, reframe the negative answers with possibilities. (TIP: Watch “Steve Job’s Vision of the World”)

What/Who did you make better today? The way to measure your worth may just be to give more than you take.  Asking what/who you made better each day is a simple litmus test we can all measure ourselves by.

What do you want your life to be in 5 years? If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there – Lewis Carroll.  Write down 5-year goals.  They’re close enough to grasp for, yet far off enough to achieve almost anything.

What can you do today to improve? Consistent, incremental improvement is the secret to achieving the greatest of feats.

Business / Entrepreneurship

What’s your WHY? If you have a big enough WHY you’ll always figure out the What and the How.  If you don’t have a BIG WHY, you’ll always use the What and the How as an excuse for not doing that thing you said you were going to do.  (Watch “What’s Your Why”)

What’s the one most important thing to get done today/ this week/month? Write this down on a Post-it note at the beginning of each day/week, and hold yourself accountable for completing this above all other Stuff To Do.

What questions must you consider before starting a business? See my list by watching “The 10 Questions” or reading the document 

What’s the potential upside? What’s the effort involved? What’s the likelihood of success? What’s the strategic value? This is the framework I came up with 3 years ago on “How to Make the Right Business Decisions”.  Whenever there is an opportunity cost, I have my team go through this exercise.

What are we talking about? What problem are we solving? I try to start off every meeting by putting this on the whiteboard.  In group settings we too often we find ourselves having completely different conversations.  Sometimes when answers are difficult to come by, it’s helpful to question if we’re solving for the right problem.

Can you get it done now? If something is important or urgent and you can get it done now, do it.  (TIP: Read “Getting Things Done” from the productivity guru David Allen)

What do you need to make it happen? This is one of my favorite questions to ask as a manager.  It creates ownership to make sure the goals will be achieved.  And it creates a shared responsibility to provide the resources required (time, money, talent, etc.) to achieve those goals.

If we could wave a magic wand and do anything together, what would that look like?  I use this question all the time with potential business partners.  By removing the perceived constraints that bind us and focusing on mutually desired outcomes, we often discover new pathways of possibility.

How would your role models act and carry themselves? Act as if.  Act as if you have the experience, wisdom and swagger of your role model, and you’ll often find even the most unchartered of situations more navigable.

When can we meet? We’re often this one question away from engaging with someone who can open up limitless avenues of possibility.   The most important aspect of business is still to always get it done in person.  (TIP: Read “Business Development Advice”) 

Will you be my mentor? It’s one question that, when asked in earnest, almost nobody will turn down.  Reach out to a person in a position and industry you admire, and ask them if you can take them to coffee and hear about how they got there.

What will I only know about you after we’ve worked together for a year? This interview question comes from the awesome Wendy Lea (CEO,GetSatisfaction).  This may be the best interview question I’ve ever heard.  (Watch “Fireside Chat with Wendy Lea” and check out my previous 8 Awesome Interview Questions)

What would get you interested in our product/service? Selling is the art of asking good questions, listening, and matching your value to people’s needs.  Sales is very easy when others explain what they want and need from you.  (Watch “The 5 Step Sales Process”)

Catch-All

What else? Such a simple but powerful question with so may applications.

 

By Jason Nazar, Forbes.com

10 Powerful Quotes From The Steve Jobs Movie And What They Teach Us About Leadership

Ashton Kutcher playing Steve Jobs

Ashton Kutcher portraying Steve Jobs

The script for Jobs, the new movie starring Ashton Kutcher as the visionary Apple co-founder, is heavy with quotes that reflect Jobs’ business philosophy and approach to life. I’ve interviewed the director, Joshua Michael Stern, and I recognize most of Kutcher’s lines in the movie as being either direct quotes from Steve Jobs or compilations of his quotes. Here is my vote for the ten best quotes from the movie and what they can teach us about leadership, creativity, communications, and success.

1. I’m not dismissing the value of higher education; I’m simply saying it comes at the expense of experience.

According to Jobs film director Joshua Michael Stern, Steve Jobs felt that life experiences were critical to being creative. Stern included pivotal scenes in the movie showing a young Steve Jobs taking a college calligraphy course and visiting India with his friend, Daniel Kottke. “Absorbing culture, art, and history were extremely important to Jobs. He believed in taking life experiences and using it as a subtext for something else you’re doing, like helping to form the product you’re creating,” said Stern. This is one of the most powerful success principles we can learn from Steve Jobs: a broad set of life experiences is essential for creativity to flourish.

2. The greatest artists like Dylan, Picasso and Newton risked failure. And if we want to be great, we’ve got to risk it too.

Steve Jobs didn’t hesitate to take risks. If he wanted something, he would ask, even at a young age. When Jobs was twelve years old he called up HP co-founder Bill Hewlett and asked for spare parts. Hewlett gave Jobs the parts and a summer job. “You’ve got to be willing to crash and burn. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far,” Jobs once said. “Most people never pick up the phone and call. Most people never ask, and that’s what separates the people who do things from the people who just dream about them.” I’ve rarely interviewed a successful entrepreneur or CEO who hasn’t risked failure. In fact most successful people don’t even see ‘failure;’ they see a result that didn’t have the intended outcome.

3. How does somebody know what they want if they haven’t even seen it?

Steve Jobs didn’t believe in focus groups. Actually, he avoided them like the plague. Jobs believed in building great products that he would want to use himself. To a large extent he had a point. For example, in 2010 how many of us would have asked for a third device in between a laptop and a smartphone? Most people would never have asked for an iPad, but once millions of consumers saw it, they couldn’t live without it, and it opened up entirely new categories of business applications. When I spent one year researching a book on the Apple Store, I learned that Jobs revolutionized the retail business because he asked better questions. For example, Jobs did not ask, “How do we build a better store than our competitors?” Instead he asked, “How do we reinvent the store?” Don’t do things better; do things differently.

4. Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

Ashton Kutcher likes this quote so much he used it in a short speech at a recent award show, explaining that it’s one of the most profound things he learned while preparing for the role as Steve Jobs. The quote itself is taken from a rare 1995 interview for the Santa Clara Valley Historical Association. The entire clip is available here on YouTube. The rest of the quote is equally as profound: “When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life and try not to bash into the walls too much…that’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact—everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you…shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just going to live in it versus make your mark upon it. Once you learn that, you will never be the same again.” Don’t just live a life; build one.

5. I would rather gamble on our vision than make a ‘me, too’ product.

Steve Jobs believed in dreaming big. In the 1970s personal computers were relegated to the hobbyist market. Jobs had the vision of ‘putting a computer in the hands of everyday people.’ He once said that Xerox could have dominated the entire computer industry because Xerox scientists in Palo Alto’s PARC research facility were developing the first graphical user interface. Jobs said Xerox failed because its “vision” was limited to making another copy machine. Never underestimate the power of a bold vision to move your career and the world forward.

6. We’ve got to make the small things unforgettable.

The devil’s in the details and few people were more obsessed with details than Jobs. We’ve all heard stories of Jobs driving his engineers crazy because he didn’t like the aesthetic of something inside the computer that nobody would ever see. Everything mattered. I recall visiting a cardboard box manufacturing facility in Modesto, California, to prepare for a keynote speech to industry executives. This company made boxes for Apple products. One factory manager said out of the thousands of brands they made boxes for, none were more particular than Apple. Steve Jobs demanded that the details of the box, the tactile design, had to be just right. The edges had to look and even feel a certain way. When customers opened an iPhone box, it had to set the tone for the experience. Far too many people and businesses overlook the details and the customer experience with the brand inevitably suffers. Details matter.

7. Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Jobs once said that what made the Macintosh great was the fact that the people he chose to work on the system were “musicians, and poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians who also happened to be computer scientists.” It’s a profound insight that speaks to building creative teams. Today it’s common for many companies to overlook creative individuals because they don’t fit in a hiring box. Jobs didn’t just think differently; he hired differently. See genius in diversity. Hire outside your industry from time to time.

8. You’ve got to have a problem that you want to solve; a wrong that you want to right.

I considered Steve Jobs one of the world’s greatest corporate presenters because he always explained the problem that his product would solve. The introduction of iTunes Music Store in 2003 is perhaps the best example of this approach. In one presentation Steve Jobs turned around public opinion, convincing customers that it was in their best interest to pay for something (songs) that they could otherwise get for free at the time. In this video clip you can watch Jobs demonstrate the “upsides and downsides” of the status quo, followed by his “solution,” the 99 cent song on the iTunes Music Store. Your audience needs to understand the problem your idea solves. Don’t leave them guessing. Explain it clearly.

9. It [what you choose to do] has got to be something that you’re passionate about because otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through.

Steve Jobs believed that passion was a critical component of success. He talked about the role of passion constantly, so it’s no surprise that this quote would appear in ‘Jobs’, the film. The 2005 Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford University has been viewed millions of times and it’s the event where his thoughts on passion are most clearly articulated. Jobs told the graduates that day, “You’ve got to find what you love… Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” This could very well be the greatest piece of career advice ever given, with the exception of #10.

10. In your life you only get to do so many things and right now we’ve chosen to do this, so let’s make it great.

This quote is the best advice Jobs ever gave to Disney’s Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter. Well before he became Disney’s chief animator, Lasseter recalls his first meeting with Steve Jobs after Jobs bought Pixar in 1986. Lasseter was working on a short film at the time and, at the end of the meeting, Lasseter says Steve Jobs asked him to do one thing: “Make it great.” The short, Tin Toy, went on to win the first academy award ever given for computer animation and set the foundation for what later would become Toy Story. Lasseter has told the story publicly a few times, most recently in this emotional tribute at Disney’s D23 Expo (the story begins at 8:30). Lasseter said those three words—make it great—have applied to every frame of every Pixar movie he worked on.

Is everything you do as great as it could be? This could very well be the most important question you ask yourself as a leader. Your customers deserve nothing less. Don’t just make it; make it great.

 

 

By Carmine Gallo is the communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. He is a popular keynote speaker and author of several books, including the international bestsellers The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs. His new book, The Apple Experience, is the first book to reveal the secrets behind the stunning success of the Apple Retail Store. Carmine has recently launched an eLearning course titled, New Rules of Persuasive Presentations.

Great Tips for Road Warriors!

TorontoPlanning a wedding when you’re out of town for work most days of the week isn’t what most brides-to-be would envision.

But Theresa Donnelly, 28, a manager for Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, has figured out how to deal with it while she also handles her work at a hotel in Toronto, where she lives four or five days a week.

She communicates with caterers, vendors, bridesmaids, her mother and future mother-in-law through e-mail. She makes sure to talk each day to her fiance through Skype or FaceTime. She also tries to have daily contact with other friends and family.

Her work, which involves advising clients on how to comply with financial regulations, leaves her little time for breaks. So she has to depend on electronic communications.

“If a vendor doesn’t use e-mail, I don’t use them, since I don’t have time to take calls during the day,” she says.

Although she’s been living on the road for work for only five years, Donnelly is a pro at it. She’s adept at using electronic media to keep her house in order even when she’s not in her house in Philadelphia. She traverses airline, airport and hotel schedules and rates for the best travel times and prices. She’s learned to pack all she needs within minutes.

And perhaps most important, she’s learned how to balance everything without going crazy.

Yes, she says of life on the road as a young person, “It’s tough. Obviously, you don’t want to have to be away from your loved ones.”

But it’s a sacrifice Donnelly is willing to make for her career. As a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, she interned with Deloitte. So she knew what she was getting herself into.

“Even though the travel can be difficult at times,” she says, “I find the job rewarding, and I don’t mind the travel as much.”

To make the travel less difficult, she’s developed some strategies. Among them:

Packing

“I’ve become ridiculously efficient at packing,” Donnelly says.

She only does a carry-on bag. She advises those who decide to check their bags to make sure they have one set of clothing in their carry-on in the off-chance a bag is lost or delayed.

Her other must-have carry-on items? Granola bars, so she can avoid buying unhealthy snacks at airports, an iPod to drown out the noise on the airplane, her Kindle or a book for inevitable delays, her running shoes, phone charger, laptop and travel-size toiletries.

The consummate professional, she also always has business cards ready to hand out. “You never know who you will meet on a plane or waiting at the airport,” she says.

Choosing flights

Donnelly is picky about scheduling flights. She tries to choose ones that won’t require her to get to the airport during rush hour. She tries to avoid busy ones, such as those departing on Monday mornings. If she can’t avoid the busy ones, she prepares herself for having a seatmate and for waiting in a long line.

That’s why she leaves for the airport way ahead of time.

“The worst thing you can do is be running and sweating to get to your gate,” she says. “Then you’re agitated and uncomfortable for the whole flight.”

If she has to travel overseas, she tries to take an overnight flight so she can sleep.

Normally, she chooses an aisle seat, but on overnight flights, she chooses a window seat so she won’t be disturbed while sleeping. “To have people climbing over you, it can be a little uncomfortable,” she says.

She never leaves home without her headphones to drown out the noise of people around her when she tries to sleep.

Choosing a hotel

Donnelly used to bounce around different hotels, depending on price and availability. Now that she goes to the same city all the time, she’s found that she can get better deals by being loyal to one hotel.

If she knows she’s going to stay at a hotel several days, she’ll call and ask to speak to the corporate sales representative. She’s been able to negotiate better rates and accommodations.

Even when the hotel has had no availability or blackouts online, she’s been able to finagle a room.

“If you make them aware that you are there, they treat you well,” she says. “It’s really in their best interest … to have someone like me, a long-term business traveler, rather than have 20 different people for a couple of days and have a room empty here or there.”

Staying healthy

Donnelly tries to maintain the routines she keeps at home. That means going to the gym regularly.

She usually picks hotels with 24-hour access to gyms so she can hit it at any time.

Trying to eat in a healthy manner is her biggest challenge on the road. “You’re really eating out three meals a day, and it becomes difficult to know what you’re putting in your body,” she says.

To maintain some consistency, she sometimes asks the hotel for an empty fridge to keep some healthy food in her room.

She also looks for salad bars or chains that she knows use fresh ingredients.

“I do online research to find places that are nearby and get the lay of the land ahead of time so I’m not settling for whatever I find,” she says.

Enjoying the travel

Donnelly thinks it’s a mistake to never see the city you’re visiting. So during her downtime, she tries to get out and explore.

Before she lands in a new place, she reads up on its landmarks. Once there, she walks or takes public transportation to them.

“I think it’s good to get familiar and comfortable with a city so you can feel safe,” she says. “It’s silly to go to a new different city and not learn anything about it.”

And she doesn’t keep to herself just because she’s a solo traveler.

Some hotels, she says, will have social hours so that long-term guests can meet each other. She also tries to get together with co-workers for coffee or dinner so she’s not always eating alone.

“You spend a lot of time together on the road,” she says. “You tend to become quite friendly with each other.”

She also gets to enjoy some perks thanks to her frequent travel.

She’s accumulated so many airline frequent-flier miles and hotel loyalty points that her vacations are often paid for. “The frequent travel comes with some side benefits,” she says.

Her wedding is scheduled for September. Her honeymoon will be in Hawaii. The airfare and hotel all came courtesy of her miles and points.

Top tips

1. Leave for the airport early, even if it means having to sit around the airport reading or doing work.

2. Try to avoid flights that you know are going to be too crowded or that require you to travel to the airport during rush hour.

3. Try to have only your carry-on bag. If you do check a bag, pack an extra outfit in your carry-on in case your checked luggage gets delayed.

4. If you know you’re going to spend several days at a hotel, call the hotel ahead of time and try to negotiate a better rate or better accommodations.

5. Get out of the immediate area surrounding your hotel or office. Take advantage of the fact that you’re in a new place and try to schedule some sightseeing.

 

 

 

Source: Nancy Trejos, USA Today

Why we procrastinate, and how to stop it. NOW.

 procrastination2

Stop Procrastination. NOW.

We all procrastinate from time to time. Sometimes it’s those mundane things – like sorting through old files, reconciling accounts, or tidying the linen cupboard. But often it’s the bigger things that require more time, more commitment, and put us at more risk of failing, looking foolish or feeling emotionally bruised.  Things like updating our resume to look for a new job, confronting a situation that weighs us down, or pursuing a long held aspiration.

Of course people come up with all sorts of creative reasons why now, today, just isn’t the right time. Too busy. Too broke. Too stressed. Too risky. Too uncertain. Too inexperienced. Too old. Too young. Too disruptive. Occasionally those reasons are valid. But more often they are simply excuses for doing the real work and experiencing the emotional discomfort inherent in making meaningful changes in our work and lives.

At the core of that discomfort is fear.  That potent and instinctive emotion whose reason for being is to protect us from pain (including the emotional variety) and urge us away from anything it perceives might threaten our sense of self, injure our pride, or rattle our world. However, left unchecked, those fears can drive us to cling on to the hope that if we procrastinate long enough, our situation will improve, or our misgivings will magically evaporate and be replaced with new found clarity and courage. We tell ourselves that ‘one day’ we will be ready to make a change, or take a chance; that ‘one day’ the timing will be better, our confidence stronger, our circumstances easier.

Unfortunately the reverse is generally true. As the days roll steadily by, our fears grow larger, not smaller, until they eventually lead to a burial ground for unfulfilled dreams and untapped potential.  All the time, our procrastination can exact a steep toll on our finances, career, business, relationships and health. We are loath to admit it, but in electing to put off today what can be done tomorrow, we inadvertently sell out on our happiness – both today, and in the many tomorrows that comprise our future. Philosopher William James was not understating the impact of procrastination when he said, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an unfulfilled goal.”

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The 7 strategies below will help you step through worn out excuses and into the bold actions needed to enjoy more of what you want in your life. Read them now. Apply them now. Delay grows increasingly expensive.

 

 

7 Strategies to End Procrastination and Start Into Action

  1. Write down your goal and give yourself a deadline. A goal without a deadline can be put off indefinitely.
  2. Break your goal into small pieces. The bigger your goal or the change you want to make, the more quickly it can send you into overwhelm. So if your goal feels daunting, break it into manageable, bite-sized steps. Remember, you don’t have to know every step of the way; just the next few steps immediately ahead.
 Your next steps will become obvious as you move along.
  3. Visualize the future you want. Imagine the emotions you will feel.  Picture yourself in a favorite place celebrating what you’ve accomplished. Imagine those who love you most celebrating your success.
  4. Harness fear.  Fear is a powerful emotion that can keep us mired in excuses. Yet, by focusing on what you don’t want, you can harness it in your favor. So write down how you will feel a year from now if you do nothing. Be brave and really honest with yourself about the cost of continued inaction. After all, if nothing changes, nothing changes!
  5. Build accountability.  Enlist a support team or an accountability partner or, as I suggested in Stop Playing safe, recruit your own Personal Board of Advisers to help keep you focused and on track. Set up a time to check-in regularly and let them know ways in which they can help. For instance, to remind you of past accomplishments, and why you set about making these changes in the first place.
  6. Reward progress. Set up a reward system to ensure you celebrate progress and small successes as you go along.  Whether a fun activity with friends, or a treat for yourself, make it something that acknowledges your progress and effort.
  7. Act bravely daily. Starting today.  Building momentum is crucial as you start out. So commit to stepping out of your comfort zone at least once per day.  Beginning today – before your fear-laden excuses, disguised as sheer laziness, kick in again.  It can be something really small. After all, it doesn’t matter how fast you are going, so long as you are stepping forward in a direction that inspires you. So take that first step, then another, then another… after all – life rewards action!

 

 

 

Margie Warrell, Contributor