Task Anxiety Awareness
Saturday, February 11, 2012 1 Comment
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Task Anxiety 101 - part 1
By Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC
The second of a series of articles from
my upcoming book, TaskMaster™
- see article list below
Get out your notebook
Before I go into a bit of background explanation about task anxiety, I am about to ask you to make another list.
For those times when you attempt to complete something or in response to attempting to begin something, make a List of Ten activities you find yourself doing INSTEAD. What is it that YOU do that leaves you chronically behind and befuddled.
As I asked in the first article in the TaskMaster Series:
What were some of the tactics you used to deal with your anxiety about not knowing how to tackle a particular task?
(Those supposed “procrastination” activities you took on instead of what you intended or needed to do)
I find it more useful, AND more accurate, to reframe those tasks as “avoidance” activities: avoiding task anxiety.
So now it’s time to get to work on changing a few things.
I’ll get you started by sharing my own list of activities I do when I “go unconscious” about my own task anxiety. To get the benefit of this section, you need to connect PERSONALLY – so take the time to write out your own List of Ten, so that you will be able to do the four exercises that follow.
I’ll bet you a year’s free coaching, if you don’t actually DO the exercises, there will be no new insights — and you will dismiss them as a huge waste of time and energy as you read about them.
(At the bottom of this article, I’ll give the skeptics among you a couple of credible scientists
to check out, with links to what they have to say about optimizing internal processing.)
NO JUDGMENT ALLOWED!
Notice that in my list below, there is nothing wrong with any item on it in and of itself.
- Some of the things on the list are things that really need to be done, and
- Everybody deserves a little goof-off time.
Notice that about the items on your list as well.
What’s “wrong” with these items is only a matter of timing and volition:
- when you find yourself drawn to them
- how strongly they pull you “against your will.”
The items on YOUR list, especially now that you have allowed yourself become aware of them as your “recentering” behaviors, will alert you that it is time to re-examine your systems to be able to retrain some tasks.
TaskMaster: Madelyn’s List of Ten
1. Read an IMMENSE stack of decorating books or magazines
2. Hyperfocus on taking care of the e-glut
3. Edit or reformat a chapter of one of my books
4. Edit a blog article awaiting publication (or write a new one!)
5. Make a masterlist of everything I need to do
6. Cook a huge batch of food – for leftovers to freeze & eat later
7. Try to make MicroSoft Word work the way I need it to
(or Sherlock the latest quirks of WordPress)
8. Reorganize left-over containers, putting lids back with containers
9. Empty all the trashcans in the house
10. Sit on my chaise with notebook and pen & match goals to values
Go back and take a look at your List of Five Feelings.
Were you feeling any of these immediately prior to launching into any of your avoidance activities? If not, what were you feeling? Add these feelings to your list.
That’s right – numbers 6 through 6,000, if necessary. With typical ADD logic, we’ll still call it the List of Five Feelings (you’re only going to examine them in groups of five, so let’s not make work for ourselves).
Four Paired Awareness Exercises:
Gather all your lists and take out a fresh sheet of paper. Now, were going to combine the items on those lists in a couple of ways that might prove enlightening. Don’t start by looking at your behavior – simply combine items from your lists and take a look at how the statements reflect your experience of yourself.
Pay attention to any emotional reactions, negative or positive, that float to the surface as you work on the pairings. Check in with your body, too. That clenched jaw or sudden urge to go to the bathroom might be a clue to an emotional reaction worth Sherlocking.
1. Put the items together using this language:
“When I feel (feeling) I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into (avoidance activity).”
- When I feel worthless I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into making to-do lists.
- When I feel invalidated I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into phone calls with my friends.
- When I feel hopeless I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into reading decorating books.
Jot down anything you notice as you read the statements you come up with as you combine the lists (aha!s, duhs or ho-hums)
2. Now shuffle things around and see what that inspires.
Swap feelings or activities from one statement with those in another to come up with new feeling/activity pairings.
Don’t take the time to write these down unless one really makes you stop and think.
A. When I feel invalidated I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into making to-do lists.
When I feel hopeless I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into making to-do lists.
B. When I feel worthless I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into phone calls with my friends.
When I feel hopeless I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into phone calls with my friends.
C. When I feel worthless I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into reading decorating books.
When I feel invalidated I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into reading decorating books.
If you have a strong oppositional reaction (I never do that activity when I feel that way!), when do you do that activity? What do you DO when you have the feeling that you’re working with for this statement?
Write any new discoveries on your lists as well as on your statements page.
Look back at the four categories (physical environment, health & well-being, money matters & work tasks, personal relationships) and assign the category of any avoidance activity you came up with in part 2,
Keep that notebook handy for the third and forth exercises.
3. Make new sentence pairings, using this language:
“When I feel (feeling) I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into the area of (key area for major activity).” Add words if it makes the sentence work better for you.
- When I feel worthless I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into the area of [managing my] physical environment.
- When I feel invalidated I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into the area of personal relationships.
- When I feel hopeless I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into the area of health & well-being [with a task that is stress-free].
4. Shuffle THOSE pairs and see what you come up with.
Working with the feelings/category pairings, swap feelings from one statement with feeling from another to come up with new pairings.
- When I feel invalidated I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into the area of managing my physical environment.
- When I feel hopeless I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into the area of personal relationships.
- When I feel worthless I tend to avoid tasks by redirecting energy into the area of health & well-being with a task that is stress-free.
Pay attention to any oppositional reaction as well as the aha!s, duhs and ho-hums. Write it down if it makes you aware of anything new or brings something up you hadn’t thought of in quite that way before.
Awareness is the First Step
These areas will be swept clean after you’ve spent more time dealing with your ADD brain, but for now they serve a purpose: avoiding task anxiety.
They give you places to malfunction when you try to fit into an uncomfortable way of handling tasks.
- Task anxiety is a limbic system activator — so your body is primed to “fight, flight or freeze,” NOT to get things done!
- EVEN those who push through and MAKE themselves tackle the tasks on their To-Do lists are, according to the latest studies, up to 50% less effective than they would be if they handled the task anxiety FIRST.
Identifying these areas will go a long way toward intentionality; awareness is always the first step, and “labeling” is the second.
For the Skeptics Among You
ARE YOU AWARE that there is solid neuroscience behind these little tips?
- According to scientific studies conducted in the past few years by Dr. David Rock and his team, and Emotional Regulation Research founder, Stanford’s Dr. James J. Gross:
the degree to which your limbic system is aroused is
the degree to which your prefrontal cortex is deactivated.
- Task completion is decision-dependent — and deciding depends on prefrontal cortex activation.
- The PFC of the ADD brain-style is already under-performing, relative to the neurotypical population — and the research above was NOT carried out using the ADD population!
Here’s the GOOD news:
Simply identifying what’s going on, whether you actually DO anything about it or not, helps to bring the PFC back online. And there is SO much more you can do!
Onward to Task Mastery
Before we make any more lists or do any more exercises, I want to understand the value of the most important silly little assist you’ve probably never heard of: The Cookie. If you aren’t using it now, NO WONDER you’re struggling!
The next article will introduce the concept – so stay tuned.
As always, if you want notification of new articles in this series – or any new posts on this blog – give your name and email to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too) STRICT No Spam Policy
Related Articles on this site
- Avoiding the Holes in the Road
- ABOUT Activation
- A Little ADD Lens™ Background
- About Executive Functioning
- Brain-waves, Scans & Attention
- ABOUT Impulsivity
- Distinguishing Distractibility
- Nine Challenges to Effective Functioning
- Naming the Game
Articles in the TaskMaster™ Series
- Task Anxiety Awareness
- Virtue is not its own reward
- Doling out the Cookies
- When the Game is Rigged
- Sherlocking Task Anxiety
- Taking Your Functional Temperature
- Juggling Invisible Balls
- Getting Things Done – 101 (part 1)
- Mapping your Universe (Getting Things Done-101, part 2)
- Ordering your Deck (Getting Things Done-101, part 3)
Coming up in the TaskMaster™ Series:
- TIME Mapping your Universe (Getting Things Done-101 finale)
- Calendars and To-Do Lists
A bit of Related Neuroscience
- Catecholamine influences on dorsolateral prefrontal cortical networks
(comprehensive paper published June, 2011 – Amy Arnsten, Ph.D., Department of Neurobiology, Yale University School of Medicine)
- ADD Overlooked: Cognitive Anxiety | CorePsych Blog
- Handbook of Emotion Regulation | Dr. James J. Gross
More Related articles – WELL worth your time
- The Management Model You Can’t Manage Without – Part 2 (intentionalworkplace.com)
- Dr. David Rock’s Page on Psychology Today
Additional articles about procrastination
- How to Fight the Four Pillars of Procrastination (spring.org.uk)
- Just Another Cup of Tea Before I Start… (gatehouse13.com)
- Avoiding the Inevitable (living4bliss.wordpress.com)
- A Brief On Procrastination (thefemininefeminine.wordpress.com)
- Problems With Procrastination? Maybe Not (psychopoeia.com)
- Different Types Of Procrastination (awakeninspiration.wordpress.com)
- Six ways to overcome the urge to procrastinate (examiner.com)
- 8 Tips to Stop Procrastinating (psychcentral.com)
- TODAY’S LEADERSHIP MANTRA: Procrastination. (martingysler.com)