How to Stop Procrastinating (A Step-By-Step Guide to Boost Productivity)

If you have so many things to do that you often find yourself struggling to finish projects and tasks and move on to other stuff, you’re certainly not alone. Studies show that over 20 percent of the adult population put off or avoid doing certain tasks by allowing themselves to be overtaken by distractions.[1]

What about the rest of the population? What do they do to prevent procrastination?

In this article, I am going to explain to you why procrastination is so difficult to beat and how you can stop procrastinating once and for all by following a step-by-step guide. But first, you need to understand how procrastination happens.

  • What is procrastination

    Piers Steel, the author of the book The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done, defines procrastination in this way:[2]

    “Procrastination is to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.”

    In other words, procrastination is doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones. The end result is that important tasks are put off to a later time.

    This comic is one of the typical examples of procrastination:

    Why stopping procrastination is difficult

    Human beings have limited self-control. Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist from Florida State University, has been studying self-control and he has found that just like any muscles, human’s self-control is a limited resource that can quickly become exhausted.[3] When self-control is close to being depleted, human tend to choose what’s more pleasurable– the immediate procrastinated tasks instead of the actual works.

    At its core, procrastination is an avoidance strategy. Procrastinators choose to do something else instead of doing what they need to do because it’s much easier to choose pleasure over pain.

    In short, procrastination is so difficult to beat because it is a battle against human’s natural enemy, a human weakness that is in-born.

    A step-by-step guide to stop procrastinating

    Despite the fact that it’s human nature to seek for immediate rewards and procrastinate, here I have a step-by-step guide for you to follow so as to stop procrastinating.

    1. Identify your triggers: the 5 types of procrastinator

    Identifying the type of procrastination you personally experience is an essential step for you to fix the problem at its root.

    Take a look at this flowchart here to find out what type of procrastinator you are:

    Which type of procrastinator are you? Let’s take a look at the triggers for your procrastination type:

    Perfectionist

    Being perfect is the pleasure perfectionists want. But often this leads to them being too scared to show any imperfections. Because of this, they frequently fail to complete things, as they’re forever seeking the perfect timing or approach. Tasks end up never being completed, because in the eyes of the perfectionist, things are never perfect enough.

    Instead of finishing something, perfectionists get caught up in a never-ending cycle of additions, edits, and deletions.

    Ostrich

    An ostrich prefers to stay in the dreaming stage. That way, they don’t have to work for real, or deal with any negativity or stress.

    Dreaming gives this type of people a false sense of achievement, as in their minds, they envision big, ambitious plans. Unfortunately for them, these plans will most likely stay as dreams, and they’ll never accomplish anything truly worthwhile.

    Self-saboteur

    A self-saboteur has bought into the line that ‘by doing nothing, bad things won’t happen.’

    In reality, self-saboteurs have developed a fear of making mistakes or doing anything wrong. Their way to avoid these mishaps, is to do nothing at all. In the end, they may make few mistakes – but they also see few accomplishments.

    Daredevil

    Daredevils are those who believe that deadlines can push them to do better. Instead of having a schedule to complete their work – they prefer to enjoy time doing their own thing before the deadline comes around.

    It’s most likely an unconscious thing, but daredevils evidently believe that starting early will sacrifice their time for pleasure. This is reinforced in their minds and feelings, by the many times they manage to get away with burning the midnight oil. Often they sacrifice the quality of their work because of rushing it.

    Chicken

    Chicken lack the ability to prioritize their work. They do what they feel like they should do, rather than thinking through what they really need to do.

    Prioritizing tasks is a step that takes extra time, so chicken will feel it’s not worth it. Because of this, they usually end up doing a lot of effortless tasks that don’t contribute much to a project. They’re incessantly busy on low-impact tasks, but seem oblivious to urgent, high-impact tasks.

    2. Face your triggers and get rid of them

    Whether it’s fear of failure, overwhelming feelings, avoidance or convincing yourself you’re just too busy to get something done, you can improve your ability to be productive by eliminating your procrastination triggers.

    For Perfectionist, re-clarify your goals.

    Much of the time procrastination tendencies form simply because we’ve outgrown our goals. We’re ever-changing and so are our wants in life. Try looking over your goals and ask yourself if they’re still what you want.

    Take time out to regroup and ask yourself what you really want to achieve:

    • What steps do you need to take?
    • Is what you’re currently doing reflecting what you want?
    • What do you need to change?

    Write things down, scribble them out and rewrite.

    For Ostrich, do the difficult tasks first.

    Even if you feel you’re not a morning person, the beginning of the day is when your brain is most productive. Use this window of time to get the more difficult stuff done.

    If you leave your difficult tasks to later, you’re much more likely to put it off because you’re tired and lack motivation.

    Finishing lots of simple tasks at the beginning of the day such as reading all the new emails only gives you a false sense of being productive.

    For Self-saboteur, write out a to-do (and a not–to-do) list each day.

    Writing things down is powerful and psychologically increases your need to get things done.

    Each day, make a habit of creating a list of the tasks you know you’ll try and avoid. By doing this, it brings these ‘difficult’ tasks to your mind’s attention instead of keeping them locked away somewhere in your avoidance mode.

    Remember, think how satisfying and productive it feels to cross of a completed task.

    For Daredevil, create a timeline with deadlines.

    It’s common to have a deadline for a goal which seems like a good idea. But this is basically an open invitation for procrastination.

    If it’s a self-created deadline with no pressure, we tend to justify pushing it back each time it comes into sight and feel we haven’t yet done ‘enough’ to get there.

    Create a bigger timeline then within that, establish deadlines along the way. The beauty of this comes when each deadline completion is dependent on the next. It keeps you on track and keeps you accountable for being in alignment with the overall timeline.

    For Chicken, break tasks into bite-sized pieces.

    A lot of the time procrastination comes from overwhelming thoughts.

    If something feels too big to tackle and we don’t know where to start, it feels like a struggle. This is also true if our goal is too vague and lacking direction.

    Break down larger tasks into smaller ones and turn them into daily or weekly goals. Smaller steps may seem like the slower approach to achieving a goal, but it often leads you much more quickly to where you want to be due to the powerful momentum you get going.

    3. Take planned breaks

    Human brain isn’t designed to work continuously on the same task and this could be a reason for procrastination.

    Make sure you take regular, structured breaks away from your task so that you can come back refreshed and ready to be more productive.

    A break as short as 5 minutes is enough to keep your mind sharp and wards off fatigue. I recommend you to use the Pomodoro Time Tracker. It is a great tool to help you take breaks at set intervals. Simply start the 25-minute timer, and follow the prompts.

    4.  Reward yourself

    It’s important to acknowledge and reward yourself for achieving even the small tasks. It creates a sense of motivation and releases those feel-good, productive emotions that spur you on to achieve even more.

    Make your reward proportional to the task you completed so getting a bite-sized task done gets you a cup of your favourite coffee or snack. Then plan a weekend away or fun activity for the bigger stuff.

    Personally I try to make staying focus more fun by using the app Forest. It turns productivity into a game. In the game, you can plant a virtual tree at the beginning of your work time. If you maintain focus for the duration of the timer, you’ll grow a tree to add to your forest. It’s rewarding when you can eventually grow a forest.

    5. Keep track of your time in a smart way

    If you want to prevent the bad habit of procrastination from coming back, keep track of the time you spend every day.

    By having a clear idea of where you spend your time, you can always review your productivity and know which areas to improve.

    It’s not easy to keep track of every minute you spend throughout the day so I recommend you to use the app Rescue Time.

    It gets you a categorized breakdown of how you spend your time and helps you to find out how much time you’re really on-task. You can even label activities as productive and non-productive so as to block your biggest distractions.

    Procrastination exists for many reasons and only you know for yourselve what these triggers are. Understanding the source of your avoidance tendencies is important in moving them out of the way and help you start the productivity momentum.

    Reference

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    Why Forming a New Good Habit Is Easier Than Breaking a Bad One

    We’ve all got a few bad habits. No one’s perfect. Whether it’s eating too much candy, leaving everything until the last minute, watching too much TV, skipping workouts, or letting e-mails pile up at work, we all do things that go against our best interests.

    So why don’t we just drop our bad habits? Every year, millions of us make New Year’s resolutions in a bid to change. Unfortunately, as you know, it’s not that simple. Our bad habits become a regular way of life. We start to say things like, “Oh, that’s just how I am!” and “It’s just what I do.” It can feel impossible to break a habit once and for all. In fact, the more you try to resist a habit, the more it can stick.

    The science behind bad habits

    We all repeat things that feel good, even if we know that they won’t help us in the long run. This is because bad habits such as drinking alcohol, eating too much sugary food, and spending too long in front of the TV trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain.[1] When your brain learns that a particular action makes you feel good, it compels you to repeat it in the future. Your bad habits serve a purpose. Although you might not like the end result, they give you a positive outcome in the moment. This is why they are so hard to kick.

    If you develop the habit of slumping in front of the TV as soon as you get in from work, you will probably start skipping workouts, which becomes another bad habit. You might also start to snack in front of your favorite shows. Suddenly, you will have slipped into not one, not two, but three bad habits!

    It’s human nature to seek out rewards, even if they harm us. For instance, 70% of smokers say that they would like to quit but cannot do so, despite the fact they everyone knows that smoking is terrible for human health.[2]

    What should you do instead?

    Quite simply, you need to start building better habits and stop wasting time and effort trying to break free from your negative behaviours.

    Stop judging yourself

    You’ve probably already tried telling yourself to just stop with the bad habits and do better in future. Unfortunately, berating yourself only leads to a negative self-image and self-doubt. This kind of negative thinking can become a bad habit in itself.

    Thinking about your own faults isn’t much fun. You may have noticed that when you try to break a bad habit, your mind comes up with all kinds of justifications as to why you should carry on doing the same old thing. Habits make you feel comfortable, remember? It’s hard to give that up. Moreover, if you’ve been engaging in the same old habits for months or even years, they will be firmly entrenched. This makes them hard to shift.

    For example, let’s say that you want to cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink each week. One of your bad habits is to have a large glass of wine every night just before you sit down for dinner. You could try scolding yourself, reading up on the dangers of drinking too much, and telling yourself sternly that you are “going to stop this week.”

    Unfortunately, the most likely outcome in this situation is that you will feel uncomfortable at the prospect of giving up your bad habit, and possibly guilty or ashamed of having the problem in the first place. So how do you deal with these feelings? By carrying on drinking, of course!

    Change your focus

    You need to take a new approach. Instead of beating yourself up, it’s time to think about developing behaviors that can provide you with a sense of comfort without damaging your physical or psychological health. If you know that your new habits will help you feel better, you will be motivated to start them! This is much easier than trying to break a bad habit.

    When identifying your bad habits and adopting new, positive behaviors, you need to think like a detective or scientist. Take a step back and look at the situation from an objective point of view. If this is difficult for you, pretend that you are trying to help someone else. This can provide you with a clearer perspective.

    First, think about the root causes of your bad habit. Why did it start, and what triggers keep it going? For instance, if you have fallen into the habit of eating high-fat microwave dinners after work, this may be because you went through a busy time in your life where you didn’t have the energy to cook a healthy meal in the evening. At the time, prepackaged microwave dinners may been an adequate temporary solution.

    The next step is to devise new habits that will give you the same level of comfort. Ask yourself how you can make it simple to start putting your new habits in place.

    Check out this guide for lots of tips on how to make a new habit stick.

    Get into the habit of building better habits

    We all know that bad habits are comfortable, but you can change!

    Remember, habits become more engrained over time. The more often you repeat an action – whether good or bad – the more likely it is to stick. This also goes for the habit-building habit too.

    Once you’ve mastered the art of squeezing out bad habits with more positive behaviours, it will get easier and easier to build the life you want.

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

    [1] Truthhawk: Why Do We Have Bad Habits?
    [2] News In Health: Breaking Bad Habits

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    Can Body Training Be Pain-Free?

    A friend and I had a discussion some years ago. We were complete beginners to strength training. He had started to develop some wrist pain after his workouts and asked me if joint-pain is just a necessary part of getting in shape. I agreed, as I suffered from shoulder pain myself. I then proceeded to tell him, that having pain in your joints is simply a toll, that every person needs to face when getting the body they want. I’ve never been so wrong in all my life.

    Some years fast forward and I’m completely pain free. I didn’t achieve this state by following a crazy and new workout schedule. I achieved this state by simply following the basics that I will lay out to you in the following article.

    The Fundamentals to Stay Pain-Free

    Removing pain from your workouts is not rocket-science. But if you’ve never been to a gym all of these 3 rules might be completely new for you. Remember to keep your workout as simple as possible. Ask for a coach to take a look at your workouts so you’re being aware of blind spots. The 3 rules to staying pain-free are as following:

    1. Move Often

    A good friend of mine, Daniel, is a passionate long-distance runner. He plans to run 60 consecutive miles this year. He told me that his joints have never felt better since he started running on a regular basis. Daniel is not an isolated case. Remember that your joints need movement to function properly.

    The saying ‘Use it or lose it!’ holds true for most parts of your body. The human organism has evolved to save energy over time. We’re basically survival machines. Survival machines can’t waste energy on things, that give no value to them in return.

    Your joints, muscles, ligaments and bones are all made to facilitate movement. Your joints get nutrients and deposit waste with the help of the synovial fluid. But here’s the catch: Synovial fluid only gets secreted by mechanical stresses, aka: movement. While high stresses on your cartilage may decline your joint health too, lack of physical activity is a big factor in the formation of joint pain.

    2. Have The Correct Form

    Crossfit has risen in popularity over the past few years. While one of the biggest strengths of Crossfit is their fun workouts – I’ve tried them some time ago – there’s nonetheless a high chance for injury. Crossfit exhausts you and forces you to push beyond your limits. While pushing your limits, you often neglect having a proper form.

    Having good form is crucial when it comes to keeping you injury free. A small error in your training style can accumulate over the long-run, leading to stress injuries. A small bending of your wrist when doing the bench press or a slightly rounded spine while deadlifting may accumulate and leave you with great pain. Focus on the details in your form.

    3. Train Your Whole Body

    I manage a fitness center for a big chain in Switzerland. Recently a new client asked me for more chest exercises. He’s already doing 5 exercises for his chest only. His workout plan consists of training his biceps, abs and chest. His plan is not balanced, and therefore will lead to injuries.

    A better way to structure your workout plan is to train your whole body. Your body is a system and your muscles are connected with each other. A dominant chest with neglected back muscles will lead to a slouched posture. Dominant hamstrings with underdeveloped quads will lead to knee problems.

    If you’re a beginner, I suggest you to train your whole body in every workout. You can still implement 2-3 extra exercises for specific body parts that you specifically want to focus on. This is more than enough for you to get a great training stimulus. Arnold Schwarzenegger trained for years with a full body workout.

    Training doesn’t need to hurt your joints

    Training in the gym is healthy for your whole body, including your joints. Keep training pain-free by focusing on these 3 rules that will keep your joints healthy for years to come.

    Remember to move often, move well and train your whole body. Don’t hesitate to get help from a professional or ask a competent friend. Your body is worth it, trust me.

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    Access Over 100,000+ Car Listings With This App

    Buying a car is the second biggest investment that most people will make throughout their life and finding the right car is really important. To ensure that you are able to find the right car for you there is a need for you to be able to do much research.

    These days the Internet is the best source for information on vehicles and especially for those available for sale. Whether you are looking for a new or used car, getting as much information on the car will go a long way in helping you decide which vehicle is the best one for you. The Edmunds App is a powerful tool and anyone looking for their next vehicle should have it on their Apple smartphone or iPad.

    You Now Have Access to Millions of Vehicle Listings

    The Edmunds App is an extremely powerful app designed for mobile devices that run on the Apple iOS-like iPhones and iPads. With it, you have access to millions of listings for new and used vehicles, reviews, pictures and detailed specifications of all make and models of cars, trucks, and SUVs. Putting all of that information at your fingertips will make your next vehicle a lot easier and nearly guaranty you will be able to find your next vehicle.

    All You Need To Make A Successful and Safe Car Deal 

    View car and dealership reviews – Having access to what other people are saying about a specific make and model of vehicle and details about the dealership at your fingertips help to make it easier to come to the right decision.

    Comes with a car payment calculator – The built-in car payment calculator is extremely handy with the ability to know what your payment would be before you even arrive at the dealership to talk to a salesperson about the vehicle.

    Comprehensive Search Functions – Having multiple search functions and being able to tailor your searches in our to get the best possible results makes the app very beneficial to anyone looking for a new vehicle.

    Enables you directly text a car dealer – The app makes it possible to text the dealer directly from within the app in order to inquire about any special deals that could be available for a specific vehicle listing.

    Let This App Do The Job

    Buying a vehicle can be very stressful for the many considerations that need to be made in order to come to a final decision on which one that is right for you. So, if you have the right tools at your disposal you are far more likely to be able to make the right decision. One of those tools that you should have on your Apple smartphone or iPad should be the Edmunds App.

    This is an extremely powerful app that puts everything you would need in order to find the vehicle that you are really wanting. The features of the Edmonds App helps to bring things like multiple search functions, full-color pictures, detailed specifications and reviews of both vehicles and dealership.

    If you are in the market for a vehicle new or used, you really should go to the Apple App Store and download and install the Edmonds App. To see more information and to find where to go to get it, just click here.

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    Razor-Sharp Thinking: the What-Why Method

    Charles Mingus once said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” As a society, we typically make the complicated commonplace. This is particularly true in regards to problem-solving as we add to the puzzle of complexity daily. My proposal is to introduce a new method combining elements from two simple (yet powerful) techniques to create an awesomely simple, yet effective problem-solving and explanation method.

    First, Terry Borton’s Development Framework (What – So What – Now What) as the logical explanation tool. Second, the 5-Why technique used in root-cause analysis (RCA) as the simple problem-solving tool. Using Occam’s razor as my underlying principle, I propose a new method called the What–Why Method.

    Crazy Simple!

    Using the military as an example, we find that numerous problem-solving methods exist within the U.S. military. In the U.S. Army alone, we have a smorgasbord of options to select from. From the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) to the Army Design Methodology (ADM) to Lean Six Sigma (LSS), we are not short on options. However, if we follow the philosophy of Occam’s razor, we will find that we can slice through the clutter and identify one simple method.

    Suppose you have two possible explanations for a problem, Occam’s razor demonstrates that the simplest option is typically the best option.[1] Occam’s razor has two parts which serve as the underlying principle of my What-Why Method.

    1. The Principle of Plurality. Plurality should not be assumed as a fact without necessity.
    2. The Principle of Parsimony. The scientific principle that things are typically connected or behave in the simplest way.

    What – So What – Now What

    Developed in 1970 by Terry Borton, Borton’s Development Framework provides us a straightforward and easy to understand approach to anything.[2] This simple framework involves only three questions, which can easily explain any concept. The questions follow the concept of Reflective Practice, which is the ability to reflect on your actions to engage in the process of learning.[3] Reflective Practice holds three components: Experiences (what happened to you?), Reflective Process (what enables you to learn from the experience?), and Action (what new perspective do you now possess as a result of your reflection?). Borton’s Development Framework possesses the following three questions:

    1. What? The experience.
    2. So What? Analysis of reflection or process of reflection.
    3. Now What? Synthesis and new perspectives from reflection. This is where you determine what to do next and what your next action will be.

    5-Why Technique

    Metaphorically speaking, if we want to kill a weed, we must first find the root. A root-cause is a factor causing nonconformance and should be permanently eliminated. The root-cause is essentially “the evil at the bottom” that sets things in motion causing the problem.[4] Let’s quickly look at the structure of a problem and break down the definition of root-cause via Asq.org.

    Root-Cause Defined

    • A factor that caused a nonconformance and should be permanently eliminated.
    • A factor that influences a result or outcome.
    • Must be completely eliminated or removed.

    Let’s now turn our attention to root-cause analysis (RCA). RCA is a collective term describing a wide range of approaches and techniques utilized to discover root-causes of problems. The 5-Why technique is one in which we were all experts at when we were children. Essentially, the 5-Why technique is an iterative interrogative technique used to determine the root-cause of a problem by repeatedly asking the question “Why?” The technique was formally developed by Taiichi Ohno and was highly utilized at Toyota. Furthermore, the “5” in the name comes from an anecdotal observation on the number of iterations needed to resolve a problem.

    Simple Approach for Thinking

    By using my What-Why Method, we also find that we are able to move through Blooms Classification of Thought Process (otherwise known as Blooms Taxonomy), where we can quickly understand and describe a problem or topic. Additionally, my method takes us through the Hierarchy of Learning along with Blooms Taxonomy.

    When we bring it all together, we find that we now have a way to quickly solve a problem and quickly present or brief information. It also offers us a way to logically and easily categorize and present information, especially if we are posed with a difficult and impromptu question.

    Easily Explain Anything

    Let’s see how my method works using an example from the foster care system (visit my website for more information on the foster care system). By moving through the questions in the image above (What-Why Method), let’s see what we uncover.

    What?

    So What?

    Now What?

    Lastly, John Driscoll matched Borton’s three questions to the stages of the experiential learning cycle and added trigger questions.[5] By linking trigger questions to Borton’s framework, we are able to produce a clear description of the event, an analysis of the event (critical thinking), and synthesis of the event (creative thinking). Combining the What – So What – Now What framework with the 5-Why technique essentially creates the simplest form of problem-solving in existence. As Wilfred A. Peterson said,

    See it big and keep it simple.

    Using the What-Why Method allows us to just that… See it big, yet keep it very simple!

    Reference

    [1] Harold Lambert: How Occam’s Razor Works
    [2] Physio-Pedia: Borton’s Development Framework
    [3] Skills You Need: Reflective Practice
    [4] ASQ: What is Root Cause Analysis
    [5] Driscoll: Critical Reflection

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    Do You Need to Train like a Bodybuilder to Look like One?

    I remember back when I was getting my certificate to be a professional fitness coach. Just for fun we had to pick one exercise from a popular fitness magazine and implement it in our training. My friend and I picked an exercise for the biceps, where we had to do over 20 sets with a total of 200 repetitions. An inhumane high intensity. This exercise was recommended from a popular bodybuilder to get the best muscle growth for the biceps. We spent over 30 minutes doing that exhausting exercise. Our biceps were burning. I could barely move my arms for a week.

    Monkey see, monkey do

    If you’re ever planning to climb up the Mount Everest, you would need to have a coach. In the months prior to your climb, you would scan the Internet for competent trainers. In a coach you would look out for:

    1. Ability to communicate and coach
    2. Matchability (Gut feeling)
    3. Prior experience (Preferably of climbing Mt. Everest)

    We as humans like to get information from people that are walking the walk and leading by example. The origins of the ‘Train like a bodybuilder to look like one’ -myth are easy to find. As a beginner you go into a gym and instinctively ask the biggest person in there, how he’s able to build muscle. This is a big mistake.

    The biggest person will give you, most likely, an unfortunate and only partially honest answer. The meathead will tell you his exact workout schedule. But the big elephants in the room will not be addressed: Experience, Knowledge Gap and most likely: Steroids.

    Imagine you’re finding the ideal coach for your Mt. Everest climbing adventure. Yet the coach seemingly needs an extreme short recovery time and gets great results, with workouts containing an inhumane high intensity. You as a hobby climber might try to follow his advice, but the chances are high that the ridiculously high intensity schedule will catapult you into the hospital.

    The Mt. Everest coach didn’t exactly lie to you, yet your baselines are simply on completely different levels.

    Building your fundament

    If you want to be the best tennis player in this world, would you immediately start training like Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal? No, you would focus the first few years on building up your fundament. This is the same thing that you have to do in the gym. Somehow people believe that the gym is the big exception from all the other physical activities. Yet you will need to have a fundament where you can build upon. Focus the first year on building up a fundament to be injury free. The results will be better and longer lasting.

    Most people start lifting weights while completely neglecting the stability factor of your body, which is crucial in injury prevention. Your body needs to adapt to the stimulus that you put himself through. While the muscles are able to adapt fast, your bones and ligaments usually need way longer. Because the bones and ligaments are less supplied with blood, and therefore with oxygen and nutrients.

    How to train instead?

    I fell prey to the do-or-die mindset before. As a natural athlete, I followed a 5-day split training once. I trained every muscle group hard, but only one time per week. It was frustrating. I didn’t see the muscularity in the mirror that I did expect. Not only that, I also started experiencing wrist and shoulder injuries. I felt betrayed from the advice of the fitness models on Instagram. If you want to structure your training productively, there are three things that you need to consider:

    1. Build a great fundament

    At this very moment I’m not suffering from any injury. I’m reasonably flexible, my strength is on point and I’m able to run 10 kilometers without feeling the need to amputate my lower limbs. I took my time to build a great fundament, and so should you.

    Implement a low-intensity endurance training in your workout schedule, on separate days from your strength workouts. Stretch after your full-body after your workouts or sign up for yoga classes.

    2. Train with full body routines

    On my strength training routine, I’m either following a full-body workout or a basic upper and lower body-split. This way I’m maximizing my muscle protein synthesis and therefore my muscle gain.

    Bodybuilders have been training with full body routines for ages. It was not until steroids came into the scene, that split training truly became a thing. Steroids decrease your recovery time, increase your training intensity and your muscle protein synthesis.

    3. Increase the level of difficulty gradually

    Don’t fully exert yourself in the first year of your training. Your bones and ligaments need to adapt. From a scale on 1-10, your RPE (rate of perceived exertion) should never go to 9/10 during a workout set. When you stop the set, you should be able to always do 1-2 repetitions extra. If you fully exert yourself, you’re risking injuries.

    Take home message

    If you’re a bodybuilder and got angry at me for writing that article, note this: the saying ‘Train like a bodybuilder to look like one’ is correct, in some way. Bodybuilders are not stupid, if it wouldn’t work they wouldn’t do it.

    Hard work and training. There’s no secret formula. I lift heavy, work hard and aim to be the best. – Ronnie Coleman, former world class bodybuilder

    As a beginner though, you have a vastly different baseline than a bodybuilder. You will naturally lack experience, knowledge of the training and your own body – and will not consume steroids. You also most likely have different goals: a bodybuilder wants to be in world-class shape on stage, while you might be training to get in decent shape for your beach holidays.

    I don’t eat for taste, I eat for funciton. – Jay Cutler

    Stop spending 3 hours in the gym every day and don’t do 20 sets for your biceps if you don’t want to be a competitive athlete. Focus on building your fundament, structure your workout and train with a reasonable intensity.

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    We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

    We all know what a bad habit is. Smoking, eating unhealthy foods, excessive alcohol consumption and living a sedentary lifestyle are just some of the things that are drummed into us as behaviours we ought to avoid in order to increase our overall well-being.

    Yet a study by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in the year 2000, avoidable behaviours such as poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and drinking alcohol were some of the underlying causes of nearly half of the deaths in the United States:[1]

    • Tobacco: 435,000 (18.1% of total US deaths)
    • Inactivity and bad eating: 400,000 (16.6%)
    • Alcohol consumption: 85,000 (3.5%)

    If we know bad habits are so detrimental to our health, why do we continue to do them?

    Why we can’t resist bad habits

    We all indulge in behaviours that we know aren’t good for us and there are a couple of reasons why we continue these habits regardless.

    Bad habits give you the comfort you need

    The first is our need to feel comfort and doing whatever it takes to reach this state.

    Every action you take has a purpose behind it, even if you’re not consciously aware of what this is and the most common hidden purpose is comfort. Our brains are wired to be reward-based and our ‘reward’ is the feeling of comfort that, in turn, triggers a release of dopamine or the ‘feel good’ hormone.[2] This causes us to crave more of it and so we associate this good feeling with the bad habit.

    This explains why we continue to indulge in bad habits and find it hard to stop; it feels comfortable and we essentially get to exist in our ‘safe zone’. In other words, you get attracted to the reward despite knowing it’s bad for you.

    Smoking that cigarette on your work breaks causes your brain to associate that habit with freedom from work and relaxing, or drinking alcohol may be associated with letting yourself go and having a good time after a hard week. The thought of exercising and making some kind of effort is overridden in the brain by the ‘easier’ thought of sitting on the couch and watching your favourite TV programme. So you can see how easily the habit is connected with reward.

    Everyone else is doing the bad habit too

    We also tend to rationalize our bad behaviours if society as a whole finds it acceptable. If a vast amount of people are doing the same thing, then it must be okay for us to do it too. It’s not difficult to find socially acceptable bad habits. Snacking, skipping exercises and even smoking are things that lots of people do.

    This causes an inward rationalisation when it comes to unhealthy habits such as “just one more won’t hurt” or “I’ll do better next week, I’ve just had a stressful day today”. These in-the-moment justifications tend to be driven by the guilt of knowing we’re probably not making the best decision in the long run.

    We also look outwards for examples that validate our bad habit decisions such as “my grandfather smoked every day and lived until he was 90.” Our minds love to find evidence that backs up our decisions, whether good or bad.

    The consequences of continuing bad habits

    Most people know the consequences of these types of habits. Warnings are plastered on cigarette packets about getting cancer. Governments beam healthy eating campaigns and the need to be more active through adverts and TV programmes. But what are the real long term consequences of constant bad habits?

    • Cancers, diseases and cell damage
    • Unhappiness and depression
    • Negative physical well-being leading to pain or lethargy
    • Increased physical problems in later life

    Most of these can be subtle and gradual meaning we don’t notice them and easily dismiss our decisions in the moment. But being mindful of the decisions we make today can keep our wellbeing topped up and constant while investing in our future selves.

    For more examples of common bad habits and how to should stop them, check out this article: 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

    How to stop these bad habits

    It’s hard to stop habits that are so ingrained in our daily lives. With stress sometimes being the main trigger to a bad habit, the solution lies with reprogramming our mind. I have covered this in my other article How to Program Your Mind to Kick the Bad Habit, here let me briefly talk about the solution:

    1. Frstly, be mindful of what these habits are and how often we do them. What exactly triggers the habit? Is it an unconscious decision to do it? Question why you have developed this habit in the first place.
    2. Secondly, make a commitment to yourself that you want to eliminate this bad habit. Now you understand what may be triggering it, can you find something positive to replace it? For example, you reach for the chocolate after a hard day. Can you find a healthier reward snack? Or reduce the amount of times you’re allowed to have chocolate? Perhaps if stress is your trigger, try going for a run and give the brain another reason to release dopamine instead.
    3. Thirdly, be consistent. The key to forming new habits is consistency. Yes, it’s hard for a while but your brain soon adapts to new ways of doing things until it starts to feel natural to you. Turn your reward system into a way to celebrate sticking to your new positive habits instead.

    It’s all about conditioning yourself to a new, positive way of thinking.

    Living a happier, more positive life starts with the habits we choose to form. Be mindful of which direction your habits are pointing and start changing your mindset to one of investment into your health and well-being. It’s not just for your future self but also living in the moment in a positive and healthy way.

    Featured photo credit: freestocks.org via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] The Jama Network: Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000
    [2] Neroscientifically Challenged: Know your brain: Reward system

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