Distraction and procrastination are a common problems for many Nice Guys. I speak from both personal and professional experience.
For Nice Guys, distraction can be due to a number of factors. One is an attempt to manage anxiety.
At its core, The Nice Guy Syndrome is all about managing anxiety. Ironically, since anxiety is a lifelong companion for Nice Guys, the brain gets used to feeling it. Trying to let go of this familiar companion actually creates a new and more frightening kind of anxiety for the brain.
The brain seeks to maintain the familiar, even though by doing so, it creates all kinds of problems for its host (you). By procrastinating, avoiding, distracting and not finishing, you always have something hanging over you. This perpetuates a constant free-floating anxiety and “dis-ease.”
This anxiety feels normal and familiar to your brain. Therefore, it will work to do whatever it takes to maintain this familiar-feeling state. Doing things that might reduce this state of self-induced anxiety creates a different kind of anxiety that feels new and different. And therefore, frightening.
One part of your brain will convince you that it is a good idea to procrastinate, avoid, not finish projects, and keep too many irons in the fire just so another part of your brain can continue experiencing an old familiar anxiety and avoid having to deal with a new unfamiliar anxiety. At the same time another part of your brain will criticize you for being such an underachieving loser.
I’ve watched this firsthand in myself. When I have cleared my slate and am all caught up, I feel an anxiety of being in a new and strange situation. My brain says, “What am I supposed to do now?” This new feeling is unsettling at first. But I’ve found that it quickly dissipates and opens doors for more creative endeavors, true relaxation, recreation, and intimacy.
I began confronting my distracting patterns a few years ago by limiting the number of projects I had going at any given time. I limited my list to three, and I couldn’t add any more until I completed one and crossed it off the list. This practice alone increased my productivity and decreased my anxiety. When it comes to getting really big projects done, I’ve found that I can only have one thing on my list at a time.
I’ve also practiced a “DO IT NOW” philosophy for the last few years. Most tasks don’t get any easier by putting them off. Therefore, you might as well do them NOW!
A number of recovering Nice Guys I have encountered have some degree of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This makes it extremely difficult to stay focused on any one thing. And, people with ADD have to work harder than everyone else to get the same results. Unfortunately, that hard work can be exhausting.
A couple of traits I’ve seen in adults with ADD are high use of caffeine (the stimulant helps people with ADD stay focused) and the use of pot and alcohol to calm the brain – especially at night to induce sleep. If you think you might have ADD, do a little research online. A good book on the subject is "Driven to Distraction,” by Hallowell & Ratey. Maybe go online, search for “Adult Attention Deficit Disorder,” and take an online test or two.
Here are a few suggestions to help keep you focused:
Write it down. Keeping lists and keeping them updated is essential for staying focused and productive. Make sure you look at your list several times a day.
Prioritizing. It is easy to get caught up in majoring in minors. Do what is most important early in day. What you put off, rarely gets done.
Send yourself reminders. I use a phone ap to send myself reminders of the things I need to do throughout the day.
Break it down. Your mind will make everything seem bigger than it really is. It believes that if you get started, you have to do it all and do it all perfectly. Break every task down into manageable little parts.
Ask yourself, what is my mind afraid of? Don’t dwell on it or get caught up in the “paralysis of analysis.” Just go “hmmmm, I wonder what the payoff is for avoiding this task?”
Turn every “Oh no, I have to” into an “Oh boy I get too.” Don’t dread anything. This will paralyze you.
Get to work. It doesn’t get any easier later.