Keeping track of your tasks

So you may have noticed from my last post that I like to make lists. I used to keep post-it notes or a list in a small exercise book, but to be honest there appears to be a shortage of paper and pens around my house and office lately (Most probably a result of a Paper Plane folding fascination of my six year old).  So now I usually keep my lists on my iPhone, using the notes application that comes with it. I have tried another app called Reminders as well but for some reason I gave it up and returned to the notes app. This week I thought I’d trial a new app called Finish. I found Finish when I typed in procrastination into the search function of the app store – it was the first free result that came up and i thought why not.

It like all other list make apps lets you lists tasks that you have. It lets you set a due date and then puts them into a time-frame for you within the list. Instead of setting a reminder alert (which annoys me) it asks you for permission just once when you first start using the app to send you push notifications to remind you of your tasks on there due date. It also allows you to set a repeat for the task which is handy if you have a weekly quiz or gym class you want to attend. Another handy feature is the ability to e-mail or share the list with yourself or other people. You can also share your tasks on social media – which could be a great motivator. No one likes to fail to accomplish a task once they share it with other people. This is one of the reasons I never linked run-keeper to my Facebook and Twitter accounts!

What’s good about it: It’s easy to use and automatically gives you reminders if you allow the push notifications. You can see the more immediate tasks first and focus on these rather than the longer term ones. There is also a quick tutorial of how to use it and avenues to report problems.

What’s not so good: There is a feature where you can earn rewards when you complete tasks on time or early, good idea, but some of the rewards are links to competitions to win holidays and I am dubious of these types of rewards.


Don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow…..

If I am being entirely honest I never used to be the kind of person that would put things off until the next day. During High School I was the annoying person in class who handed her work in early. Yes that’s right I struggled maintaining friends with this very annoying habit of mine. When I got to my undergraduate days I again started work early. Organised a study schedule to ensure I would have enough time to do my work. Whilst my grades were not that great I could at least say I was organised. Towards the end of my degree I found it more difficult to start work early. There were the competing demands of work, study, family, friends, cooking and cleaning. Yes that’s right ‘life’ was getting in the way of my assignments and study preparation.

By the time I started my postgraduate studies all hell had broken lose and my assessments were started the week they were due. I found it difficult to balance my time and keep up with classes let alone try and start things early. It wasn’t until I allowed myself just 4 hours to complete an entire case study worth 60% of my final mark that I realised I had become that person who puts off today what they can do tomorrow. Whilst I got away with it and I’ve managed to complete my studies I look back and reflect on when it changed? And most importantly how could I have changed my approach. Why would I do this, I mean I’m finished, What do I care now? Well for two reasons, the first is that maybe if I understand how it all went pear shape for me I can share that with others and try and help them with their own struggles. The second reason is purely selfish – I still do it. I’m working now, still trying the balance the demands from different domains of my life and still put off tasks that I can do today until tomorrow.

In reflecting on my own experience and in the research I’ve done I have diagnosed myself as a procrastinator. I would and still do make lists of the tasks ahead of me. I break it down into the immediate, short term and long term tasks. I make lists of the thing I would like to do, should do, have to do and can’t possible not do. Essentially I make lists for lists even. Why? It’s a way of avoiding doing the actual tasks. I could run off on a tangent here and I could start telling you about why I avoid the tasks and how my fear of failure and desire to be seen as successful plays a role but that’s a whole other post. What I want to share with you are some of the thoughts I have, from reading and trying out some strategies myself, of how to stop procrastinating.

Don’t wait for the perfect time to do something because it doesn’t exist. There is no magical time to start reviewing your lecture notes or writing an assignment. Magic only happens in the world of Walt Disney, or as created by J K Rowling in the magical world of Harry Potter.

The saying ‘no strain no gain’ is rubbish. It could be that the reason we feel like we work better under stress, working hard against a deadline is that we seriously haven’t tried it any other way. I recall my earlier days of education as far less stressful than the later and I was still completing subjects and a degree.

It’s a time of great accomplishment in other areas of your life. Well yes I can’t really deny that when I was writing my thesis my house hadn’t been cleaner. I baked more, did more socialising with my friends (because they needed me – well that’s what I told myself), went to the gym regularly and lost weight. I did all of these highly important things to put off writing my thesis. In doing them I prolonged my anguish over writing the thesis and looking back I realise that they were not accomplishments at all.

Minimise the distractions in your environment. This one is a little dangerous because you could get so preoccupied with organising the perfect environment to study in and procrastinate on the study itself. Use your common sense though. Move away from TV’s, turn your phone off, and if there is loud music coming from the room next to you then try heading to the library to study.

Break down the larger goals into smaller more achievable goals. Instead of looking at the year, look at the month, week or day if you need to. Set yourself smaller goals that contribute to the bigger goals. If you are writing an essay start typing up your cover sheet, make your footer and page numbers as a way of starting. If you are writing a lab report think of it in sections, introduction, methodology, results, discussion. Tick them off one by one across time so you feel you are working toward the large goal of a lab report. If you are studying for an exam focus on just one area of revision as a time. If you can forward plan then spend an hour of each week making one sheet of key points that you learned from each subject in a separate notebook and use this to revise at the end of the semester.

Reward your hard work and use the promise of the reward to motivate you in completing your goal. Think about setting different rewards for different levels of achievement. When you finish a reading or reviewing a lecture then reward yourself with a small chocolate, a quick walk or watching a TV show. When you complete the essay then take the night of and socialise with friends. When you finish the semester go on a holiday. Make sure the reward matches the effort that you gave when completing the goal.

My final recommendation is to ask for help. This could be help from a friend in joining forces and studying together, or it could be asking someone from your class to explain something you missed. You could ask your lecturer or tutor for help with an assignment. Or if you are really struggling ask a counsellor or someone from the Learning and Development team to help you with your study skills. It’s also harder to procrastinate if you have let someone know your plans and what you are aiming to achieve so sharing your goals with someone makes it harder for you to get distracted and put things off.

I’m not saying that these are the only things to help with procrastination, or that they will all be true for everyone. Maybe you will try one approach and it won’t work. Don’t give up, try another approach. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s better to have tried and failed then to regret never having tried.


Sunshine after the rain

I’m sure you are all aware of the constant rain and strong winds that have hit the Newcastle, Sydney and Central Coast Campus over the past few days. UON has been closed across these areas and as a result I haven’t been able to post to the website or offer any online counselling sessions, including Skype Drop Ins.  I apologise to anyone who was waiting on Tuesday night on Skype for me, I had no power or reception where I am and I couldn’t get messages out to you all. Today as the heading might indicate we are back online, and I have a Skype Drop-in session at 2:30pm today and another tonight at 8pm if anyone wants to add me as a contact and get some advice, ask a question or check in with me.

I’ll also try and get my review and other blog post up this week or over the weekend – I had planned to talk about procrastination but it might wait another week and there might be a post about mother nature and her turbulent relationship with technology!


Welcome Back

Welcome back to semester 1 of 2015! I’m not sure about you but when I woke this morning and looked outside I felt a need to stay wrapped up in bed, pick up a book and stay in for the day. After a quick pros and cons of going to work or staying in bed I realised that I had better get a move on and get to campus early to ensure I got a park! First day back coupled with rain means the challenge of parking is like tackling Bowser from my Mario Party gaming days. So here I am at work, still drying out from the walk from the car and then across campus and back again, listening to the rain hit my window whilst writing this post. It’s not the warmth of pillows and blankets but I have to say I am finding the rain quite calming.

Anyway enough  commentary on the weather! I just wanted to let you all know that the online Skype drop-in sessions are happening again from this week. So if you have a question for a counsellor, whats some study tips, or need some advice about something then add the online counsellor on your Skype account “UoNonlinecounsellor”. I will be available on Tuesday night between 7-8pm, Thursday between 2:30-3:30pm and again 8-9pm and Friday morning between 9-10am. You don’t have to book an appointment you just need request to add me and then use the chat function to make contact. I hope to see you online tomorrow night!

 


To ask, or not to ask, that is the question.

I remember my first thought when R U Ok? Day was introduced”Why is it just one day? It should be everyday”I was frustrated that there was only one day given to a very important task, as I’m sure a number of other mental health professionals would also have thought. I consoled myself ‘one day is better than none’ until I realised that I didn’t have to limit myself to one day and I could encourage others to take it beyond that one day both by modelling the skills more myself and actively campaigning for this through my work with individuals. So here I am today writing about checking-in with friends and family members to see if they are doing ok. I reviewed a smartphone app earlier in the week designed to help you build your skills in doing just that and I reviewed the online resources available from Arafmi for those who are concerned about friends and family members who are experiencing mental illness. In doing this I am extending the life of R U Ok? Day.

I’ve also realised that the introduction of R U Ok? Day broke down the stigma of asking people about their mental health, the same way you would inquire about their physical health. It has resulted in many health promotion events, media attention, resource development and services which are there to support individuals who are trying to support loved ones with mental health concerns. It’s now more socially acceptable to ask friends and family members about their mental health. You might notice they don’t seem themselves, they are not going out or doing the things they would normally do. Or perhaps you have noticed they are doing things they wouldn’t normally do, something that is out of character for them. It’s easy when we notice things like this to think that our friends will change back, it’s just a temporary change. Or we think that it’s not our place to say something to them, they have family or other friends who will help them. The truth is if we all thought like that then who would offer the helping hand? Who would reach out and ask the difficult questions?

Asking the question is just one challenging  part of checking-in with someone about their mental health. You also have the challenge of then sitting with the feelings that they have shared with you. Some may have been involved in an event or situation that has triggered these feelings, or still be in an unhealthy situation, so not only do you wonder about your skills and abilities to help them with these situations but you also take on board some of their feelings around these situations.  Or they might trigger some of your own past issues.

So you may overcome the challenge of speaking out and asking someone if they are ok, and then the challenges in sitting with your own emotions of supporting your friend and you may be wondering how to get them the help they need. You can start by looking through the services available on the page. You can use the skype drop-in sessions yourself to ask the online counsellor for guidance about what services might help. You could also pass the website details along to your friend and tell them about the services available. You could request an appointment with the Health and Wellbeing Advisor’s on campus by phoning for an appointment for you and your friend to come to together to ask for some direction.

Whilst you have fear and doubt about your ability to help your friend or family member, it’s not what you say or how helpful you are that that person will remember. What they will remember is that you cared enough to ask the question.


Peer support and advice for when you are concerned about a friend or family member

Given the prevalence of mental illness within the community I’d be surprised if there was anyone on campus who hadn’t at one time or another been concerned about a family member of friend. Maybe you have noticed that your friend has stopped coming to lectures? Or that there general mood is lower than previous weeks? Or perhaps they are saying or doing things out of character? If you have noticed something out of the ordinary chances are you haven’t been sure what to say or do about it. Or maybe you have but the behaviour continues and you feel you need some support from peers in the same position?

Arafmi and Sane Australia have developed an online Carers Forum for the friends, families and carers of people who experience mental illness. The forum provides a safe space for you to sharer stories and offer or receive some peer support. It have discussion threads across 6 different areas: stories, looking after ourselves, something’s not right, whats new in services, research and technologies, about the carers forum  and special events. The forum has a Community Manager and a series of moderators who guide the site and make sure the posts you make are being posted in the best place for peers to notice them and respond.

You can post yourself, or read others posts and like them. You can also reply to others and see the replies from others. Some of the replies are from the community manager and moderators and often contain links to useful services and resources. There is also a Lived Experience Forum which operates the same way. This forum is designed for people living with a mental illness or experiencing mental health issues. You could always point the one your concerned about to this site or read through a few of the discussions here and try and build on your understanding of mental illness from the perspective of someone who is living with one.

What’s good about it: The discussion boards are moderated to ensure that the stigma of mental health isn’t perpetuated and that individual’s can support from their peers.

What’s not so good about it: To be honest it’s pretty good. I guess you could say that there are no professional opinions from mental health professionals – but to be honest if there were it wouldn’t be a peer forum would it.


Check-In with a friend

Have you ever been worried about a friend but not sure what to say to them? Have you thought you might say the wrong thing but had no idea what the right thing might actually be? Have you ever wondered who to ask for help on what to say to the friend? Or how you could help them find the right kind of help? Apparently these are thoughts that lots of young people in Australia have, and it’s why BeyongBlue took donations from people and organisations within the community to help them develop a Check-In App for the smartphone.

The app will assist with:

  • developing a tailored, step-by-step ‘check-in’ plan
  • reviewing how the conversation went, and give ideas for what to do next, especially if things got tricky
  • setting reminders to follow up
  • providing links to professional support
  • providing words of wisdom from people who’ve done it before
  • giving ideas for how to look after yourself when supporting a friend.

The app itself has information in a variety of formats including quick tips, short testimonies from people in similar situations and links to support resources for immediate help and longer term options depending on the circumstances you find yourself in. You can click on those tips that you ‘like’ or find useful and when you flick through the list you can see those tips which others have found the most useful. The most popular tip when I was last on was the “what not to say” checklist. BeyondBlue are also keen to get your help in building the app so if there is a suggestion you have or an experience you want to share you can hit the suggest button and send them an e-mail for consideration.

In addition to this it also has a section that links to other useful apps and online services like the ReachOut.com SMS Tips and Smiling Mind. You can also use the app to send you reminders or to send you a tip every fortnight to build your skills in the friendship department.

What’s good about it: It helps you work out not only what to say to your friend who you are worried about but also what not to say!

What’s not so good about it: It doesn’t have any information about the different warning signs of mental health to help you decide if you think you should talk to your friend. So for someone who is unsure if they should say anything it doesn’t provide the reassurance about taking that step.


The material or views expressed on this Blog are those of the author and do not represent those of the University.  Please report any offensive or improper use of this Blog to RPS@newcastle.edu.au.
Skip to toolbar