Are you a go-getter or a procrastinator?

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Here’s a simple question: are you someone who gets stuff done or are you admittedly a procrastinator?

We all like to think that we are do-ers and get stuff done. Deep down inside, do you really believe this? Do you really see yourself as someone who starts and finishes things?

The Inner Game of Productivity

We’ve talked a bunch of times on the blog about the inner game of productivity – the way you think, what you believe and the way you see the world has a direct effect on how productive you are.

Inner game is a term borrowed from the book The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. In the book the author explains what separates the best tennis players from the rest. The main idea in the book is that the psychology of tennis players is the deciding factor. The technique of the tennis player ranked at #2 is not much different than the player who is ranked at #11. What Gallwey found was their way of thinking was the key differentiator.

While knowing this, Gallwey worked with tennis players on their inner game and saw a significant improvement in their game over time. For example, by just changing the way the tennis players thought about themselves and the way they responded mentally to failure during games had a major impact on improving their game.

This idea is applicable as well in the world of getting things done at work and in your personal life. One of the core ideas of inner game is the idea of your self-image – the way you see yourself. This mental picture of yourself directly affects your productivity.

I’ve written about this before in our monthly newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do that by clicking here. Below is a edited reprint of that newsletter.

The #1 Limiting Factor Inside Your Head

One of the things you need to realize is that the beliefs and mindsets that are floating in your head have a major impact on your life. While Aaron and I have covered many important mindsets already, there is one overarching idea that your beliefs and mindsets support: your self-image. In other words, the picture you have of yourself and its scope.

If you see yourself as someone who isn’t organized… well guess what? You can’t become a person who is organized. The way you see yourself is crucial and it will determine everything in that specific area.

Here is why: you cannot outperform your self-image. That statement is worth repeating: you cannot outperform your self-image. It’s the number one limiting factor for most people.

In other words, if you see yourself as someone who isn’t organized, everything you do will be within that scope and you will not ever be organized.

Need to clean your desk? “Well, I know I’m not organized so I’ll skip it.” Need to be somewhere at 2pm? “I know my time management is horrible so I’ll try to be there before 2.30pm.” And this can go on and on. It’s like a vicious circle. It can go on for years unless you consciously decide to make the change or someone else steps in.

Tips for Improving Your Self-Image

The interesting thing about a self-image is that you have many of them. They don’t necessarily overlap. While one of my self-images is someone who is organized, my self-image in the area of car repairs is a disaster. Fortunately, if you can recognize a bad self-image, you can change it.

Make it a priority to keep expanding your self-image in different areas. While I cover it in the context of becoming more organized, you can apply this to any other area of your life. If you want to read and study more about this topic, I can highly recommend the book Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Reframe any negative thoughts into positive ones.
  • Setup your mastermind with productive people.
  • Avoid joking about your negative traits.
  • Read, read and read books (check out our list of books).

Reading expands your horizon. It allows you to see the world through a different set of eyes which helps changing your self-image.

Just remember that this is a continuous process. It takes time and patience. This is not something you can fix overnight but if you work on this every day you can become Asian Efficient (or the equivalent in any area you want to improve on).

I don’t want to go too woo-woo because I don’t like that myself. I like to stick to scientific facts as much as possible, but I will stick my neck out for this concept of the self-images. I have reinvented myself numerous times because I realized in certain areas that I needed to work on my self-image. I wish you will do the same.

Before we part ways, I want to ask you one final thing. When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Someone who gets things done? Or someone who cannot get anything done at all?

You decide.

-Thanh

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About

I grew up in The Netherlands, went to university in Los Angeles and now I'm living in different places every couple months. When I'm not writing about personal productivity or time management, I'm probably trying out a new restaurant in the city I'm in (I love food!). One of my specialties is time management for organizations, executives and employees. The reason I started this blog with Aaron is that I love sharing my knowledge with people and helping them become a better person. This blog is a footprint I want to leave behind and I hope you get a lot of value out of my articles. Feel free to get in touch with me anytime!

12 Comments

Posted by Malan  | November 14, 2012 at 10:49AM | Reply

Great post Thanh – It’s a constant daily battle with inner dialogue for me. And it’s hard. Especially the things I’ve been telling myself since childhood. Once those things take route… it can be difficult to pull them out.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | November 14, 2012 at 2:23PM

Thanks Malan! Yes, definitely. Catching yourself in those moments is very difficult. One thing that helps is by doing visualizations of your day. You can then “objectively” look at yourself and from a distance judge what you were thinking, and then fix it. I know it sounds woo-woo but it really works.

Posted by Ethan  | November 14, 2012 at 12:46PM | Reply

Thanks Thanh, great post.

For me, its a constant battle have a positive inner game. I just remind myself that motivation is like taking a shower you have to do it daily!

Posted by Thanh Pham  | November 14, 2012 at 2:24PM

Haha I like this analogy. Yes indeed – make it a daily habit. Do this enough and eventually it will get resolved.

Posted by Corbin  | November 15, 2012 at 8:57AM | Reply

Excellent read as always – thanks Thanh. My biggest takeaways:

1. “You cannot outperform your self-image.” I had to read this over a couple of times to get the full import. Now have it stuck to my wall and monitor. Increased self-image == increased performance potential. Never thought about it in those terms before, but it makes total sense now.

2. “Avoid joking about your negative traits.” Even without adding positive reinforcement, just eliminating the negative can be a post. Have been unconscious of doing this until I read your post. Something I’ll be working to remove from my “cosmic habit force.”

Posted by Thanh Pham  | November 16, 2012 at 3:02AM

Cheers Corbin! Good stuff and I can recommend the book Psycho-Cybernetics if you’re interested in this topic.

And I’ve added the idea on eliminating negative dialogue as a post we might publish in the future.

Posted by Cat Smith  | November 19, 2012 at 6:00PM | Reply

Great article and I feel like a lot of people would benefit from reading it.

“One of the core ideas of inner game is the idea of your self-image – the way you see yourself. This mental picture of yourself directly affects your productivity.”

That sentence definitely touches home with me. When I first started designing, I wasn’t confident in my ability to create great things at all and because of it, I was always less motivated to become better and wasn’t staying up until 3AM designing, the way I am now. I feel like your mind set and the way you view yourself are KEY factors.

As a web and graphic designer now, I’m extremely happy with my style and the way I design things. Looking back though, I would have been a lot harder on myself, motivated myself more, and dedicated myself to becoming much better much faster.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | November 19, 2012 at 9:42PM

Thanks Cat. It’s great to read you’ve been able to change your self-image! I think everyone who starts something new has a “weak” self-image but that’s the moment you really want to ensure your self-image is something that aspires you to become better.

Posted by Lorenzo  | November 22, 2012 at 5:23AM | Reply

This reminds me actually of telling myself I was bad at math and good with languages when I was younger. Subsequently I got above average grades with languages and lower grades with math at school. Even today I’m still struggling with my inner-game about my math capabilities, even though I’ve seen some people doing even worse than me :)

Posted by Thanh Pham  | November 28, 2012 at 12:25PM

Yeah exactly – that’s a good example of how such an inner dialogue affects your inner game. It’s like a self fulfilling prophecy.

Posted by KarenYvonne  | November 25, 2012 at 11:25AM | Reply

I love when you said “you can not outperform your self image” This is so true. So many people believe that they need evidence in their lives to have self confidence. When it is the other way around : you need confidence in order to create the evidence of your greatness!

Posted by Thanh Pham  | November 28, 2012 at 12:29PM

Exactly! Couldn’t have said it any better.

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