Why Self-Help Materials Don’t Work (Hint: It’s Not Your Fault) - Take Back My Day
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Why Self-Help Materials Don’t Work (Hint: It’s Not Your Fault)

woman biting pencil while sitting on chair in front of computer during daytime, frustrated that a self help program does not work

We have an overwhelming amount of information at our fingertips. The answer to any problem seems to be in the dizzying array of courses, books, blog posts, and self-study programs that are always just a quick internet search away. 

But what happens when these self-help materials don’t solve the problem? 

That’s a familiar dilemma for many of my clients. They read every productivity blog and try every lifehack, only to feel frustrated and disappointed with themselves when the tips and tricks don’t work. 

Without exception, they are brilliant, passionate people with extraordinary creative talents and rich ideas. They balance their business obligations with all the other commitments they have in their lives. By conventional standards, it may seem that they get a lot done, but behind the scenes they sometimes stand in their own way.

So what is it about the self-help information out there? Why isn’t it working? 

Self-help materials aren’t designed for everyone

Despite their claims to the contrary, self-help books are typically written for and by people who learn best from self-help books. If you don’t learn and develop habits this way, they may not be of great help, and you’ll feel as though you’ve failed when these methods aren’t effective. 

What’s more, when the supposedly “easy” suggestions of self-help materials don’t work, people with chronic focus issues frequently come to the conclusion that their lack of organization may be a personality flaw they just can’t change.  

That is simply not true. There are many things you can do to improve your focus, time management, or productivity, but if these are chronic struggles for you, you’ll need a different approach than self-help materials can offer. 

A lifehack blog may be a perfect solution to address a minor issue. However, yet another list of recommended actions one “should” take is less effective for anyone experiencing chronic organizational or productivity problems such as ADHD. If you’re struggling with these, don’t pressure yourself to follow unsustainable self-help tips and look for personalized, professional help instead.

So are self-help books bad?

No, not at all! They can be valuable resources for people in some situations.

For example, let’s say you cook regularly and enjoy trying out new recipes. Unfortunately, your recent kitchen experiments have taken multiple hours and left a pile of dirty dishes, which is too time-consuming for weeknights. You purchase a cookbook of interesting 30-minute meals which allows you to continue trying new recipes while also limiting your time in the kitchen. 

In this case, the 30-minute meals cookbook will effectively solve the problem. You can cook more efficiently and regain some of your time without sacrificing what you love about cooking. 

But instead, let’s say that you feel as though you never have time to cook. You feel guilty that you eat out so much, so you’ve purchased cookbook after cookbook trying to find a solution. In this case, buying yet another book about easy ways to prepare 30-minute meals will only make you feel worse. 

Rather than hyperfocusing on fast recipes, it may be more beneficial to explore your belief that you never have time to cook.

Is it time to look at other options?

If you’ve continuously struggled with time management, focus, or productivity but haven’t seen significant progress, it may be time to explore other avenues. Individual coaching or accountability groups can be helpful, especially if thinking about the problem leaves you feeling overwhelmed, excessively guilty, deeply embarrassed, or even physically ill (headaches, nausea, etc). 

No one deserves to live with such negative feelings. Not only do they make you miserable, but they interfere with your freelance business and work-life balance. Don’t add extra stress by placing the unrealistic expectation on yourself to solve a difficult problem with self-help materials.

It takes courage to stop dismissing chronic lack of focus as a quirk or personality issue. A readiness for growth and change and a desire for a less frantic and guilty life can lead to a deeper search for resources that go beyond quick fixes and well-intentioned 5-point blog posts. 

If you want individual attention and guidance, I’d love to have you in one of my coaching programs. Schedule a FREE 30-minute informational coaching session now.

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