“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.”
Napoleon Hill, American Author
The truth is that we all do it, yes, even me. If you are like me there will always be those items that don’t move on the bottom of the to do list others fly off the top like hot cakes.
Here are some typical symptoms of procrastination. Do any of these feel familiar to you?
- Waiting for the “right time” or “right place” to start your task (this one is close to my heart!)
- “Analysis paralysis” thinking about doing or researching rather than actually doing
- Waiting for an adrenalin rush to materialise
- Deliberating about where to start
- Getting persistently distracted
Why do we procrastinate?
It is rarely the task itself that we are actually putting off – more the underlying thoughts and emotions that we associate the task with.
So what is it that really holds us back?
Fear – the truth is that most of our procrastination comes from fear– of failure, of uncertainty and the unknown, of not being perfect or good enough. Sometimes we eve fear success as it may mean less free time and autonomy.
Lack of self-belief – the minute you tell yourself a story that you can’t do something, is the same minute it becomes true. Negative thinking quickly becomes self-reinforcing.
Lack of motivation – a few years ago I replaced the word “lazy” with the words “not motivated” – when you catch yourself saying things like “I should” or “I have to”, you know you might be working to someone else’s agenda.
Moving into Action
Simply powering through resistance might work temporarily, but is unlikely to sustain effort for the longer haul. You have to get to the root of what it is you are really putting off and why. So before you fire up the engines, here are some things to consider first:
- Work out why you are procrastinating – look at the list of possible causes above and ask yourself – Which of these applies to me? What is it that I am really avoiding or putting off?
- Address your limiting beliefs – ask yourself – so what is it that I really believe about myself in relation to this task? How does this belief serve me?
- Set a motivating goal – ask yourself – On a scale of 1 – 10 just how important is this task to me? (if not important, why do it??) What would make it a 10?
- Identify possibilities – What would happen if you did/ or didn’t do it? What is the best and worst thing that could happen? What would you do if this happened?
Some Practical Tips
- Create the best environment – a tidy, distraction free space; take regular breaks to keep yourself fresh.
- Recognise achievements – try keeping a ‘done’ list as well as a to do list
- Publish your plans to others and maybe ask someone you trust to keep you accountable
Create A Realistic Plan:
- Visualise success – imagine that you had already completed the task, what did you do to achieve your outcome?
- Map out the tasks – write down exactly what you have to do and estimate how long it will take
- Create small bite-size steps – this helps to avoid feelings of overwhelm, allows you to work for shorter periods of time, on one thing at a time and feel that you are making progress.
- Make an “unschedule” – map out all the other things that take your time that are not related to the task, how much time do you really have available? Build this into your plan.
- Create achievable deadlines – you’ll get a buzz from getting which to aids motivation.
Perhaps the best advice is simply – stop thinking and get started. Without that simple kick start, you wouldn’t be reading this article right now!