If you want to be someone who gets everything ticked off their list without it being a constant internal battle it may be time to pull the plug on procrastination.
Procrastination is one of the most insidious forms of self-sabotage there is, a habit that robs us of the future we deserve. Just as our present is the by-product of decisions and choices we made in the past, our future is created by what we do today, and you owe it to the you of tomorrow to make every choice and every action count.
The good news is that once you recognize this pattern of behaviour you can start making changes and develop new ways of doing things that are more proactive and more empowering. It while it may take some self- awareness and practice, it can be done.
Connect to the Real Reason for Doing the Task That You Are Avoiding
The goal here is to create awareness, not to find another stick to beat yourself with so answer the questions honestly and with as much compassion as you can muster.
What do you tend to procrastinate on the most?
What is your motivation for doing it- why do you have to do it in the first place?
How does it fit into your vision for your life?
How does it fit in with your values- is it in alignment or incongruent?
Is there a self-limiting belief that needs to be changed?
Is there another way you could do it that is more fun or interesting?
What would happen if you decided you were never going to do it again?
Can it be struck off the list completely or delegated?
You may be surprised to discover that some if those things you are putting on the long finger are part of someone else’s goals or vision or are things that you can just stop doing. Now is a good time to make some changes and stop doing things that no longer serve you.
When Overwhelm Stops You in Your Tracks.
Moving towards the big goals in our lives can be overwhelming, we can see where we want to be or visualize the person we want to become but then all of a sudden we are drowning in the magnitude of the task that lies ahead. We can no longer see the wood for the trees and there is so much to do that we don’t even know where to start, everything is essential and it feels like all of it needs to be done now.
Take a break, go for a walk, spend some time with friends, do whatever you need to do to relax. When you are calmer regroup and develop a strategy. While it is important to keep the end goal in sight right now all you need to do is figure out the next step. You don´t need to figure out all the steps, you´ll find they appear when you work towards your goal consistently, just take it one step at a time.
The Need to be Perfect
You know that feeling of waiting to put yourself out in the world until you get one more qualification, have the perfect website, business card and all the trimmings, lose 10 kilos etcetera, You are waiting until you are perfect and you´ll be waiting a long time because perfection doesn´t exist. Yes, it is terrifying putting yourself out there, publishing your blog, working with clients, selling your product, going on a date, whatever it is that you are postponing until you are ´enough´, but unless you move past that fear you are going nowhere. You are already enough, and it’s only by doing that you will improve. Strive for excellence, not perfection, do your best remembering that your best won´t be the same every day, and that´s ok. Don´t wait until your confidence grows to do what you are afraid of, doing what you are afraid of is what makes your confidence grow.
It´s part of the human condition to avoid things that are unpleasant, but chronic procrastination is stealing energy that could be better put to use somewhere else and sometimes all we need is some good old fashioned discpline.
Building that self-discipline muscle takes time and practice, you don’t get 6 pack abs from doing one crunch! It is however easier than you might think, and as a former procrastinator I know that often the thought of something is usually worse than actually doing it.
Here are some steps to get started.
- Decide when you are going to do it and commit to it. Put it in your calendar or set a reminder on your phone if necessary but honour that commitment, if you say you’re going to do it Saturday morning, do it Saturday morning.
- Estimate how long the task will take, then double it. Things often take more time than we imagine and not factoring in enough can lead to frustration and more avoidance, the problem we are trying to solve. If you do it in less time than you have calculated that’s a bonus.
- Get rid of all distractions. File those papers, prepare your work space, grab a coffee, but don´t count this as time spent doing the thing you have decided to do. We often convince we have spent loads of time working when we´ve really spent 90% of the time preparing for the work and only 10 % of the time actually doing it.
- Set a timer. This can be for as little as 10 minutes when you are starting to cultivate a habit of self-discipline. When you are starting out do small manageable chunks but keep increasing your time- 45 minute segments are optimal for our limited concentration spans.
- When that timer rings STOP, even if you are in the middle of something great, feeling inspired and getting way more done than you could have ever imagined STOP. This may sound counter intuitive but it is the key to developing self-disciple. If you just keep going now you will stop when you are finished, great, or when you get bored….not so great, because you are re-enforcing the same habit that got you here in the first place. So do this instead, step back and see how much you have achieved, give yourself a pat on the back for showing up and doing what you committed to doing and then if you decide you want to keep going repeat step 4, adjust the time as necessary but continue with the task until that timer goes again and with practice you will become a self-discipline ninja!!!
So get clear on your goals, tackle overwhelm, ditch perfection, practice self-discipline and you will set yourself up for success.