Defined as the act of putting off an action until later. Delay. To postpone until tomorrow…and we all know tomorrow never comes…
Are you a procrastinator? Are you putting off the very things that actually help you achieve your desired goals? We can all think of times when we shoulda, woulda, coulda done something but didn’t because…we just couldn’t face it or some such. Perhaps we did another thing that we fancied doing more but was a lower priority task? Everyone does it, it’s hardly a crime – in fact it might be the right thing to do at that time – but when it becomes self-sabotage then that is the time to take some action!
Sometimes it’s just a minor issue that simply means some task or other has not got done but will be done soon enough, that’s fair enough – but sometimes it’s a debilitating problem that causes stress and anxiety. Indeed chronic procrastination could see an entire lifetime frittered and wasted.
The reasons why we might procrastinate are not straight forward, it is a complex psychological behavioural state, yet if we are truly to make those steps to achieving our dream lives, then it is a behaviour that we must root out, face down and manage, if not eradicate.
Procrastination is, in a way, a coping mechanism; a method of managing the stress of every day tasks and demands. It allows a cover for low self-confidence and the consequent feelings of insecurity and frustration. Maybe the task seems too huge and unmanageable, or too difficult to do and/or we feel that we might fail or be criticised for the mistakes we make. We can feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ we feel we are expected to fit into a day. Sometimes too high levels of self-imposed perfectionism are the cause, or the thrill seeker in us wants to leave things till then final hour. All this can be a compensatory behaviour for insecurity and lack of confidence in one’s own abilities, too. Often, time seems the issue, triggering claims that it’s a big task and we will start fresh the next day, or there simply isn’t a big enough chunk of time this week so…
Distractions are a major force in procrastination too. It is so easy to be nudged off course by the endless social media, email checking, Internet surfing and so on…and we deceive ourselves in tiny ways to forgive and excuse the delay and distractions. If you are distracted too easily then a stint of seclusion is needed!
The thing to be most aware of is that it is a choice. Ultimately, however you slice or dice it, the self has made a choice. The emotional reaction to the task we are avoiding is the true aspect we are unwilling to experience. All the negative feelings and emotions…I don’t blame you at all but to achieve that dream ‘you’ and dream life then this will all have to be tackled and overcome.
Let’s do it! Er…now…! NO…not tomorrow…sheesh…!
At risk of sounding like I’m stating the obvious, the surest way to overcome procrastination is to start…just beginning something can lead to great things, and often it really isn’t as bad as you’d imagined!
If it is fear that stops us then we need to face it. Look it straight in the eye and address it. When we really study it with our whole body and mind it suddenly doesn’t look so scary. We’ll laugh in it’s face soon enough…
If the vastness and complexity of the task is the barrier then try breaking it down into lovely bite size, manageable pieces and completing it step by step, being sure to congratulate yourself upon the successful achievement of each and every piece…till it’s done. Don’t set yourself unfair goals and therefore set yourself up for failure, though eh?! Don’t even think that far ahead…just think to the next chunk that you’re looking at tackling. If you are disorganised then learn how to schedule and project plan, keep to-do lists and make action plans. Being decisive and thinking positively about the task will energise and propel you through.
Regimented time management schedules usually don’t help as the procrastinator often knows fully well what they should be doing just cannot seem to actually get around to doing it. They will convince themselves and others that they are fully in control of the situation and have plenty of time to complete the task, but time will tick by and there will be no start.
Other people might think, and indeed comment, that the desire for the result and achievement might be motivation enough; sufficient drive to get the task done. If only it were that easy, eh?
If you need incentive and motivation think of the the times when you did successfully complete things and were victorious over complicated, daunting tasks, times when you were at the top of your game, or consider the unpleasant consequences of you not completing the task, or ask a peer to check in with you to see if you’ve moved forward.
Oh, and a word about will power…if you are born with it then hooray! – but loads of us are not and it is a stick we beat ourselves with. One failure does not mean another will automatically follow and it wasn’t your lack of will power for sure! If you develop will power as time goes on then that’s lovely, but most people who seem to have will power are in truth just avoiding the original temptation as much as possible. Think about someone trying to avoid chocolate – if they don’t buy it then the likelihood is it won’t around to tempt! Then when temptation wins (someone else brings the chocolate!) then enjoy it for all it’s worth and return to your original track. Guilt is a futile and destructive nonsense….get rid of it!
Motivation can be helped by reframing. Guilt, motivation and reframing are discussed elsewhere on this site.
To give yourself a fair chance of overcoming procrastination you will need to recognise the problem and when you are doing it, then face it and discover why you are doing it, and finally, take action to stop it. Procrastination is, ultimately, learned behaviour which means it can be unlearned and reprogrammed. It’s not so scary and it’s certainly not a crime. It does’t make you a ‘bad person’ – it is simply a case of owning a character trait that is part of who you are and how you go about your life.
Knowing that the choice is yours means you can adapt and change it at will.
It’s your life, your choice.