So you’re a procrastinator, are you? You keep delaying on tasks, goals and conversations that should’ve happened yesterday. Perhaps you even justify your reasons for waiting — “I’m not in the right frame of mind”, “This other thing is more important right now”, “It’s not the right time / the right place / the right moment”.
Or the famous “I’ll get started tomorrow”. And tomorrow is yet to arrive…
You’re not alone. In fact, you’re part of the vast majority of us who give in to the urges and fears of the human brain on a regular basis. We’re wired to run away from anything that feels painful, and be drawn to what brings us instant pleasure. In the world we live in, there’s no shortage of that.
So how do you get your brain to work for you when there are important things to be done? It depends on what stops you from taking action.
Ask Yourself: Is it Fear?
Perhaps your reason for procrastinating is a silent “I can’t do this”. You’ll know it if you tend to compare yourself to others or are hooked onto the need for a perfect outcome. If that’s you, you can tackle your fear through a two-fold approach: WHY is this important and HOW will you do it. Your why is the strongest pull force you have against the fear, so get clear on it. Don’t be satisfied by the first answer that comes up. “Because my boss wants me to” or “Because my partner is acting like a jerk” or “Because I have to lose 10 pounds”. These are mostly answers of the emotional brain. Dig in deeper so you find the real reasons. How will your life, or that of people you care about, be different as a result?
Then think of times when you actually did a great job, had a difficult conversation, or faced a challenge well. How did you do it? What helped you? And how can you harness those strengths and / or relationships to help you this time around?
Ask Yourself: Is it Habits?
Perhaps you are one of those who can mindlessly begin scrolling through Facebook and before you know it, half your day is gone. Or who is determined to go to the gym after work but gets distracted by the mess in the closet as you search for your gym clothes. You need to set yourself up for success! Because the reality is that our world is full of distractions, and even the best of intentions can fall by the wayside by an innocent click of a button or a fleeting moment of weakness. Your best chance of staying the course is by replacing habits that aren’t serving you well with those that do.
If you’re just not getting down to starting your project, block out time in your morning to do so. Shut off all distractions, put a “busy” sign on your door, whatever you need to do to keep your mind from wandering away. If you keep forgetting to have the conversation, or delaying your fitness plan because dinner needs to be served, commit yourself. Set up that meeting, join a fitness class — its far more difficult to let important things slip down the priority list when others are waiting for you.
Ask Yourself: Is it Feelings?
And then there are many of us who procrastinate because we keep waiting until we “feel like it”. If that’s you, boy you’re in for disappointment! Action builds momentum and motivation, not the other way around — it’s the first law of physics. To tame your emotional brain into taking action, treat it like a spoilt little child who wants to only do fun things. If you need to exercise, choose an activity you enjoy. If you need to have a conversation, do it in a coffee shop you love (if possible). If it’s a task you’re dreading, break it down into small parts that take up very little time. Chances are once you begin, you’ll likely continue.
Also, build in rewards. Tell your inner child if she comes along to the gym, you’ll stop at the bakery and get your favorite jam for breakfast. Or that you’ll buy her that cute little black dress after a month. But you really don’t have to do anything much at all — simply ticking off an item on your to-do list is all it takes to feel rewarded. Not only that, the dopamine surge also makes you want to repeat the behavior. It’ll be easier the next day! Back to you. What are you procrastinating on and why? And what will you start doing today to take action toward it. Because remember, your chances of doing so take a slide after the first 48 hours. The clock is ticking!