From time to time, we’re all guilty of procrastination.
Sometimes, it’s in avoiding dull household chores like ironing work clothes, decluttering the hall cupboard, paying bills and washing the windows.
Postponing healthy eating and exercise ‘til Monday.
Delaying making that phone call.
More often though, for chronic procrastinators, it’s the ‘big deal’ things we put off — like meeting critical deadlines, putting ourselves ‘out there’, changing careers and following our dreams. You know, the activities and tasks that require time, effort, commitment. The ones that put us at risk of ‘perceived’ pain, embarrassment or failure.
And so rather than simply taking action, saying yes and getting things done, we find ourselves coming up with excuses as to why ‘now’ isn’t the right time.
“It’s not perfect.”
“I’m not ready.”
“It won’t work.”
“It’s too hard.”
“I’m too tired.”
“I can do it tomorrow.”
We instead scroll mindlessly through social media, check our inboxes, stare into the fridge or start another project — anything but that one thing we really should be doing.
Or, we leave it ‘til the eleventh hour — when it becomes apparent that the consequence of not completing it at all is far greater than our fear that we can’t do it perfectly.
The fact is, procrastination is not laziness.
It’s actually a common ‘flight’ response to the perceived emotional or physical discomfort inherent in making potent changes in our work or life.
Yep, procrastination is rooted in fear — a feeling that exists to protect us from pain, threat or injury.
Which means, left unchecked, chronic procrastination can lead to missed opportunities, untapped potential, unfulfilled dreams — and a seemingly endless cycle of disappointment, anxiety, avoidance, and frustration.
So, what to do?
The good news is, procrastination is indeed a behavior you can change by removing or working through your limiting beliefs.
If you’re feeling reluctant to start or finish something challenging and more inclined to ‘play it safe’, here are some steps you can take to recognize, deal with and overcome procrastination — and accomplish what you really need or want to do:
ONE: Become aware of your behavior
Recognize any deep resistance to a task and become aware of your corresponding actions. Track how much you procrastinate and how productive you are throughout the day.
Identify the patterns and the triggers.
Procrastination can teach you a lot about yourself because often, the thing you’re avoiding is something you really don’t feel aligned with. If you find yourself consistently avoiding your work, particular people, or activities, chances are you’ve said yes when you should have said
Also, take note of where your mind wanders when you are resisting doing something — it might just reveal what you’re truly passionate about.
TWO: Acknowledge the fear and show compassion for yourself
When you notice fear and resistance, acknowledge it — but don’t become attached to it.
Ask yourself, “What am I scared of right now?”
Then, change your inner language and remind yourself you have everything you need to achieve your goals or complete the task successfully.
THERE: Get clear on your goals, purpose or ‘why’.
“What is it that I want or need to achieve?”
“Why does it matter?”
Define the outcome or the end result and visualize what it will look like and how it will feel to reach it.
Keep the big picture in mind.
FOUR: Get clear on your action steps
Don’t get hung up on the enormity of the big picture — just break the process down into small, bite-sized but actionable steps.
This will help you to stay on task for completing your desired outcome and avoid overwhelm and resistance.
Writing a to-do list makes your goals seem tangible and gives you a sense of accomplishment (and the boost of confidence) as you progressively check off each of the items.
What can you do, in this moment, to make progress?
Commit to giving your full attention to the task at hand.
Set yourself a certain amount of time to dedicate to the activity and if there’s a chance you’ll be distracted by something, remove it: social media, your inbox, TV, music, people around you.
All of it.
SIX: Just Start
Taking inspired action is what it’s all about, baby.
Even if it’s “before you’re ready”, just start.
And if the endless pursuit of ‘perfection’ is your problem, remind yourself that there’s no such thing as the perfect time or perfect way of doing something.
Dive in — more often than not, you’ll discover your fears were completely irrational.