Procrastination: on goals, actions, to-do lists, ideas. The report that needs to be done, presentation to prepare, even fitness targets we want to achieve. They can start piling up and lead us to feel overwhelmed, which may make us procrastinate even more.
Have you been known to decide to start a task, only to immediately go and put the kettle on? Have you justified leaving a task because you need to be in the right mood, or have enough time to tackle it? Or completed easier, or fun tasks, over and above the ones you know you “should” be doing?
Wouldn’t it be good if you could understand why you procrastinate and how you can get into the right state of mind when you need it, so that you can maintain your motivation, purpose and drive?
This is where an in-depth self-awareness is key. People often sabotage their own success through perfectionism, fear of failure or making mistakes, or simply not playing to their own strengths. Additionally, it could be due to:
- Negative self-talk can reduce self-esteem and confidence.
- Telling yourself you “should” do something, rather than “could”, implies judgement rather than a sense of hopefulness (see film)
- Perfectionism can sometimes hide a fear of not doing something well/right or thoughts of never being allowed to make a mistake
- Cognitive bias such as Imposter Syndrome can make us worry that we’ll be found out as frauds and that we don’t deserve to be doing what we’re doing.
We procrastinate often because there’s a fear to our sense of worth, and our “reward” (or feel good) system is threatened. We like fun and stress-free today, not to feel all these concerns.
But this means we’re not very good at looking out for our future self. I often ask clients, “what would your future-self say to you right now? Would they be asking you to get on with it, so that they don’t have twice as much work or have a serious deadline to do it all in?”
Procrastination is making our future-self pay the price of us not doing something today. When we procrastinate, we are valuing the current moment more than what we’re going to have to go through later. Sometimes all we need to do is think about how much more work our future-self will have to do, to get us to start now.
As well as asking ourselves these questions, we need to work out if we have any beliefs that are causing us to put off doing the important things, and therefore putting our future self under more pressure. Our brains don’t like moving outside of our comfort zone, without a lot of confidence and determination, so we’ll find ways of not having to go there. Our past can haunt our current thinking. But when we feel confident, we’re happy to take action.
Consider the following:
- Work out what triggers you to put things off. What are you concerned about or avoiding? For example, failure, criticism, rejection?
- Do you need to improve your knowledge or skills?
- Get rid of external distractions – ensure a tidy work space, turn the phone off, close down social media, turn off the email notification ping!
- Prioritise your to-do list, thinking about what is really essential.
- Break down actions to small, achievable tasks.
- Also delegate or even delete things where you can.
- Focus your mind on getting started. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done once you get started! It’s the thought of it that can often put us off.
- Celebrate achievements and successes. When your mind can see results, overwhelm reduces.
Lastly, are there any habits that are contributing to not getting things done. For instance, coming home and switching the TV on, spending 2 hours checking emails in the morning, even finding housework that for some reason needs to be done right now! Not that these are from personal experience!!
Just consider all that you can achieve when you postpone your procrastination! Your future self will really appreciate it.