Procrastination, at root, is a choice. I really do have the ability to take the trash out to the curb the night before trash day, but I choose to watch TV instead. I am perfectly capable of returning my phone messages, but I choose to check my Facebook and Twitter accounts and then go for coffee. I could have done this article four months ago when some friends asked me to, but I chose not to do so.
Whether it’s doing your chores, writing your dissertation, or renewing your driver’s license, it seems that most of us need to experience an elevated level of pain before we take action to get it done. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just program ourselves to do the right thing at the right time?
Why does it have to hurt before you are willing to do something about it? There’s really no reason that I keep postponing things other than…
- I think it’s too hard to do!
- I think it will take me too long to get it done!
- I’m worried that I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m might screw it up!
- I’ve noticed something else that is much more appealing to me right now!
These are the four big reasons we fall into procrastination. Essentially, they all reflect a mental and emotional state that holds you hostage for a while. If you think you lack the expertise to do something, your internal chatter will convince you that you’re right to believe that. In fact, it will hail you as a hero for not even attempting it. If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking: “If I can’t do something right (or perfectly), then I’m not going to try,” then you’ve experienced the trap of “perfectionism.” This is a negative belief about yourself that stops you from stepping out, taking risk, and playing big. If you think it will take too long, you’ll look for something else to do in the present moment instead of what you really need to be doing. No one wants to fails, and if you’re afraid of how it might turn out, of course you’ll postpone getting started. That only makes sense!
The last reason, the one about doing something more appealing, is the one that always tempts me. I was the high school and college kid who put off school work but didn’t miss a party or a meal. Today, it’s still a challenge to battle the yard on Saturday afternoon when the golf course is right down the street less than a mile away!
In order to overcome procrastination, here are some tips that I’ve found work well to get you quickly up and moving in the right direction.
1) Just get started! Inaction causes anxiety. Once you get started and into the flow of what you’re doing, just making forward progress will necessarily change your emotions and how you are perceiving the situation. Once that small change begins, it will continue to grow, and eventually you’ll find yourself excited about the progress you are making, which will spur you on to completion.
2) Chunk the elephant down into bite sized pieces. Get started now with what you know you can do. Remember, success is the product of compounding the accumulated energy of an abundance of small actions. Break the task into small sections and take one step at a time.
3) Block out time. Set a timer for a short period that you know you can commit to and dedicate this block to nothing but work on your task. When I’m doing writing or product development, I like to work for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break. During the work time, I concentrate on the task at hand. During the break, I’ll completely step away from the work and do something fun and energizing. Then I’m ready to jump back in when my recess period is over.
4) Keep the end in mind from the beginning. It’s very easy to get distracted by the negative resistance you’re feeling toward the task and lose sight of why it’s important for you to get it done. How will it feel to finally have this task completed? What is your motivation? What will you gain? What will you forfeit if you fail to get it done? Which is more painful? It may be more painful in the short term, but what will be the long term result if you don’t persevere to completion?
5) You might find it helpful to find some support. This could be a friend, a group, or a life coach who will provide encouragement and support to help you stay on track. You’ll find that having an accountability partner and some external support will help you through difficult phases of the task, as well as remind you of the success you have already accomplished.
6) One way to keep your morale up is to keep a record of everything you’ve done to keep moving forward to completion.This helps you to build confidence as you review your progress and see the distance to finish line growing shorter every day.
7) Take care of yourself! If your body is not functioning properly, your motivation is going to suffer. Make sure that you are making healthy food choices, drinking lots of water, exercising, taking rejuvenation breaks throughout the day, and getting a good night’s sleep.
As a transformational life coach, helping people overcome inertia and get moving in the right direction is something that I do on a daily basis. A great way to get started on moving into the life you really want to have would be for you to... contact me for a 45 minute FREE life transformation strategy session.
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Dr. Steve Stutz, CC is a Life Success Coach, specializing in helping clergy and professional church workers not only survive but to thrive during periods of crisis, transition, and renewal. To receive periodic personal development tips and success mindset articles, please join his e-list by visiting www.forwardpathcoaching.com