Nearly every one of my clients tells me they need to overcome procrastination. Procrastination usually means you’re slow to do something because you are leaving it until later. But sometimes ‘later’ never comes around.
Why do we procrastinate?
We procrastinate when a task is boring, when we don’t think we have all the skills to undertake it, when we simply lack motivation or when we fear failure (or occasionally, even success). Sometimes procrastination is simply rebellion.
Most procrastinators feel terrible about procrastinating. But beating yourself up isn’t going to change a thing. Remember that a lack of motivation is normal at times and let’s face it, who ever feels motivated to do their taxes, clean out the shed or file paperwork? In so many cases, the doing comes first and the motivation comes later.
To overcome procrastination, you’ve got to begin by being aware. Notice what you’re avoiding and be honest with yourself that you’re avoiding it. Just the simple act of saying out loud ‘I’m procrastinating’ is a start. Give some thought to the impact of your procrastination. It often surprises people to recognise how many hours of thought go into putting off and worrying over a task that would only take an hour or two to complete.
Try the following tips to help you get over some of your procrastination:
1. Enlist some help
If you’re bored or overwhelmed by a task, decide whether it has to be completed by you. Can you delegate parts (or all) of it or get someone to give you a hand to alleviate some of the boredom?
2. Be mindful
If a task must be completed by you, pay attention to feelings and thoughts that accompany your procrastination. Just notice them. And name them. Being mindful of your experience helps to defuse the struggle.
3. Take one tiny step
Just one small action step can get you started. Find something you can do that will take you no longer than five to ten minutes and make a commitment to complete that one task before doing anything else.
If you need new skills in order to complete a task, identify specifically what these might be. For example, if your role requires you to address groups of people and you are terrified of public speaking, join Toastmasters to get some experience.
5. Get rid of your excuses to overcome procrastination
Procrastinating gives you a great excuse to fail. If you write a paper at the very last minute and it isn’t well-received, you can blame your poor effort on the lack of time you had to prepare. Making excuses is just another way we self-sabotage. Notice what you’re doing and spend some time planning so you get rid of your excuse to fail.
6. Don’t be afraid to succeed
Fear of success keeps some people behaving in a mediocre way. When you’ve had a small degree of success in your life, you might feel that people always expect you to succeed (and maybe you expect it of yourself). You become fearful of having to match or surpass previous efforts. Stepping out of this cycle means focusing on what is important to you, not to others, and remembering that being human means that some days you’ll be brilliant and some days you won’t.
7. Stop your rebellion
Rebellion against schedules, standards and others’ expectations forms the basis of another type of procrastination. Generally, this sort of procrastination has its basis in a power struggle. Once again, identify your true values. Make sure you’re working towards achieving your own goals, not the goals that someone else has set for you.
We would be delighted for you to reproduce our articles as long as they remain intact and contain the author’s details as follows: ‘Kate James is a life coach, speaker and writer. She works with people who want to live confident, creative lives. Kate can be contacted at www.totalbalance.com.au.’