“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
I was inspired to write this blog on overcoming procrastination as I sat at my desk, laptop in front of me, realising I was putting off making decisions and taking actions. Decisions and actions that would propel my coaching practice forward…or not, if I didn’t follow through.
I’m not avoiding those actions by writing this blog…in case you were wondering…they are now well in hand! I started by taking a long run in the park, giving my mind space and time to reflect, create a vision and clear actions and ultimately move forward.
So, what exactly is Procrastination and why do I do it?
Simply put, procrastination is putting off or delaying tasks until the very last minute or even past a deadline. Sometimes we do this even when the consequences of delay are negative.
If you’re like me, you might have asked yourself why you procrastinate (and still do it anyway!). The answer isn’t necessarily straight forward. Often, we underestimate how long a project or task will take to complete and so delay the start. Other times we don’t feel inspired or motivated and so we simply don’t make a start.
The thing with procrastination is that it can be incredibly stressful, it causes worry, frustration, disappointment…” I wish I had done that now”. It can mess up our best efforts at time management. But there is some good news. Procrastination can be a habit and the great thing about habits is that they can be overcome.
Types of Procrastination
There are so many different reasons why we might procrastinate and put off doing something we know we should do. So I’ve picked a few of the most common reasons and suggested some simple to follow solutions to help you move on and smash that task.
This type of procrastination could be linked to a fear of failure – often imagining negative outcomes and results that may never be borne out. If detail is your thing, the stress of getting the task absolutely right may be too much to manage.
A great way to overcome this is to create a positive visualisation in your mind, think about what you see, hear and feel – the positive outcomes of getting the task done. And remember perfection really doesn’t exist. Your best effort however is real and is usually good enough.
Dreamers often aren’t great at focusing on the detail – it’s not their thing. Often creative, with lots of ideas, but with a lack of structure and clear goals, they don’t manage to bring them to fruition. Instead Dreamers might find themselves deep in Facebook.
The best way to progress is to create a vision of your end goal, have a really clear view of what you want to achieve and then set yourself some small but achievable goals that will lead you successfully to your outcome. Its really important that these goals are ‘SMART’ (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and each is Timebound). With this model created, you can keep yourself accountable and on track.
Possibly one of the most common reasons for putting something off. The task just looks too big and so you lose motivation and focus. Instead, you’ll find tasks to do that do seem more comfortable and more achievable.
The answer here is very similar to ‘The Dreamer’. Its about breaking down the task in to smaller tasks and creating goals that will ultimately lead you to your outcome. So instead of focusing on the whole task, you focus only on the next goal until you have it completed.
The over committed
So much to do and so little time to do it all! In this case we take on too much work and then we struggle to find the time to get through all of the projects we have committed to.
In the first instance, look at the tasks on your to do list. Are they all urgent? Do they all need doing right now? Take some time to prioritise them in order of importance and to remove any that really aren’t essential.
Now think about when you need to achieve each task by and whether this is realistic. If it isn’t, decide what is realistic and let anyone waiting on you know when you can realistically complete these tasks. You’ll be surprised at how accommodating people will be if you let them know what’s realistic.
Now you’ve done that, you can break your first task into smaller realistic tasks and tackle each one in order until the job is done!
Worriers often put off tasks because they fear change or moving outside of their comfort zone. When it comes to fear of the unknown, there are so many things we can worry about. Losing money, losing a job, being judged. The list is endless.
There are so many things we can do to help overcome worry and fear of the unknown. Firstly, know that fear is not innate in us, it is a learnt behaviour. And the great thing about learnt behaviours is that they can be unlearned.
Give some thought to where your fear comes from – often it’s the memory of a past experience. What did you learn that time? What steps could you take to mitigate the fear you perceive now?
Now, remembering that fear is a learnt behaviour, consider what evidence truly exists to support your fear – not generally, but specifically your fear. Is there any evidence to suggest you might fail? Finally, think of two or three times when you’ve coped well with uncertainty.
And finally…some general ‘top tips’
- Make a to-do list and make each task timebound.
- Take small steps by breaking down each project or task into manageable steps to avoid overwhelm.
- Pay attention to your thoughts. At the first sign of procrastination, try to resist the urge. If you need to, get straight to work on your task – don’t allow yourself to put it off.
- Remove all distraction – and this definitely includes Facebook or your favourite flavour of social media. Make sure you are logged out of apps.
- And finally, recognise your achievements and reward your efforts. Be your own biggest fan!
If you need a little support, don’t be afraid to get in touch. Do it now!