“I can’t help it! I was born to procrastinate.” That was the statement I heard when talking with a new client about a week ago.
So I asked her, “Are you happy with your procrastination? Does it serve you well?”
“No!” she exclaimed. “That is why I called you. I’m missing important deadlines and my co-workers and family are fed up with me.”
Do these statements resonate with you? If so, then keep reading. You can overcome procrastination if you learn a few simple secrets. Sometimes procrastination (putting an activity off until a later date) is necessary — like when a higher priority item comes up that you have to work on. However, if procrastination becomes a habit, trouble often follows. Start by understanding that there is nothing genetically or inherently wrong with you. So far, scientists have not found a procrastination gene! That is good news because it means it is a habit you can kick.
Why do we procrastinate?
There are a number of reasons we procrastinate. Let’s go over a few and how you can overcome them.
1. Not understanding your priorities will have you spinning in circles
Do you know if you are working on the right things? Do you find yourself jumping from one project to another? Often we procrastinate because we waiver on what we ought to be focusing on. One day it is one project and then the next day a different “bright shiny object” comes into view and we switch off to that. We are so busy jumping from project to project that we never really complete any of them.
Try This Instead: Earlier this year, I did a Twitter poll and asked my followers what their biggest challenges were with productivity. Setting priorities and working on the right things came up #1. So, I reached out to over 40 colleagues and asked them to give me their favorite priority setting tips.
2. Perfection is the enemy of progress
No one is perfect and the desire to be perfect will derail your progress – you loose the focus to be successful. Don’t get me wrong. Having a detailed focus and an attitude for a “job well done” is excellent. However, there is a line we need to draw when things are “good enough” to be tried. When you spend too much time on a particular task, it never gets completed and other activities suffer too. Taking action is better than not taking action. If you take action you get feedback and know where you can alter for improvements. For example, if you wait until you have a perfect plan for working out and eating right, you will never lose the weight you want to lose. If you don’t lose the weight, you may experience greater health issues.
Try This Instead: Use the 80/20 rule. Be “good” for 80 percent of the time. The logic: If you follow the new exercising/eating plan 80 percent of the time, then you’re 80 percent closer to your goal than the previous day! (The glass half-full focus.)
Remember – life is full of imperfection. Yes, it is important to give your best to achieve the possible best. But, not everything has to be perfect to produce the best outcome. Imperfection is better than perfection if something is actually getting accomplished!
3. Fear of failure only frustrates
This one ties closely to the item above. Taking action means making a change and possibly failing. Most of us don’t like change. In fact, most of us are terrified of change either consciously or unconsciously. “Failure is not an option” is a phrase we have heard all too often. But then, if we never tried, how would we know whether our effort has paid off or not, right? Exactly! Fear can be good when it helps us think though alternatives to a difficult problem. However, frequently we take it too far and this is where procrastination comes in.
Try This Instead: “Its Not Change it is an Experiment” – I love this concept. By thinking of your project as an experiment, you can get past your analysis paralysis and get your projects live. Then, as you learn things, you can make modifications. Now, go take action and let me know how it goes!
4. Understand the real time it takes to do tasks
We often put things off because we think something will take longer than it really will. “I just don’t have time!”
Try These Instead:
Play Procrastination Attack! Beat the Clock. Pick a time frame – let’s say 15 minutes – where you know you can focus on a task and get as much done as you can in that time frame. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish!
Sit in a chair and do nothing. Sit still —- very still! Do not read. Do not listen to music. Do not watch T.V. Do not talk to anyone. Do not do anything! Just sit very still and do nothing. After about 10 or 15 minutes, you will get very uneasy. You will start to be aware of each precious minute passing you by while your goals are not being accomplished. Before you know it, your motivation will be reactivated and you’ll be off and running!
5. Eliminate the excuses that are holding you back
A few days ago I wrote a post on re-writing your own story. Many of us go through life with set beliefs about ourselves that are just not true. We so strongly believe in those stories that we make excuses for not getting things done.
Try This Instead: Take a long, hard, realistic look at the reasons that you are telling yourself and make sure that they “hold water.” If someone else told you the same reason, would you think the reason was sound? If you have stories that you tell yourself that are not really valid, rewrite them!
The Final Word
When dealing with procrastination it’s important to realize the difference between a rational decision to postpone a task and an irrational one with no rhyme or reason. Most people get confused between these two and then they procrastinate. You can easily end procrastination when you see that in most cases your decision to postpone an important task carries no logic at all.
Whether it is writing a chapter in a ‘how to’ book, cleaning your kitchen, or doing a blog post, try to do something each day. This is action. These small actions will bring big results overtime. Acknowledge your feelings. Even if you’re afraid of putting yourself out there, it doesn’t mean you have to allow these feelings to take over. Just allow them to be there and focus on what you have to do. This is powerful if you learn to use it.
What do you do to beat procrastination? Where do you struggle? I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips! Share them in the comment section below. Like what you have read? Please share it with others!
To your success!