In this article, I’ll cover why you procrastinate, the effects of procrastination, and how to overcome it.
Procrastination is created by you, not by the activity. The resistance to doing something is basically a fear, often a fear of failure or a fear of rejection. It can arise when someone tells you what to do and you want to resist that.
You may also procrastinate when the task is boring or not motivating. If your self-confidence is low, you may procrastinate because tasks seem harder or outside of your abilities. We also procrastinate when we associate pain with doing something. That pain could be effort, discomfort or feeling that the task is hard or stressful. However, this is purely the meaning or perception that you give to that particular task. It’s making it seem much bigger than it really is.
There are three types of procrastination.
- Not starting tasks
- Not finishing tasks or tasks taking longer than they need to take. This is often due to a fear of the task not being perfect.
- Putting off making decisions, or requiring too much information to make a decision.
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The effects of procrastination
Just knowing the effects of procrastination could give you the rocket fuel that you need to spring into action. They include:
- Loss of precious time, which could be spent with family, friends or having some fun!
- Regret later in life from missed opportunities to change your life and make a difference.
- Lower self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Rushed, last minute, emotional decisions that may not be the best for you. The quality of your life is largely influenced by the quality of your decisions.
- Damage to your reputation, by not delivering on time.
- Poor health, due to additional stress and anxiety by leaving things to the last minute or by putting off important health checks.
The cure for procrastination is taking action! I can think of so many times in my life when doing the task immediately made me feel better and increased my self-confidence. However, taking action is not always easy, so keep reading and I’ll share many ways to get off your butt and get going!
1. Do the most challenging task first
Most people have higher concentration and will-power earlier in the day, so it makes sense to do the most challenging task first. This will boost your motivation and every other task will be easier after the first task. However, set a time-limit for the most challenging task, so you don’t spend all day doing it.
2. Limit distractions
Create a distraction-free environment. Turn off E-mail and mobile notifications. Why? your brain will unconsciously look for reasons to pull you away from tasks you don’t want to do. Your brain spots a notification and before you know it, you’re not doing the task you set out to do. Also, keep your desk tidy. Robin Sharma says that “mess creates stress”.
3. Don’t try to be perfect
Perfectionism is the partner in crime to procrastination. Remember that good enough is fine. You can always improve it over time. I know this is obvious but the extra time spent on making it perfect could be spent doing something else.
The same applies to making decisions. Set a time-limit for the amount of research and information gathering you will do. Then go ahead and make the best decision you can, with the information available.
4. Reward yourself
Associating a reward to completing tasks will give you more motivation. Remember “what gets rewarded gets repeated”. Your brain will start to automatically associate getting things done with some kind of reward. That’s good for getting things done and for your overall level of happiness and fulfillment. Match the reward to the task. For a small task, the reward could be chatting with a colleague for a few minutes. For larger tasks and projects, it could be a night out at the movies or going out for dinner.
5. Say the words “Do It Now”
To combat procrastination, Brian Tracy suggests repeating the words “Do it now.” until you feel like doing the task. Keep saying this regularly and your unconscious mind will pick up on this. Before you know it, you will have developed a new habit and be taking more action naturally.
6. Change your thinking
If you keep thinking about how your chronic procrastination gets in the way of your motivation, your goals, your dreams, then this will become a subconscious belief and that’s how your life will continue.
Instead, think about how brilliant you are at getting difficult and important tasks done straightaway and how incredibly organized you are with your time. Over time, your subconscious mind will accept that as the “truth” and you will naturally get more things done faster.
7. 30-day procrastination diet
Robin Sharma suggests creating a list of 30 things that you’ve been putting off and doing one of these things each day for 30 days. Do this and you will build up greater willpower and the habit of getting things done! This is a novel way to overcome the effects of procrastination and it’s great for your self-confidence too.
8. Ban the words “should”, “have to” and “must”
When your brain hears the words “should”, “have to” and “must”, it feels like it’s being told what to do and it resists. Imagine another person saying that you should, must or have to do something. If you’re like most people, you would probably rebel. That’s basically what your brain does when it hears these words.
Instead, use words that provide options and choices, such as “could”, “choose” or “want” For example, I could complete this assignment today or I want to go to the gym. Then think of the consequences of not doing it. Your mind will then realize that you have a choice, but with choice comes consequences.
9. Feel the resistance
When you procrastinate, notice the resistance and tension in your body. Take a couple of deep breaths in, and really feel that feeling. Your mind will then start to calm down and you’ll gain a different perspective on the task. It won’t seem so big anymore. You can also release the feelings of resistance using the Sedona Method questions.
10. Ask questions
When you ask yourself a question, your mind is compelled to answer it. A good question is “If I don’t do this task, what will it cost me in my life?” Answering this question will reveal the pain of not doing it and spur you into action. It’s a negative motivation.
Other questions are “How will doing this task improve my life?” or “What will doing this task give me?” The answers to these questions will be reasons or benefits for doing the task. This will fuel your motivation to get on with it.
11. Focus on completion
Overcome the effects of procrastination by focussing on how you will feel when you complete the task. You will then feel more motivated and inspired to act now.
12. Change your measurement of time
To make the future seem more immediate use a smaller measurement of time. For example, think of a year as 12 months, 1 day as 24 hours, or 2 hours as 120 minutes. For some strange reason, using smaller time units makes the future seem more immediate.
13. Have an accountability buddy
Being accountable to someone else is one of the best ways to stay motivated and avoid the effects of procrastination. Share your goals and deadlines with someone else and ask them to monitor your progress and check up on you. A life coach is great for this, but a good friend or partner can also keep you accountable and on track.
14. Break big tasks into smaller chunks
Writing a book, essay or report can often feel like an immense task. If that’s the case, break it down into smaller chunks. For example, if writing a book, you could decide on the title today, a list of topics tomorrow and then write a few pages or a chapter each day.
15. Don’t beat yourself up
There will be times when you procrastinate or things take longer than expected and you feel frustrated. When this happens, be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up or being overly hard or critical, will make you procrastinate more. You start associating more pain with procrastinating and that makes it worse.
Instead, reset your goals, do some self-reflection to learn from the experience and have another go.
16. Have a Power Hour
Another good way to deal with the effects of procrastination is to identify when you are most productive. Is it first thing in the morning, in the afternoon or evening or maybe late at night. Work out the best time for you and do the hardest tasks during that time.
17. Just do it!
I know this is easier said than done. However, see if you can ignore the feelings and the mental noise in your head and just do the task. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, If nothing else works, just do it! It seems so simple, but it can really work.
So there are my 17 tips to help you overcome the effects of procrastination, I encourage you to practice as many of these as possible and notice which ones work best for you. Start to notice yourself getting more done, feeling more productive, happier and more fulfilled as a result.
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