One of the most common questions we are asked by clients is...
“How do I overcome procrastination?”
It’s a big one! We identify with the word, which then allows us to give ourselves a legitimate excuse for putting things off. So we wanted to give you some useful tips.
In this article you'll find out:
What some of the underlying issues to procrastination might be
How they play out in your life so you can identify them
5 tips to get you started on the tasks that will lead you to achieving your goals
2 FREE valuable resources to help move forward
Around 20 per cent of the population identify as a procrastinator.
If you’re one of these people, perhaps ask yourself if avoiding these tasks is harmless or is it costing you? How is it impacting you mentally, physically, financially and spiritually? How is it impacting your energy levels?
We all put off doing things from time to time, however, chronic procrastinators habitually and unnecessarily put off actioning tasks or making important decisions. In doing so, we often notice that our anxiety levels increase and we’re constantly exhausted. Because even when you’re not consciously thinking about that task (because you’re avoiding it), your unconscious is still thinking about it!
Added to this, because we have so much freedom and choice surrounding what we do and how we spend our time, it can be hard to prioritise our time or decide what’s essential and what’s not. This can lead to decision paralysis or, you guessed it, procrastination.
If we allow this to happen on a regular basis, on top of the mental fatigue we might experience, we may encounter negative consequences such as late payment fines for unpaid bills or tax returns not lodged on time. This too can lead to higher levels of anxiety and stress, strained relationships or resentment from friends and family.
Most importantly though, procrastination prevents you from living the life you dream of.
So then, is procrastination simply laziness or are there deeper issues here?
There can be several underlying issues contributing to procrastination, for example:
2. Fear of failure
3. Lack of clarity around personal goals
5. Feeling overwhelmed
6. Lack of motivation and energy
8. Fear of negative feedback
9. Not knowing how to do something
10. Lack of initiative
How do these things play out in real life?
Self-doubt can lead people to think they don’t know how to do something, or they feel insecure about their abilities. A perfectionist may fear not being able to complete a task perfectly.
Dreamers may have difficulty paying attention to details.
Then there are those who are ‘over doers’. They take on too much and subsequently struggle to find the time to complete anything well, as opposed to worriers who fear moving outside their comfort zone.
In some cases, there are those who would prefer others view them as lacking effort rather than ability.
When we have a task, we rely on our self-control to motivate us to act. In most cases, this leads to a reward. For example, when a student works hard to submit an assignment on time, the reward will likely be a good grade. Done consistently, this will lead to graduating with good grades and the prospect of a good career and earning potential over their lifetime.
These positive outcomes also mean that anxiety, stress and pressure are likely minimal.
In this example, the motivating factors - good grades, career and earning capacity, with minimal stress and pressure - outweigh the demotivating factors - fear of failure, lack of motivation and initiative.
So, how do we stop procrastinating?
As with everything, it takes effort, practice and consistency.
We can’t expect to go from being a serial procrastinator to an action taker overnight! But there are some key points that when followed, will help you change from identifying as a procrastinator, to taking action and moving forward.
1. Be clear about your goals – why you need to do something. For example:
Goal: “I want to improve my health.
What do I need to do in order to achieve this? “I need an exercise plan (1), eat
nutritious and healthy meals (2), get enough rest (3) and reduce stress in my life (4).”
2. Identify what the task (or tasks) is, and the actions required to achieve it. For example:
Task 1: Outline an exercise plan.
How and where will you exercise? If it’s at the gym, do you need a membership? If you want to join a walking group, have you allocated time to research this online? If you’re going to join a local community sports team, do you know when they meet, and do you need to purchase any equipment to participate?
Task 2: Shop for fresh food so the ingredients for nutritious meals are on hand.
Do you have a regular shopping day? If not, allocate one in your calendar. Or are you going to order online to avoid impulse purchases? Do you know beforehand what you are shopping for? Check out some recipes and make a list of the ingredients and equipment you are going to need.
Task 3: Get rid of unnecessary distractions that prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Plan an evening routine that is going to allow you to wind down. This may include turning the TV off one hour before you intend to go to bed. Remove social media and streaming services from your phone so you’re not tempted to scroll when you get into bed. Create a quiet and inviting bedroom environment by using soft lighting and nice linen.
Task 4: Reduce stress by making a regular time to meditate.
If meditation is new to you, consider going along to a class, or setting aside a specific time of day to listen to one online. (Download our FREE Guided Meditation to get started).
Task 5: Be clear about your reason for doing something.
For what reason do you want to be healthy? This might include looking at the vision you have for your life. What do you want to do with your future? Perhaps you want to have children. Maybe you want to be fit and healthy to travel. Perhaps you have a family history of illness, and you want to give yourself the best possible chance of leading a long and healthy life.
In this example, for you to achieve your goal of improving your health, it must become an integral part of your daily routine, your thinking patterns and mental models.
It may be helpful to keep a ‘to do’ list to help you prioritise urgent tasks. But most importantly, you need a personal vision. While it’s important to focus on the actions, the results are the rewards we reap in the long term, that bring meaning to our vision and purpose for our life.
So, what is it that you have been avoiding? Use the steps above to get clear about your goal and how you are going to achieve it.
You’ll be amazed at how good you feel once you stop avoiding tasks and have worked hard to achieve your goal!
- Written by Yvonne King and Rebekah King
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