Is there anyone who isn’t guilty of procrastination? I am sure you, like me, must have had times when the one thing you know you need to do today is the one thing that didn’t get done. But you have been busy ALL day and could not have possibly fitted it in.
Why does that happen?
Well, very rarely is procrastination about laziness. In fact, if anything, the people who procrastinate the most are some of the busiest people. The problem is they are busy doing stuff that they don’t need to be doing while putting off the things that they should.
Sometimes, procrastination is to do with having a weird sense of time. Some people think they have more time than they actually do – and they put off doing things because they think they have enough time to do it later – before they have to leave to see that client or before they have to go get the bus for college (a friend’s daughter). But actually – they do NOT have the time and therefore they would be better learning that their sense of time is off, and learn to do things sooner!
Often, procrastination comes from a sense of things not being good enough. What I mean by that is – this person is a perfectionist. And being a perfectionist, they put off tasks which they believe they will not be able to do perfectly. They can’t get their heads round doing something ‘good enough’ and so they would rather not do it at all. Does that make sense? Maybe you know someone like that – I certainly do. No names, no pack drills.
Possibly the biggest cause of procrastination though, is none of the above. The biggest source of procrastination is FEAR. And remember what FEAR is? False evidence appearing real. People don’t do something because they imagine all sorts of catastrophic outcomes. If they take on a new member of staff the work might dry up and they may have to let them go. If they write the book, it might be shit and maybe no-one will buy it. If they run that ad campaign they might waste their money. If they have that difficult conversation with a staff member they might leave/punch you/tell the team how awful you are and they might ALL leave. If they ring up the bank to ask for an overdraft, the bank will realise they are having cashflow problems and call in the loan (actually that one might happen!)
OK, so fear is a massive cause of procrastination.
But how do you deal with it? Whether it is putting off studying for your exams, having a tricky conversation with someone or starting to write your book, we all know those things are better done than not done. So how can you STOP procrastinating.
Well, there are all sorts of techniques you can use. Here are a couple you might find useful:-
Have a Big Enough Why
There are a million examples to illustrate that this is the most powerful procrastination buster. Imagine this. You work on the 9th floor of an office building. It’s lunchtime but the lift is broken and you can barely consider walking down 9 flights of stairs to get your lunch, let alone walking back up again. You think about it. You go through all the reasons why you should go get your lunch, but then you convince yourself that you are trying to lose weight anyway and not eating lunch will help. But then the other voice kicks in and says – ffs, walking up 9 flights of stairs will do you more good than sitting here. And whilst you are procrastinating, the fire alarm goes off. Do you continue to procrastinate? You do not. People have never seen you move so fast – handbag grabbed on the way out! Your life is more important than the inconvenience of walking down the stairs. Am I right? So FIND YOUR big enough WHY.
Call Yourself Out on Excuses
Excuses. Hmmm. What can I say. Excuses are bad enough when you give them to other people. But when you start believing them yourself, then you need to STOP. Have you ever heard yourself saying “I can’t give up smoking / start my diet / join the gym / launch my business / write my book….UNTIL after Christmas/after my holiday/I’ve cleared 4 weeks from my diary to write etc etc.
The fact is that YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT TO DO. If losing weight was a matter of life or death, would you leave it till after Christmas? If you had a published and you HAD to get your book started next week and finished in 6 weeks, would you start it today? Of course! So STOP giving yourself excuses and stop believing them. It is all about how important it is to you. Just do it, or don’t do it. But don’t let yourself off with lame excuses.
Chunk It Smaller
Sometimes things just look too big and overwhelming and so you never start. Launching a business or losing 3 stone might just look too big and scary and you don’t know where to start. So chunk it smaller. Break down all the steps you need to do before you start, during the thing and after. And then put them in order. Now pick the FIRST one, and just do it for 5 minutes. Say that out loud too. I am just going to do this first little thing for 5 minutes.
Two things might happen and One definitely will. The two things are this. Either you will do the thing for 5 minutes, or, more likely, you will do it, get lost in it, finish it (however long it takes) and that will be one step finished. Time to feel good. Oh – and the ONE thing that definitely happened is YOU STARTED. And often starting is the biggest hurdle.
People don’t generally procrastinate whilst in flow. It normally happens BEFORE they start. You know – you don’t generally find people sitting around in the street in their running gear procrastinating about whether to carry on with their run or not. Nope. But you will find plenty at home who never got started.
Get a Partner or, even better, A Coach
Generally, people achieve more when they are accountable to others. So – if you want to achieve something – whether it is revising for exams or sorting out your business finances – make yourself accountable to someone. Find someone else who wants to achieve the same and report back to each other. This can work very well, however, if you are both procrastinators you may find you let each other off a little too much. So I would suggest a coach might be better.
Find someone who has been there and done that and can actually help you as well as hold you accountable. In that way, you may find it easier to justify spending money on (eek) YOURSELF.
Listen – you have no problem spending money on food, on clothes, on your family, on your kids, on your pets and maybe even on the odd holiday. But guess what – without YOU – none of that works. So what is with the ‘I can’t justify spending money on me or my business’. That’s just crazy thinking. If Mohamed Ali or Andy Murray (or pick any other sports person you can think of) had thought that way, they would never have got to World Champion. So why are you not worth it?
Get a coach. Make things happen.
FEAR and Eating the Frog
We talked about this already. With certain exceptions – like someone running at you with a knife – there is very little to actually be afraid of. Most of the stuff we fear will never happen. If it does happen it is generally not as bad as we thought it was going to be – like giving a presentation or going for an interview. And even if it is – like getting an illness diagnosis – there is still NO POINT in fear.
Here’s the thing. Fear is there for a reason. To keep you safe. For example – you don’t walk too close to the edge of a big cliff – because a gust of wind might take you over. So if you want to see over – you crawl up to the edge. Now THAT is sensible. However, not launching your business / new product or not revising for an exam because you might fail and if you have worked hard and failed then YOU ARE A FAILURE – sorry – not a good decision.
A good coach will tell you the things that scare you most – those are the things you should do first – because a) it will stretch your comfort zone and make it bigger b) those are the things that will have the biggest positive impact on you and c) once they are out of the way everything else is easy peasy.
Hence the book – Eat That Frog. Every day – do the 1 thing that you least want to do or fear most – FIRST. And see how much easier the rest of the day is. This is where a coach comes in REALLY handy – cos it is just too easy to MAKE EXCUSES for not doing the Frog thing first.
Be Kind To Yourself
Now, I didn’t put this one first because I didn’t want you to a) think I had gone soft or b) think I meant letting yourself off the hook. What I mean by being kind to yourself is this. AFTER, you have got your butt moving, AFTER you have taken action and AFTER you have faced your fear and done it anyway – well THEN if you haven’t quite got the result you wanted – be kind to yourself. No-one is an overnight success (despite what they might tell you on social media). No-one woke up one morning, thought – I’m going do this – and suffered NO setbacks, no accidents, no mistakes, no moments of self-doubt, or some time when they were not performing at 100%.
Accept that you are a human being. And human being are not perfect. They are not MEANT to be perfect in my opinion, because – oh my God – wouldn’t that be boring? And you learn more from what doesn’t go completely to plan, than from that which is easy. And the things that are hard won are more appreciate, they mean more right?
So if it doesn’t go entirely to plan – celebrate! You did something. Others may criticise. You may criticise yourself. But at least you have something to criticise yourself for. Isn’t that better than sitting on your ass thinking about maybe doing something, sometime…perhaps