Procrastination is the poison of success. We’ve all been there. There is a project you need to get started on or a task that you have to finish and about 3 hours of Youtube, 2 hours of social media and a mini-binge on the latest episode of your favorite show later and another opportunity to inch closer to your goals has been wasted away by procrastination. You tell yourself, you’ll do it tomorrow, you’ll do it later but tomorrow and later turn into the same time wasting habits that have robbed you of your potential for years.
Another pitfall is that we all too often wait until the last possible minute to get pertinent tasks done. Then we end up scrambling to complete a task which can easily compromise the quality of our work and build unnecessary stress making us associate that same task with pain causing us to procrastinate again when it has to be repeated. Some people delude themselves into procrastinating because they believe they “work better under pressure.” Nothing could be further from the truth. They just don’t know how well they could function if they had enough time to work on a project. The have been involved in a life-long habit of procrastinating that they actually believe it’s a productive skill.
You may have big ambitions and established goals but if you never take action, it’s guaranteed you’ll never achieve. And it’s like a vicious cycle, the more you procrastinate the more stressed you feel and the less action you eventually take. You think to yourself that if only you could keep your promises to yourself, then maybe you can start moving ahead in life. However, procrastination isn’t simply remedied by will power. Procrastination isn’t the lovechild of laziness. There are some deep psychological nuances at play that contribute to your procrastination. A fear of failure, a fear of success, insecurity, life obstacles, overwhelm and stress provide the nutrition needed for your procrastination monster to become more powerful. The good news is these issues can be addressed and remedied. It is absolutely possible to get yourself into a place of confidence and motivation so you can be on your way to living your most productive life.
1. Admit You’re Procrastinating
Procrastination can come in many forms. Some of them obvious like chatting with your friends when you should be working on your business or watching t.v. when you should be working on a budget. But some procrastination forms are sneaky and like to disguise themselves as productivity like wasting time on a low priority task like over perfecting the aesthetics of a Facebook post or spending more time doing “research” then you actually do taking action.
Other signs you might be procrastinating is you start a high priority task but find a dozen different reasons to get out of your seat interrupting your workflow. You go to the bathroom, you get a snack, you make a call, you change the temperature on the thermostat. So even though it feels like you’re occupying your time, you’re not working on the task you set out to do which is unproductive.
Maybe you’re waiting to get into the mood to get something done. Truth be told, if we all did this, we would all be in jail, because no one is ever in the mood to do their taxes. Keep in mind that high achievers and successful individuals do one special thing that helps to guarantee that they achieve their goals: They complete tasks whether they feel like it or not.
One of the best ways to maintain awareness if you’re procrastinating or not is setting your daily goals in advance. If you find yourself bogged down by a low priority task that wasn’t on today’s to-do list, chances are you are using that task as a procrastination device. Once you are aware that you are putting things off, now you can start taking actions to get yourself back on track.
2. Figure Out Why You’re Procrastinating
Procrastination is rarely if ever a result of laziness. There are countless issues that can contribute to your procrastination and it’s your responsibility to determine what that is. Everyone is different but procrastination leads down the same road regardless of the reason why it’s happening: unproductivity. So why are you procrastinating? You have ambitions, you have goals, you want to live out your dreams but you recognize that you struggle with putting action into place.
One of the most common reason for procrastination in healthy adults is fear. Fear of success or failure or a mixture of the two is enough to stop a capable person dead in their tracts. Maybe you worry that you don’t have what it takes and you doubt your abilities or you fear how people may judge your ambitions. That fear is rooted in insecurity which can really slow down your motivation. After all, if you don’t believe your goals are possible, then how are you supposed to muster up the gas to get you on the road to productivity? So you procrastinate your time away, wishing your goal could just happen already. If this is the reason why you are not consistently taking action, it’s time to prioritize building up your self-esteem and developing your confidence. If you don’t believe in you, no one will.
Maybe your fear of success is stopping you from moving forward. After all, success means more responsibility, it means that you can’t stop the train once it gets started and you will have to ride that success train everyday whether or not you’re in the mood for it or if you’re tired. Maybe you worry about what it means for your future and how your current comfort zone will have to change in order to accommodate your success and you don’t know if you’re ready to handle any of that. This type of anxiety is also rooted in self-esteem but also fear of the unknown. Perfectionism can also cause you to halt productivity. In a perfectionists mind, if they think they can’t get it perfect it’s hard for them to get started. It’s time to address it before you decide to move forward.
Another common but not often discussed reason for procrastination is mental illness. Everything from clinical depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, trauma and PTSD can overwhelm your mind and zap you of all your ambitious energy. There is no shame in addressing mental health issues. Like a flu or a virus, they have to be tended to so you are well enough to achieve your highest potential.
Whatever your reason for procrastinating, you need to dig deep and discover why you are not taking the actions that you want. Once you discover the root cause of your procrastination you can start constructively working on that issue so that you can start to move forward with your plans. But without this step, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to slay that procrastination monster.
3. Get Strategic to Stop Procrastination Before it Develops
There are tons of simple scientifically proven ways to combat procrastination. If you already completed steps 1 & 2 then it should be a breeze to employ some of the following tactics that will help you squeeze more productivity out of your day:
- Keep To-Do Lists. Make a daily list of 3 major tasks you want to complete that day and some minor tasks that need to get done but are easy to complete. Do not overwhelm your list because that will only lead to overwhelming yourself and have the opposite desired effect.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t judge yourself harshly for putting things off. We’ve all done it. But now that you’re aware that this is an issue, you can slowly start taking the steps to get yourself back on tract while showing yourself the kindness you deserve.
- Rephrase your internal dialogue. Instead of telling yourself you “have to” do this or you “need to do that” rephrase it so it sounds less daunting. Instead you can say “I’m excited to complete this task” or “I’m looking forward to getting this thing done.” Try it. It works!
- Get the hard things out of the way first. Start your day with doing the hardest task first and it will all go downhill from there. Maybe that’s an intense workout, or a lengthy report. Put aside the time to get the hardest thing of the day done first without distractions.
- Reward yourself. Positive reinforcement works. It works on dogs, it works on kids and it works on you! So the next time you find yourself completing a hard task, reward yourself! Celebrate, buy yourself a new thing, watch your favorite movie. Do something nice for yourself while consciously recognizing that it’s your reward for doing yourself proud.