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I’ve been meaning to write about procrastination for ages, but I never seem to get round to it…..
Procrastination is nothing to be ashamed of – almost everyone gets a bout from time to time. I realized it was time for me to get off Facebook and share some powerful ideas to help you kick time-wasting for good.
Beating procrastination can buy you more time, increase your sense of accomplishment and take away the frustration of feeling stuck.
Learning how to kick start work projects, do what really matters and sieze the day can have a huge impact on your happiness and success.
What is procrastination?
Psychologists define procrastination as something “counter-productive, needless and delaying” – and that is no fun at all.
We all have some great techniques for procrastinating – some of my personal favourites include:
“I’ll start doing that this afternoon / tomorrow / next week / next month…”
“I’ll just clean the house / bathe the dog / take out the recycling / check Facebook / cut my toenails first….”
“Every time I’m about to start, the phone rings / my boss comes by / I get an urgent email….”
What makes us come up with these fiendish avoidance tactics?
Check your Head
According to the Mind Gym, procrastination is typically driven by our deeper beliefs about the world. If we can identify the underlying assumptions and motivatiors, we can start to understand and beat our procrastination.
They suggest some common beliefs that lead to time-wasting:
- Perfectionism – do you strive for absolute perfection in everything you do? Perfection is such a high bar to reach, this creates a huge amount of pressure to perform. Trying to write the perfect CV, create the ideal Powerpoint, have the perfect call with that customer is such a daunting task. It is easy to understand why starting such a task feels scary and is easy to put off.
- Certainty – “Before I take my dream trip to Australia / start this project on marketing to pharmaceutical companies / go to that yoga class, I need to know all about it”. The need for certainty can push us to spend years in the research phase and never pull the trigger. We fear that unless we’re an expert, we’ll be exposed as a fraud, look stupid and everything will go wrong. So we never start.
- Fear of failure – starting is the first step on the downward spiral to failure, public humiliation and destitution. The demonic spectre of failure has stopped many great ideas and projects in their tracks. This is probably the single largest cause of procrastination.
- I’m not good enough – when we don’t believe we can do something, we’ll find every reason and excuse in the world not to do it. The most debilitating thought in the world is “there is no way I can do this”.
Next time you find yourself cleaning out the cellar or re-tweetig that latest fascinating post, take a second. What are you putting off and why?
To beat procrastination, start by changing your thinking. Once you’ve identified what is behind your procrastination, try this approach:
Step 1 – Redefine your belief
Start to take the pressure off yourself by rephrasing your beliefs in a less harsh way:
“I must get a perfect result” becomes “I’d like a perfect result”
“I must know everything about this” becomes “It would be good to know everything about this’
“I’m terrified of failing” becomes “It would be better not to fail”
“I can’t do this” becomes “I’m not sure if I am ready for this”
Immediately, these beliefs become less imposing and less of a barrier to getting starting.
Step 2 – Create a safety net
Now to further crumble your belief. Add in a get-out clause that makes the belief even less daunting. For example:
“I’d like a perfect result but if I don’t get one it doesn’t matter.”
“It would be good to know everything about this but I already know enough to start and I’ll keep learning as I go along.”
These statements take away the terrible future consequences we’ve already imagined for the task. It is fine if we try our best and we don’t quite reach perfect. If we do fail, we may learn more than if we succeed.
Step 3 – Go for it
With the newly minted belief in place, it is time to launch in and get started! When I’ve used this technique, it often feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I always find that just taking action is the best way to beat procrastination
“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” Johann von Goethe
Penny for your thoughts
What are you procrastinating about?
- What beliefs are holding you back?
- How can you rethink those beliefs?
- How do you beat procrastination?
Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Brilliant ideas on beating procrastination
Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver (Flickr Creative Commons)