Charles Dickens once said “Procrastination is the Thief of Time… Collar him!” and truer words have never been spoken. Procrastination can rob you of not only your valuable time, but also rob you of your motivation, your focus, your productivity and your success. So, it is essential in both business and in life, to ensure you recognize procrastination and have the tools and self-management to overcome and eliminate it.
Procrastination is continually reinforcing itself – every time you delay, it reinforces your negative attitude toward that task. Every time you put off something you dislike, you:
- strengthen the habit of not doing;
- practice avoidance instead of participation;
- avoid acquiring training and skills, and
- indoctrinate yourself with fears.
So let’s break down the 4 main reasons for Procrastination:
1) Fear of Failure
No-one wants to fail… but if we allow our fear of failure to get in the way of taking action, then we may end up not even trying. A fear of failing can cause complete inaction, which then reinforces our belief that we can’t achieve our goal.
Many of our fears would actually be better described as concerns, little niggles we have about how things may turn out… we may not actually think of them as major “fears”. Nevertheless, they fill our minds with thoughts and can lead to an internal dialogue that can keep us trapped in time.
Where would we be if Thomas Edison had allowed a fear of failure to prevent him from inventing the light bulb? Edison and his team tested more than 3,000 designs for bulbs between 1878 and 1880, eventually succeeding through pure grit and determination.
Having a lack of knowledge or skills can be a primary factor in procrastinating over a task. In the Four stages of learning matrix, the second stage of ‘Conscious Incompetence’ is where you’re conscious of what you should be learning but you still don’t have all the knowledge or skills to make it happen. This lack of knowledge or skills can be frustrating and is a very common time for procrastination. There can be a lot of confusion in your mind at this stage and if you’re not careful, your confidence can take a hit.
3) It’s too Difficult
It stands to reason that if a task seems hard to do, we naturally tend to avoid it in favor of those which seem easy to us. This is explained well by Timothy Pychyl, author of ‘Solving the Procrastination Puzzle’:
“the key issue is that for chronic procrastinators, short-term mood repair takes precedence. Chronic procrastinators want to eliminate the negative mood or emotions now, so they give in to feel good. They give in to the impulse to put off the task until another time.” Then, “not faced with the task, they feel better.”
4) It’s too Time-consuming
If the task is going to take large blocks of time, we will often delay starting the task until “I have more time”. Interestingly, people often overestimate the amount of time it will actually take to do a task, especially as you can build momentum once you get started. There are many steps you can take to help alleviate this avoidance tactic.
So how do we overcome procrastination in our lives?
There are two steps to changing your mindset that can help you eliminate procrastination forever:
Step 1. Eliminate Fear
Best-selling author Seth Godin argues that it isn’t the “fear of failure” that holds us back and keeps us small, rather it is the “fear of criticism.” So, how can you stop caring what other people think?
The first step is to remember that if many people have felt this way and still achieved great things, that they’ve faced their fear of failure—and judgment—and won. Successful risk takers manage to keep criticism from holding them back.
If you want to eliminate procrastination, then eliminate your fear. Just ask yourself: Are you pushing away the things you want? And if you are, are you pushing them away because of your fear of success or a fear of failure?
Once you get clear on what’s stopping you, you can reframe those fears and empower yourself to take action
Step 2. Cultivate Desire
Remember, emotions govern your behavior. Fear pushes you away from what you want and desire pulls it towards you. Your emotions are what drive your behavior. If you keep putting something off, then you don’t have a burning desire to do it. No desire = no action.
So, how do you cultivate desire? If you can associate strong emotions with the end result, you can cultivate a burning desire. Then watch how fast you jump into action.
What comes next?
Once you’ve got your mindset right, there are many small steps you can take every day that will help you overcome procrastination and take action. Here are just a few to get you started:
- Make a list – each and every day.
- Eat the elephant one bite at a time! Break larger projects into manageable “bites” and create a timeline for yourself to accomplish these smaller tasks.
- Set a Timer! Remember that each project expands to the time allotted to it, so set a limit for yourself: “I am going to return all my phone calls in one hour.” “I will file papers for 30 minutes.” “I will spend 15 minutes picking up around the house.” Set a timer. You will be amazed how much you can get done when you focus your time.
- Check your self-talk. Do you frequently say, “I gotta…,” “I should…,” or “I have to…”? Replace this self-talk with “I choose to…” and recognize that you are at choice about what you do. If you don’t choose to do it, don’t do it!
- Eat a live frog first thing every morning! (and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day) Tackle that “frog” — the task you have been putting off, the one that’s hanging over your head — because it will lift an immense load and you will feel much more productive. Find out more about “eating your live frog” HERE.
What if I’m still struggling with Procrastination?
If, after going through all the points above and improving the way you do things you are still procrastinating, then you need to get yourself a bigger dream – or set yourself a bigger goal.
The one you have isn’t inspiring you enough to get you off the couch.
We all need to stop using the excuse “I don’t have enough time”. There is no one in this world that has more time than you do. We all get the same 24 hours in a day – you, me, Richard Branson, Beyonce, Barack Obama…. it’s what we do with it that counts.
A lot can be achieved in 24 hours if we start the day proactively.
If you could use help with time management within your business, or overcoming procrastination to achieve your business goals, our upcoming workshop on 90 Day Planning can help.
You’ll find having an Action Victoria business coach is just like having a marketing manager, sales team leader, trainer and recruitment specialist – wrapped in one – all for one nominal investment. We are the business partner you need without sharing your profits – with over 60 years of collective coaching experience to keep you on track and accountable for your own success.
 ‘Solving the Procrastination Puzzle’ – Timothy Pychyl PHD
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