Understand how procrastination works and what to do to overcome it.
Let’s take a moment here to picture the following scenario.
You wake up in the morning feeling good. You get up, take a shower and carry on to whatever morning ritual you are used to. It might be dancing around the living room, meditating or walking your dog. Whatever it is, you do it and it makes you feel great. You then have your breakfast and after the first cup of coffee you feel ready to take over the world (if you’re like me, you need a second cup of coffee to feel that way). You then start to shift your brain towards working mode and begin to think about the things you have to do and accomplish that day. The list increases by the minute. You feel a tiny churning sensation in your stomach when you realise you have a great deal of things to tackle. To avoid coming face to face with the feeling, unconsciously, you fetch your phone and there you are, watching cute dogs videos on YouTube, getting distracted on the latest stories on your Instagram feed or (this is the best one) you watch just one (yeah right) episode of that series you have already watched ten thousand times.
Does that ring a bell? Anyone?
If anything of I wrote just now, resonates with you at any level, my dear friend, I am here to tell you something. You are a victim of procrastination. But don’t feel bad about it, our lovely enemy Procrastination is out there and it will come for us all – whether we are aware of it or not.
So what about we attempt to understand how it works and how can you deal with it?
Procrastination is one of the most common forms of self-sabotage. Basically it means putting off any activity that would move us towards completing our tasks, achieving our goals or creating what we want to create.
It is creating unnecessary tasks or things to do and placing them between us and our goals. Procrastination is in its essence the avoidance of doing a specific task that needs to be completed.
I love what Steven Pressfield mentions about this topic in his book called The War of Art:
Procrastination is the most common form of manifestation of resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalise. We don’t tell ourselves -“ I’m not going to write my symphony.” Instead we say “I am going to write my symphony, I’m just going to start tomorrow.”
And tomorrow turns into the day after tomorrow, and the day after, and so it goes.
I understand that we are more likely to fall into the trap of procrastinating when we are not very excited about the task, or when we don't really like or enjoy it. I get that. It’s hard not to procrastinate when we know we are not going to have fun doing what we have to do. I understand how that can easily happen. However, procrastination also strikes when it comes to pleasant tasks, to those things we actually want to do or create – it could be sitting down to finally write that book, organise that workshop you’ve been planning in your head for ages or looking for the job of your dreams. Why would we sabotage ourselves to not getting those things done?
Let's look at possible reasons why:
These type of goals can often cause us some kind of discomfort because they make us move away from what is familiar and closer into the unknown, into the new, and that can be terrifying for most of us. We, as humans, have the natural desire of seeking for comfort pretty much all the time and we forget that discomfort is also part of the process. There is light and there is darkness. There is night and there is day. There is comfort and also discomfort. They are two distinct ends of the same spectrum and both play important roles. When we remind ourselves that discomfort it part of the deal, we come to understand that avoiding it by engaging in an unnecessary procrastinating action, will only move us further from our goal which will remain there to be achieved. You will have to go back to it at some point.
On a subconscious level, there is a chance you fear success, not failure. Wait a minute, what? Yes, you read it right. I will repeat that to you. We are afraid of our own success. We are afraid of tapping into and externalising our own potential because we do not know how we will deal with it. So we might as well just leave it dormant. We know how to deal with how our life has unfolded so far. Whatever comes next is new and whatever is new can either excites us or scare us. New adventures bring new responsibilities and deep down you might think that you won’t be able to handle that, that you are not worthy of your own dreams or maybe that you are not good enough. So lean into that thought for a while and see if this is something that is driving you towards procrastination. Let me tell you something: we are not given a bigger slice of the cake than what we can chew. YOU GOT THIS! And life unfolds bit by bit. Your success will not happen overnight. And if it does, you will be able to handle it. Trust me on that one.
Perfectionism. One of the reasons you might be avoiding tackling that to do list and finally initiating that project you’ve always wanted, might be because you believe things need to be done perfectly, spotlessly and under the best circumstances. There is no such a thing as perfectionism. Really, it doesn’t exist and aiming for that will only make you feel frustrated and paralysed because you won’t ever be able to beat those impossible standards you have in your mind. So chill out on being perfect my friend. Done is always better than PERFECT! What does perfection even mean? Perfection is you committing to doing your best always, no matter what. I am sure there are many other reasons why we go down that crazy procrastination spiral, but I thought I would focus on the three main ones. These are the most common causes I usually see my clients struggling with.
So how can we learn how to deal with procrastination?
1. Raise your energy high: before you even think about starting work, raise your energy high by doing something you love. Lift your energy levels. Go for a run, dance around the living room, listen to a song that inspires you, do a yoga class, move your body, whatever makes you feel energised and happy. This will help you build momentum and get you in the flow, so there is less room for negative thinking or self-limiting behaviours - such as procrastination.
2. Understand your procrastination patterns: spend some time trying to map out how your procrastination behaviours act up on you. Try to observe and understand what you usually do/feel/think in the moment you notice the first signs of procrastination coming up. Write them all down. Pay attention to everything that leads up to that moment where you repeat the same pattern of leaving things for latter. What led you up to that? What are you trying to avoid? What is the feeling behind it? Once you understand and measure this, it becomes much easier to overcome it. It stops being this unknown feeling haunting you and it becomes something known and approachable.
3. Organise your ideas: before you start doing any work, sit down for a moment with a pen and paper and write down all the things you need to accomplish. Next to each item, take a note of how you will feel once each of them is completed. Then take a step back and ask yourself: “Is this doable or do I need to adjust my to do list to something that looks a bit more reasonable for a human? The day has only a certain number of hours anyways.” If it is not doable, break it down, review your tasks and adapt them to what is achievable for you today. See what is (really) important and cannot be left for the next day. Set your priorities according to how having a specific task done will make you feel. Go for the ones that will make you feel motivated and excited first. These will help you build momentum and move you forward to the next ones.
4. Reduce the distractions: create the perfect environment for you to work. Switch off your phone for a couple of hours, turn off the TV, close all the unnecessary tabs on your internet browser, switch off the notifications on your phone, mute all those hundreds WhatsApp groups you are part of, get someone to babysit the children, do not check your email every ten minutes. Focus on what is important for you right now. When you’re done, all those things will be there for you to deal with. You can go back to that later.
5. Revisit your goals: reflect upon your goals and try to understand how they make you feel. Do you feel excited about working with them? Is it fun? How will your life be better once you meet them? Maybe you are not satisfied with the goal you have set for yourself. Maybe they are not inspirational or challenging enough. Maybe they are outdated and you don’t really want to work on them anymore. Revisit each one of them and really try to understand what is the feeling you have towards them. If your goal doesn’t excite you and have become more like a tick-the-box-situation, maybe it's time to think about letting it go and open space for something else - that truly inspires you - to unravel.
6. Let go of being perfect: Really! It’s about time you understood that perfectionism will not make you better, it will get you stuck in inaction. Let go of those crazy high standards, specially if you are learning something new. There is a learning curve to everything, so be kind to your own process. Done will always be better than not done because you were waiting for conditions to be perfect. There is a saying in Portuguese that explains this quite well: Sometimes we have to change the tires with the car in movement.” Sometimes we learn as we go. And if we expect for the perfect alignment of the planets, we are not going anywhere.
7. Know your WHY: know the purpose behind your desire to do the things you want to do. Understand what is the big reason that drives you forward toward creating what you want to create. What is your mission? What are you not willing to let go? Once you embody your big WHY and come back to it every time you see yourself repeating those patterns that lead you up to procrastination, you will think twice and most probably won’t succumb to it, because living up to your WHY is way more important than anything else.
Whatever you do, DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP – going down that road will not help you in any level. On the contrary, it will only bring you down. Look at yourself with love and try to understand with curiosity and fascination how do you function when it comes to this topic? Once you understand your patterns, it will be much easier to overcome them.
Alright lovely people! There is a lot of information here. So take your time to digest it all. Try these techniques I shared with you next time procrastination knocks on your door. Let me know how it goes.
And if this is a subject you feel you need some support with, I am the Life Coach you need to help you on this journey. I am a heart centred Happiness and Purpose Life Coach, Yoga teacher and Meditation guide specialised in guiding you through a beautiful journey towards a more balanced, joyful and inspired life. My mission here is to inspire and empower you to uncover your unlimited potential, find your inner power and create a life that is absolutely meaningful to you. You can find out more about it and also book an initial free Clarity Call with me by clicking here.
Can't wait to hear from you.