We all procrastinate from time to time, sometimes even more than we would like to admit to ourselves. Procrastination is part of our lives. Usually, it’s those ordinary things – like sorting documents, looking over bank accounts, or tidying the things on your desk. But often it’s the bigger things that necessitate more time, more commitment and energy that put us at more risk of failing or looking foolish. Such actions include things like updating our resume, looking for a new job or even pursuing a long held aspiration.
Of course people tend to get very creative with the reasons why now, today, just isn’t the right time or they are not in the right state of mind. But people don’t stop here reasons may vary from too stressed, too risky, too busy, too broke towards too disruptive, too inexperienced, too young, too old, too uncertain. From time to time these reasons are valid and we have to be prepared for that. Typically, they are just excuses that keep us from doing what we really have to do and experiencing the emotional hardship inherent in making meaningful changes in our personal and professional lives.
At the heart of things we have fear. It is a potent and instinctive emotion and represents the reason why we want to shield ourselves from pain (including the emotional side of things) and somehow ‘demands’ us to get away from anything that might be threatening. If left unresolved, fear can lead us to the hope that if we procrastinate longer, our situation will miraculously improve, or our problems will magically disappear into thin air and be replaced with a lot of courage. We often tell ourselves that ‘one day’ we will be ready to make that big change, or take that big chance and in that ‘one day’ the timing will be better, our confidence will be soaring and the circumstances will definitely favour us.
Unfortunately the reverse is generally true. As the days go by, our fear grows stronger, until it will eventually lead to our ever-growing burial ground of unfulfilled dreams and untapped potential. Philosopher William James was not wrong when he talked about the impact of procrastination on our lives: “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an unfulfilled goal.”
There are a few methods through which you can get yourself going when you feel procrastination is creeping up on you.
- Acknowledge the situation
Firstly, it is recommended you openly acknowledge that you’re starting to procrastinate. Procrastination can sneak up on you in many forms and when you least expect it, so it’s essential for you to be vigilant. Afterwards, ask yourself why you are doing it, what is your underlying reason and then start searching for the right approach to tackle this issue. Stanford philosophy professor John Perry created the term ‘structured procrastination’. The idea behind it is that people procrastinate by doing the least important tasks on their to-do lists, so professor John Perry says that we can trick ourselves by pushing down our important tasks from our to-do list and our trivial ones to the top.
- Be brave all day everyday
When you start working on reducing your procrastination, building momentum is crucial. Commit to yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone at least once per day. It can be something really small and it should be right at the start. In the end, it doesn’t matter how fast you are going, as long as you are taking the necessary steps in the direction you feel is right. So take that first step, then another, and so on because after all life is worth enjoying.
- Spreading procrastination times throughout the day
The fact that we live in the real world means that there are and will be days in which we’re tired, even though we try so hard not to be. Taking this factor into account, you could organise a schedule of well-timed ‘mini-procrastination’ sessions between each task. Instead of waiting for a big break when you want to do whatever you want offer yourself 10 minutes between each task. In those 10 minutes you can do what your heart desires: check Facebook, make a dinner reservation, weekend plans or any other pleasant activity. You will be surprised by the amount of work you will accomplish when you don’t feel bad about procrastinating. Also, you will soon realise that you’re not indulging your procrastination, but actually set up a few breaks. Breaks are guilt-free and they mentally recharge you for the rest of your day.
- Break your important tasks into smaller ones
The bigger the goal the more difficult it is to actually start working on it. Shortly after, you begin to feel overwhelmed and procrastination is only a step away. So when you feel out of your element, try and break your task into more manageable steps, as small you feel you need. Soon enough, the steps you have to undertake will simply unfold in front of you.
- Channel your fear
As mentioned earlier, fear is a very powerful emotion that can keep us from becoming the best version of ourselves. Our brains are hardwired to survive, so in the moment you feel fear our instincts tell us to sit tight because nothing bad can happen this way. But if you manage to focus your fear, it can work for you and not against you. Pull out a pen and paper and write down the cold hard facts if you would continue to do nothing. Be honest to yourself, the purpose of this exercise is for you to understand that the fear you are experiencing at the moment is more manageable that the one you would feel when things are left undone.
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