How daily procrastination is keeping you from your life goals
I’m not proud of this but I’m a serial procrastinator. I hated myself for having such large, ambitious goals but couldn’t get started on building towards them. I would start tasks and find reasons to put projects on hold.
I started to research why we procrastinate and learnt to compartmentalize the type of procrastination I was facing and execute small winning strategies to overcome distractions.
The importance of acting now without hesitation and procrastination really hit me when I came across the concept of visualizing the years in my life. I’m 33 and have taken up 33 of the below dots. It occurred to me how precious years, months, weeks and days really are particularly in relation to certain goals (my personal goals revolve around fitness, finance and travel). How many dots are you at?
There are two types of procrastination we face.
1) Contained procrastination: faced when we have specific deadlines
2) Ongoing procrastination: faced when we don’t have specific deadlines
Specific deadlines put a limit on or contain the negative impacts of procrastination. We either succeed or fail at the specific task on a specific date the task was due. Deadlines provide a serial procrastinator with a safety net or cap on how much time they can waste being idle. Serial procrastinators will usually leave a task up until the deadline which arguably reduces the level of quality.
Take for example a school report due in 7 days. Typically, a procrastinator will complete this report on day 6. Let’s say they receive a ‘C’ result and assume they would have received an ‘A’ had they spread the work out across the 7 days. The C is still a result and the procrastinator is free from this task. That is, the student has still completed the task and there is no further ongoing need to act on the task (until the next school report comes due).
Deadlines create motivation and a safety net. Deadlines provide procrastinators with an end date to fail or succeed at a task. The impact is: contained.
So what happens when we have tasks we want to complete with no deadlines or external pressures to complete the task?
These tasks are usually the important life goals we set ourselves and want to complete in our lifetime.
Take for example this Medium Blog I’m writing. It requires internal motivation to complete and I have nobody other than myself to report back to. No one is relying on me to complete this task and there is no set date I need to complete this by. The internal motivation stems from the desire of wanting to publish a number of articles and reach more viewers in the hope of positively impacting someone’s life. Let’s say my life goal was to have 1 million followers. You can see how procrastinating on this single blog can have detrimental impacts on my life goal.
Our important life goals are often planned for years or decades and if not achieved by a self-set date we often provide ourselves with an extension. The longer the time frame, the more risk of continue procrastination. The impact is: ongoing.
Let’s take another example of an individual wanting to be financially independent. The sub-tasks this individual might set themselves may include researching the stock market, budgeting or building passive income. These tasks are at risk of ongoing procrastination and could lead to the individual never reaching financial independence if they do not act with discipline.
Why do we procrastinate?
Procrastination often stems from a fear of what we think we will feel when we do the task.
How many times have you started a task only to realise it wasn’t as difficult as you thought or took much less time than expected? We often procrastinate to avoid the feeling of failure.
Procrastinators convince themselves the effort exerted to complete the task will be too painful or tiring to deal with right now.
How do we beat procrastination?
So what can we do about it? I’ve found 3 habits have really helped with my procrastination
1) Count to 5 and get up on 1
· For smaller tasks like getting out of bed I mentally prepare myself to count to 5 and act
· I start the count and start my task/act in the first second
· By getting up before the 5 second mark I feel like I’m already ahead of what I’m looking to accomplish — even though it’s a small win it contributes to the mantra of “success breeds success”
2) Action is the key
· I’ve found that taking action on any task is the antidote to any feelings of doubt, confusion or insecurity
· I often find myself feeling much better doing a poor job at a task than I did procrastinating
· Perfectionists will often struggle with this step finding flaws in every plan, spending too much time preparing or succumbing to the fear of failure
3) The 10 min rule
· For work related tasks I have bought a $2 egg timer and set it to 10 minutes
· Any time I struggle to find motivation or find myself reaching for youtube I set the timer for 10 mins and do nothing but focus on my task
· This way I’m providing a contained environment for myself and after 10 minutes I either continue my work or reward myself with a youtube break
· I’ve found that I often reset the timer for another 10 mins after realising the work wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be
In order to overcome procrastination we must understand the types of procrastination, why we procrastinate and build daily habits to overcome procrastination.
Procrastination might not feel like a big deal but when you’re aiming to achieve big life goals you want to ensure you’re not in an endless loop of ongoing procrastination.