The Advanced Guide to Mastering the Habit of Procrastination.
The systems in your life are perfect for the results you are getting.
Your level of procrastination is directly proportional to the amount of self-awareness you have. The more honesty you can bring to your habit, the more you can get to the bottom of this guilt-ridden behaviour and make progress on what matters most to you.
The two main reasons people procrastinate are that they place too much emphasis on the outcome of the task or that their procrastination habit provides a hidden benefit.
Procrastination is an emotion management issue, not a time management issue.
Think about a task you are avoiding; what emotion does this trigger in you?
Could it be a fear of failure, not being perfect, not knowing where to start or the fear of judgement?
Why does it evoke these uncomfortable feelings? Most likely, you are placing an unrealistic expectation on the outcome.
If you are basing the future of your career on a twenty-minute presentation to a client or your board, then no wonder you are paralysed with fear!
At the heart of human motivation is the desire to escape pain and seek pleasure. If you associate the presentation with pain, you will find something more enjoyable to escape these feelings, such as scrolling the socials or checking your inbox for the fortieth time in the last ten minutes.
Firstly, check in with yourself and see how much unnecessary pressure you place on the outcome. Then, when the uncomfortable feelings arise, explore them with curiosity instead of judgment.
If you judge the anxiety, then you become anxious about being anxious. Rather dig a little deeper and understand what is behind the feeling so you can make friends with your anxiety. The sooner you name the uncomfortable feeling, the sooner you release its power over you.
One strategy to move you into action is to shift from a perfection mindset to a contribution mindset.
When you can get over the fear of needing to be perfect, you can focus on your audience and serve them powerfully. When I present at a conference or Townhall, I always think about the following:
· What do I want my audience to think, feel and do as a result of the talk?
· What message do I want them to leave with?
· What behaviour change do I want to evoke?
This mindset brings me into their world and how I can serve them. It’s not about me being perfect but how I can add value and make the time spent valuable — for them! If I focus on whether I’ll be hired again or I better make sure I give a stellar performance, then the lens is on me.
Shift your intention to contribution and service, and you will change the way you show up to the task. Sure, you still feel uncomfortable, but feelings shouldn’t dictate your progress.
A runner won’t let the thought of a colossal run prevent them from starting, so stop waiting for the anxiety to dissipate before you take action.
The secret to beating procrastination is understanding that you need to start despite what your feelings are telling you. It’s the not starting that fuels the fire and strengthens its intensity. Micro-wins are always the antidote to inaction. Just begin.
Procrastination has a hidden benefit.
Maybe this doesn’t resonate with you, and you are entirely confident in your abilities and skills. You have no fear of judgement but still find yourself organising your inbox and cleaning your lounge when you should be focused on more important things.
If you are holding onto the habit of procrastination, consider that it may be offering you a hidden benefit. In psychology, this is called a secondary gain.
Ask yourself honestly — what does the habit of procrastination give you?
One of my coaching clients discovered that procrastination allowed her to rest.
The way forward was for my client to schedule breaks during her day.
If you procrastinate to get relief from work, that time cannot be spent peacefully. It is riddled with guilt because you know you should be working.
When you schedule a break, it’s intentional. You are giving yourself a chance for active recovery and can savour it with peace of mind.
Ideally, you want to commit to 90 minutes of solid work and then schedule a break. Do not push yourself for hours and then feel your break is deserved because you will compromise your working time as the brain and body needs to recover.
Create a recovery list:
Some people find scheduling recovery time too rigid; they want freedom in their day. My suggestion is to create a recovery list of things you can do to rejuvenate yourself.
For example, your list can include exercise, adult colouring, meditation, sport, scrapbooking, reading outside, or having a lunch break. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do but be specific in how long you will rest before you commit to the next piece of work.
What about procrastinating on self-care?
Some people procrastinate on their exercise to preserve and protect their energy. They are so burned out and stressed at work that the perceived downside to exercise is that it will deplete the little energy they have left.
It seems so counterproductive when you read this because the more you engage in physical exercise, the more you can increase your energy. Emotion is created by motion; when you feel stressed, the best thing to do is go for a walk or anything that will move your body because it shifts your biochemistry.
The truth is that in times of overwhelm and stress, common sense isn’t always common practice.
When you can be brutally honest and identify that the positive intent behind procrastinating is to preserve your energy, work backwards to discover the underlying problem.
Time to gain leverage.
If you are a procrastinator, the last piece to break the habit is to gain leverage. Leverage will pull you away from this destructive habit; it is your why. Consider the following questions to help you find your leverage:
• How will your career be influenced if you continue to procrastinate?
• How will your productivity suffer?
• How will your finances be affected?
• What about your self-esteem and happiness?
• How could your procrastination habit influence your relationships?
• How would your life be different without procrastination?
The ultimate question is, how will you feel once you have done the task in question? How would your life look without the obstacle?
What could you achieve, and how good will you feel once you’ve done it? If you can focus on those feelings rather than the guilt and anxiety, you will start to make decisions in your own best interest.
The final piece — think in micro wins.
When it comes to the presentation, don’t think about the entire presentation but focus on slide one. What is one bullet point? What is the heading? That’s the first action so you can begin and achieve your micro win.
It’s the not starting that plays on your mind all day. Even if you have completed the heading, now you have a place to continue the momentum.
It’s the same with self-care; if you imagine you need an hour to exercise, this may be what’s putting you off. How about doing one squat, one mindful breath? The more unintimidating the action, the easier it is to commit to it and create your micro win.
The systems in your life are perfect for the results you are getting.
If you aren’t happy with the results, change the system of procrastination.
This habit has nothing to do with time or ability; it’s about letting go of the perceived benefit of what procrastination has given you up to this point.
Once you can see it for what it is, you can change it.
The beauty of personal development is not about being perfect and getting it right all the time but catching yourself sooner and recognising the behaviour for what it is. Then laugh about it, be kind to yourself and move forward.
If procrastination has been your band aid, you need to get to the root cause of the problem. When you can do this, you don’t need to give up procrastination because procrastination will give you up.
Here’s to the gift of self-awareness,
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