What is Procrastination, and Why Does it Hold Us Back?
Procrastination – the act of delaying or postponing something. It doesn’t sound like the end of the world but done again, and again it can certainly bring about the end of the world. Procrastination involves the deliberate and chronic avoidance of tasks we know need to be done. Why do we do it? Sometimes the reasons are apparent. Cleaning the bathroom is a far less pleasant activity than watching Netflix – who wouldn’t put it off in favor of just one more episode? Sometimes the roots of procrastination run much deeper. For a perfectionist, fear of failure makes putting off a task far more agreeable than facing the possibility of falling short. But whatever the reason, procrastination occasionally befalls us all. Fortunately, it is possible to overcome procrastination. Today I’m going to share with you three little-known tricks for defeating procrastination for good!
3 Tips to Overcome Procrastination
1. Use Your Fear
People tend to see fear as a negative thing. Something unpleasant that should be avoided and replaced with good vibes. The prevailing advice is to focus on your dreams, and believe in yourself, and all that positive energy will manifest wealth and happiness in your life. And that’s excellent advice. Being positive is essential. But in all this effort to be as filled with light and love as we can be – we forget that fear has a purpose. It’s there to help us. Fear protects us from danger, pain, and all manner of negative outcomes. After all, if you find yourself in front of a vehicle going 60 miles an hour, a positive attitude is not likely to get you out of the way fast enough. But the adrenaline rush of fear gives us strength, speed, and endurance we would not ordinarily possess.
So how does this relate to procrastination? When we set a goal, we usually do so with the best of intentions. We are excited to get to the finish line. We plan to stick to that schedule, overcome all those obstacles, and imagine how great it will be when we are skinny, rich, admired, etc. In the beginning, we are motivated, and for a while, things go well. But after a couple of weeks, our motivation starts to fade. That schedule is harder to stick to then we thought. The finish line looks farther away, and suddenly not quite as rosy. The idea of looking great on the beach in 6 months doesn’t feel as good as eating chips does right now.
So what do you do when your vision board isn’t enough to get you thru that workout? Use your fear. Instead of imagining that thing you DO want, try imagining that thing you DON’T want. What will your life be like in 6 months, a year, ten years if you don’t push thru this? Think of what you DON’T want to look like on the beach. Sometimes a reward in front of you is not as motivating as a fire behind you. Let fear motivate you to move forward. If your fear is not behind you, chasing you, then it’s in front of you – stopping you. Yes, there is some sacrifice and suffering involved in achieving big things. But it’s nothing compared to the sacrifice of NOT achieving them.
So yes, make that vision board, believe in yourself and think positive. But take some fear along for the ride as well. If you want to keep running towards something you want, it is beneficial to be running away from something as well.
2. Procrastination is Logical
Procrastination has a bad reputation. It’s seen as weak and destructive. But there is a reason it is so prevalent and familiar to us all. And it’s not because we’re all lazy. It’s because procrastination is logical. What? Yes, you heard me right, procrastination makes perfect sense. Our bodies are built to maximize our resources, and protect us from injury, illness, and starvation. Our survival instinct is strong, and our sub-conscience is always trying to protect us from danger. And in ancient times, draining your energy and resources on a difficult task was just as much a threat to your health as a roaring lion! So when you ask yourself “Should I do something difficult and energy intensive?” The answer is No. Because it’s costly. You need those resources, and you can’t afford to waste them.
But there are circumstances under which it makes sense to do something challenging and costly. You need a reason. A really, really good reason! Your goal has to be so good that it justifies all that work. Now here’s the thing. People think they have good reasons. They genuinely do want to lose weight or be successful in their field. But in the end, they don’t want it enough to overcome that survival instinct.
So you have to examine your reasons very carefully. Why do I want this? Is it a fire deep in my soul? Or am I being influenced by my surroundings? Am I on a diet just because my friends are? Am I pursuing that promotion because it’s just what you do? You have to take the time to get to the very heart of what you want out of life. You have to discover those detailed reasons that are unique to you. Your core values are the only thing that’s going to justify the work of a challenging goal.
So when you find yourself procrastinating – again – take a moment to reflect. I’ve been putting this off for a while; maybe I need to re-examine what I want and why I want it. That may be all it takes to reconnect with your motivation and push thru. Or you may find that you need a new goal, something that’s so great that it justifies the work involved.
3. Negotiate With Yourself
Now here’s another place that procrastination trips us up. We’ve made a killer schedule; we know what to do when to do it, and when we’ll have accomplished our goal. Hooray! Nothing can stop us now! But a few weeks go by, and our killer schedule is killing us. Why is it so hard to stick to a plan? We want to do these things so why do we avoid them?
The reason so many people fail at schedules is simple. They are not planning the day they WANT to have; they are planning the day they think they SHOULD have. All those killer schedules are filled with “have to’s.” Well first I ” have to” do this, and then I “have to” do that. This kind of thinking turns our perfect schedule into a perfect prison. And pretty soon, we want out. So we avoid, distract, procrastinate!
But how can this be overcome? It’s not like we can plan a day at the beach indefinitely. There’s work to be done! Yes, a portion of your day will always involve some responsibility. And that’s a good thing. Those responsibilities keep us fed, healthy and nurture our relationships. Even when they’re a drag, they make our life better. (If you find that’s not true, refer back to the second tip!)
The way to make a schedule you won’t be avoiding is to negotiate with yourself. I mean, hey, you are the boss of you, right?! But are you a good boss or a bad boss? Are you the boss that rewards hard work and honors work/life balance? Or are you the boss that cracks the whip and makes people work on Christmas? Be honest now.
Creating Your Perfect Schedule
As a good boss, you’ve got to master the art of negotiation. If you want yourself to work hard, work out some compensation. You don’t work a job without being paid right? How will you compensate yourself for all this hard work? Perhaps you’ll set up rewards for milestones hit, or schedule several breaks into your day for self-care and enjoyment. Setting a goal is not enough; you need to be sure to set goals and rewards to succeed. However you choose to do it, you have to remember to treat yourself like someone you value. Cracking the whip is a sure fire way to invite procrastination into your life.
When I set out to create my perfect schedule, I analyzed my typical day and looked for ways I could improve it. I took into consideration not just my responsibilities, but my energy levels throughout the day! By doing this, I was able to see why I was avoiding that morning workout. I’m just too tired in the morning, and I always will be! I was setting myself up to fail by asking too much of myself. By moving my workout to my lunch break, I improved my day enormously!
For more details on the exact process, I used to create my perfect schedule check out my post on how to create a schedule you don’t hate!
I hope these tips inspire you and help you to win the battle against procrastination! How do you deal with procrastination in your own life? I’d love to hear your struggles and your triumphs! Let me know in the comments below!