by: Kathy Best, ACCR, CNT, CRRC, PSDC, August 12, 2019
Procrastination – This is something every one experiences at one time or another in life. There are just certain times in life where we use procrastination to avoid something unpleasant or boring, but if we look back at those experiences honestly, without judgement, we can usually see that procrastination only served to add more stress & anxiety, delay the inevitable, and probably even diminish the quality of the outcome. When procrastination becomes the norm instead of the exception you know self-sabotage is at work.
This used to be a big one for me, before I uncovered and dealt with the unconscious fears and beliefs that were holding me back and keeping me stuck in a perpetual internal struggle. Much of the work I did by myself using personal development books, online classes, and spiritual practices, but I was blessed to find mentors and coaches that helped me dig deeper and offered new approaches to overcoming conditioned behaviors.
Small steps are always the best way to start. Your mind needs time to get used to change and reassurance that it’s doing what you truly want it to do. Telling your mind that you’re choosing to do what needs to be done instead of filling your head with complaints and resentment is the most effective way to counteract procrastination. Make a list of the benefits of getting it done quickly and what you think you’ll get out of procrastinating. If it’s something you really fear or can’t stand doing – do it first thing. The longer you put it off, the more stressed, anxious, and negative your mind will become about doing it at all. If you do it as soon as possible and tell your mind you are “choosing” to do it now, so that you can feel better, be more relaxed, enjoy the rest of your day, have a sense of accomplishment, etc. – your mind will be less inclined to make excuses for not getting it done.
Establishing an accountability system can make a big difference as well. Call, text, or chat with someone you really trust to support and encourage you. This can be a close friend, family member, mentor, hired coach, or spouse. Explain what you are trying to do and ask them if they would be willing to remind you, at set intervals, about your deadline, your to-do list, or your goal and ask you about your progress and any resistance you may be feeling. If this is a school project you can ask some of the other students doing this project if they would be willing to get together once a week to work on the project and keep each other on schedule. Setting deadlines for yourself and giving yourself small rewards or heavy praise when you meet them can also be an effective tool.
Designing a specific plan of action with daily or weekly goals and deadlines makes it much more likely to stay on track and get the job done. If it’s something uncomfortable like a speech or a conversation you are dreading, write up a rough draft and start practicing what you will say either in front of a mirror, or again ask a good friend or family member if they will listen and give you some constructive feedback. Make sure this is someone that knows how to be constructive without being cruel or judgmental. You need supportive encouragement, not destructive criticism.
Most importantly: just start. The hardest part is getting started. Once you push through the beginning your momentum usually sees you through to the end. Procrastination only works when you give in to excuses, distractions and fear. If you make a conscious decision to work towards your goals, and take time to question, correct, and redirect your objections, ploys, or dread – you’re one step closer to facing your fears, getting it done. You’ll feel proud of your accomplishment, and appreciate having more time to do what you really want to do – feeling content and happy while you do it.