In April of this year I posted to this blog What’s Stopping You (https://lifefitnessbydane.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/whats-stopping-you/) where I addressed many of the reasons that people do not achieve their dreams and goals, with the biggest culprit to non-achievement being procrastination. Since that published that post, I have received many comments either defending or attacking procrastination as either a valid stumbling block or an overused excuse. Mostly, I have been asked to offer a bit more help to those stuck in the vortex of I’ll do it tomorrow. So here is my reponse:
Motivation: something that provides a reason for a person to act a certain way.
Procrastination: the act or habit of putting off or delaying.
Depending upon your personality, you might not need profound motivation to achieve your goals and aspirations. Simply the desire to be or have what you seek is enough to drive you from step A to Z. Whether it’s weight loss, a change of career or home, or the ending of a dysfunctional relationship, some of us can stand up, make plans (or not), and manifest a change.
However, if you are a procrastinator, making changes to your body or life can be difficult, if not painful. Planning may not be the problem, you may easily cogitate on ideas and pros and cons lists all day long, but if you maintain a state of reluctance to actually take action (i.e., procrastination), then changes never occur. Even if it there’s urgent motivation (your health, your finances, the needs of your family), to a procrastinator, obvious needs are often not strong enough to overcome a lifetime of chronic deferment.
Start by facing your fears. More often than not it’s fear that keeps you from action, rather than laziness. Cut to the core of the problem. Fears boil down to one of these four: Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of pain, or fear of the unknown. Once you name the fear, then acknowledge what limits these fears truly contain (i.e., it will be difficult, but it won’t kill you).
Next, pick the hardest task first. We all tend to number our steps starting with easy (baby steps), progressing to the big and more scary steps. Reverse this. Tackle that which seems like it will take the most of your energy right off the bat. It’s all down hill from there (in a good way).
Now keep your steps simple and brief. The longer things take the more likely you’ll loose motivation. Keep intermediary goals to something achievable in a short period of time (a few days or a week). Once you have several successes under your belt, you’re more likely to continue plodding towards your main goal.
Lastly, seek support. Find family, friends, or co-workers who understand the cycle of procrastination. You may think having a go-getter in your corner will keep you accountable and focused. For a habitual procrastinator a cheerleader is often a deterrent. But if you can find an ally who, like you, moves slowly and over-analyzes everything, you might find that while they’re stuck in their situation, they are great and helping you get unstuck. Then you can repay the favor.
In the end, remember that procrastination is a choice. If something in your life isn’t changing and you’re unhappy about that – make a new choice!
How many times a day do you put off doing something that you really want or need to do? A chore, a desired goal, an important conversation, or even something to enhance your life like exercising or reading a book? How many of those “somethings” can you look back and see trailing behind you like a ball and chain?
Yet still you put them off, procrastinating your life away. There is always a good excuse why we don’t take care of business right then and there. You are tired, you haven’t the necessary enthusiasm or focus, too many other things still need to be done, or simply that the moment’s not right. You want to start on a Monday, or a new month, or even a new year.
But the longer we put something off, the more daunting it appears. Even though we know there’s no time like the present, still we take no action. Instead we stress over these neglected tasks/goals, allowing them to weigh us down. We make lists and more lists, hoping that written organization will help lighten the load. That’s a good start, but we drop the ball on taking action from these lists.
It comes down to this: what’s stopping you? Procrastination! The dictionary definition is: to defer action; delay; to put off doing something, especially out of laziness…to procrastinate until an opportunity is lost. Why do we procrastinate? Because it’s easier. Taking action is scary, and more importantly, it’s hard when you are already spent to exhaustion.
Many clients have sought my help in teaching them how to end the vicious circle of desire vs. time vs. drive vs. knowledge. In other words, they have a desire or need, but feel so inundated with obligations they have no perceived time in which to tackle the new desire/need. If time is not an issue, then they have no motivation (drive) with which to handle the task. Lastly, they cite lack of knowledge as a stumbling block. How, where, when to begin?
While there are a lot of ways/tools that I can teach you to become a proactive “do-er”, here are a few quick tips to help you overcome procrastination:
1. Organize: Create two lists of all tasks/goals. Designate which are NEEDS and which are WANTS. Make sure that your goals are realistic and achievable.
2. Prioritize: Now create one prioritized list of your needs and wants. It is good to have wants interspersed with needs so that your time and energy is not exclusively spent on needs. We tend to feel a better sense of accomplishment when we take care of want to’s along with must do’s.
3. Start Fresh: Clean up your environment. Piles of papers, or disorganized drawers, cupboards and closets, should be your first line of attack. Sort the piles, throwing out everything truly unnecessary. Place the remaining into neat labeled piles (i.e., filing, receipts, projects, etc.). Organize rooms, desks, cabinets, closets – one at a time until your space is in order. It may seem overwhelming, but just grab a trash bag and start the process. If you organize just one room or space a day (a single drawer counts too), then before you know it your house is in order. This alone will go far in keeping you motivated for more aggressive goals.
4. Start Small: Tackle each task one at a time. As you get better at prioritizing and time management, then you will be able to multitask and handle more than one goal at a time. If any particular goal is multi-layered, break it down into manageable chunks. It is always better to have a week of mini successes rather than forging ahead towards one big achievement months down the line.
5. Stay Positive: Focus on what you accomplish rather than what you do not achieve. Remember, the cup is half full, not half empty! Crossing items off your list is a visual confirmation of successes.
6. Just do it: To quote Nike – JUST DO IT. Get up, take a step, and do what your brain and body is fighting against. Pick up the phone, grab that book, clean out your closet, go to the gym – whatever it is, just one foot in front of the other and do not accept a NO from your brain.
Please understand that resisting procrastination does not mean you must constantly be in action. It’s important to take time to relax and rejuvenate. But ultimately, nothing elevates your mood more achievement and completion. The opposite of procrastination is urgency. Urgency motivates us to achieve. So if you need rallying, just reclassify that need or want as urgent, and ask yourself what’s stopping you?