Strategies to Beat Procrastination
|How to Overcome the Habit of Delaying Important Tasks|
The vast majority of us procrastinate from time to time. For as long as humans have been around, we have been struggling with delaying, avoiding, and procrastinating on things that matter to us. It is a habit that prevents us from following through on what we set out to achieve. It can restrict our potential and undermine our happiness, fulfilment and career.
We procrastinate on those mundane tasks like doing paperwork, hanging a picture or ironing. Sometimes we procrastinate about doing the bigger things that require more time and commitment from us and where we can make the biggest difference to our happiness, sense of achievement, careers and fulfilment. We justify it by coming up with all sorts of reasons why we can’t do it now. Too busy; Too broke; Too risky; Too inexperienced or What if I fail. Occasionally these reasons are valid, but more often we are just making excuses!
Procrastination is an active process; you choose to do something else instead of the task that you know you should be doing. Giving in to procrastination can make us feel guilty and ashamed; we can become demotivated and disillusioned, and it ultimately means we miss out on achieving our ambitions. In other words it holds us back from achieving our full potential.
To break the cycle of procrastination you need to understand what is holding you back. It maybe that you find the task boring or unpleasant, in which case do it as quickly as possible and reward yourself once completed. Or maybe you don’t know where to start, in which case you break it down into more manageable smaller short-term tasks. Perhaps you have doubts about your ability and are worried about failing; so you put it off and seek comfort in doing tasks that you know you will easily achieve. In which case identify exactly why you are deferring this task, then you can devise a plan to address it.
Procrastination is a habit, and as with most habits it is possible to overcome it. The eight simple strategies below will help you get over those excuses and do the work needed so you can start achieving those things you have been putting off.
1. Write down your goal and give yourself a deadlineA goal without a deadline is a dream which you can put off indefinitely. Writing it down makes it more real. Concentrate on one goal at a time.
2. Break your goal into small tasksBig goals can be overwhelming. At this point you only need to concentrate on the tasks you need to complete over the next week or two or month at the most. The tasks further out may change or will become clearer as you get closer to them. Small steps will get you there.
3. Visualise yourself achieving this goalImagine how great you will feel, look or be, once you have achieved this goal. Do this every day, it is amazing how powerful visualisation can be.
4. Rephrase your internal dialogReplace negative talk with positive talk. Watch your language. For example saying things like "need to" and "have to", imply that you have no choice, which can make you feel disempowered. Whereas, saying, "I choose to," implies that you own this task or goal, and can make you feel more motivated and empowered to complete it.
5. Minimise distractionsYou know what distracts you so turn it off, avoid being close to it. For example turn off your email and social media, and avoid sitting anywhere near a television while you work! If you are feeling distracted, do something different for half an hour to regain your focus e.g. go for a walk.
6. Understand your fearsWhy are you procrastinating? Understand what is holding you back. What are you afraid of? Once you understand what is stopping your progress you can devise a plan to counter it.
7. Reward ProgressCelebrate progress and small successes as you go along. Treat yourself to something nice or a fun activity with family and friends, anything small or big and appropriate to the task achieved that will give you pleasure. And make sure you give yourself time to notice how good it feels to finish this task.
8. Build AccountabilityEnlist the support of friends, colleagues and family to help keep you focused and on track. Have an accountability partner who you can check in with on a regular basis; let them know ways they can help you. For example, to remind you of past achievements, and why you set this goal for yourself in the first place.
ConclusionProcrastination is a habit that can be overcome. You need to write down your goal, attribute a deadline and break it into smaller tasks. You should visualise yourself achieving the goal, rephrase your internal dialogue and minimize distractions. Understand your fears and devise a plan to address them. Reward progress as you go along. Build accountability by enlisting support from those around you.
It is likely to be a habit that has been formed over many years so you will need time to break the cycle, it is not going to happen overnight. Habits only stop being habits when you stop doing them. With procrastination it typically takes at least 2-3 months to form new habits to replace the old ones. Try as many of the strategies above as possible and refer back to them as often as necessary to give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding.
A life coach can really help you overcome procrastination. They support you through the process, can act as an accountability partner, help you identify what has been holding you back in the past, keep you on track with forming new habits, and are in your corner with words of encouragement. You will get there quicker with a coach than you will on your own.
If you would like to see if coaching is right for you, please contact me to book a free coaching taster session. I promise there is no hard sell. e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)20 3287 3165 or Facebook message me.