What’s going through our mind when we procrastinate?

We’re making choices; choices between what’s comfortable, enjoyable and convenient right now and what makes sense … to be finishing tasks and working towards our goals even though that course seems tedious or difficult.

This is the second post on procrastination.
In part one we uncovered 7 major reasons why we procrastinate!

It’s always going to be a more attractive proposition, easier and less stressful, to give in to instant gratification. We don’t want to do the hard stuff and avoid the discomfort and stress wherever and whenever we can. Sometimes the fear takes over and we hesitate and put off taking the necessary actions until the last minute and when we do that it actually results in even more stress, anxiety and fear … the very thing we were avoiding in the first place.

And all the time, how does the self-talk go? “I REALLY MUST start/get on with/finish … !”

What we’re doing is trying to find the willpower to get back to working on what we know we need to be doing.

Mostly relying on willpower will fail!

Why is that?

Why is it that if all we have to fall back on to motive us to take action is will power we will set ourselves up to fail?

Willpower alone is a limited resource and without commitment to nourish it and sustain the momentum it will run out fairly quickly.

If all we have as motivation is the power of our will it means that we are not 100% committed to what we are doing and are probably not even sure what we want.
When we have no doubt what we want to achieve and consciously make the decision to go for it then the indecision and uncertainty disappear and willpower has something to fall back on; a reason to be!

Be committed, set goals, make to do lists and schedules, be accountable … when we are truly committed to what we want then we can make positive steps towards reaching our goals and getting tasks completed no matter how difficult they may appear.

So here are my Top 10 Tips for Getting Out of the Procrastination Swamp

1. Deal with the fear
Fear of failure and fear of success as I mentioned on part 1 is a major contributor to procrastinating behaviour.
If we are afraid of success because we secretly don’t feel we deserve it or we are afraid of failing or making mistakes then it is important to recognise these feelings and admit that they are self-fulfilling handicaps that are keeping us from achieving our goals.

Addressing the fear, calling it out for what it is, and recognizing that it is a self-perpetuating roadblock to getting started allows us to begin to overcome the procrastination habit

2. Find the right Motivation
This isn’t something we can get from other people. It’s all really up to us as individuals to pick our own path, set our sights on our own personal goals and visualize ourselves achieving them.

We need to set the motivation in place by stating clearly how reaching those goals will change our lives, provide an income, clear away difficulties, affect our health, improve our personal relationships … whatever the results we want!

3. Set Clear and Very Specific Goals
We need to be absolutely clear about what we want to accomplish. If we’re procrastinating then we are in an inner battle over choosing what we want. Without clear and specific goals the battle will continue to rage whenever we reach a hurdle.

I want to be rich!” isn’t specific. There’s no definition of what “rich” is and there’s no time frame for it to occur. It’s going to be very easy to find excuses!
I want to be earning a recurring six figure income by this time next year!” works a lot better because it sets a measurable target (six figure income) to aim at and a time frame (by this time next year) to get there!

4. Remember Goals Are Not Actions
“We’re going on a two week holiday to the Caribbean in September!” is a goal! All the actions needed to make that happen; choose and book travel, choose and book accommodation, get the suitcases out, choose what to pack, organize somewhere to take the dog while we’re gone ….. these all need to be taken care of and checked off!

Make a to-do list of specific action items and prioritize, manage and regularly revise it!

5. Break all tasks down into the smallest ‘chunks’ possible!
How do we eat the Elephant? We’ve all heard it! We don’t try to get the whole thing in our mouths at once, it’s too big! So we break it down into smaller mouthfuls and eat them one at a time.

So it works with any major job; break it down to the point where every step is easily completed and do each step one at a time!

6. Identify The Priorities!
Seven Covey calls this the “Big Rock” principle; if we have a limited size container and a pile of different sized rocks to put into it then putting the big rocks into it first and then fitting in the smaller ones around them works better than putting the smaller ones in first and finding that there isn’t then enough space for all the big ones.

If we start the day without considering the priorities then we are in danger of working in smaller, less consequential tasks and finding at the end of the day that there isn’t enough time left for the priorities … so we put them off until another day!

So in our container of available time it’s better to work on the real priority “big rocks” on the way to our goals and fit the lesser priorities in around them!

7. Do the hardest job first
Brian Tracy calls this “Eating the Frog”;

If you eat the frog first thing in the day you can guarantee that that’s the worst thing that will happen to either of you the whole day!

Focus on the top three priorities for the day get stuck in and tackle the most difficult or most unpleasant priority first up then it’s out of the way and we can be confident that we’re moving on to more pleasant things for the rest of the day.

8. Don’t Multi-Task!
This is the subject of a seperate post where I’ll prove to you that multitasking reduces your productivity!

Multitasking is a Myth!

We don’t do two things at once; we only do one thing at once and we switch back and forth!
Every time we switch from one task to another there is a catch up time lag as we refocus. Too many switches is mentally exhausting and our attention starts wandering and we find ourselves following tantalizing links on the net instead of working on what we need to be doing; productivity drops and we start making excuses for not getting back to what we need to be doing.

9. Work in time blocks!
It is mentally less intimidating to be looking ahead to working on a task for 45 minutes than it is to be facing a whole day without a break.

Set a timer – I’m sure there is one on your smart phone – for the time block you are most comfortable with; 30, 45, 60 minutes and work on one task for that time (or a bunch of similar tasks like answering emails etc.) until the alarm goes off and then take a short break.
The time will pass quickly and those boring tasks will get done and out of the way.

10. Reward Yourself
Once we’ve completed an important task or a part of a larger task giving ourselves a suitable reward, an opportunity to indulge something fun and enjoyable, reinforces a sense of achievement.
The more we feel that we are achieving the more we are motivated to continue towards that goal that we have set.

Final Thoughts

Procrastination may not always be a bad thing! If you’re the type of operator who works best when under pressure then putting things off until the last possible minute may be a benefit to you getting the best result.
For the rest of us procrastination might not be something that we can eliminate completely.
Understanding why we might be procrastinating and having some tools in the box to help deal with those tendencies will mean that we have a better grip on the path to our goals. By using these tools and strategies we all will find it easier to keep our eye on the ball and get on with the important tasks.