We all fall victim to this time stealer, we’re human and that means we’re infallible.
So what is procrastination? What is the impact? And can knowing your motivation type help you overcome it?
You’ll find some strategies below to defeat it, and my top tips to prevent your life slipping away.
/ proh-kras-tuh-ney-shuhn /
“the art of delaying doing something regardless of the negative consequences”
What is Procrastination?
In it’s simplest form, procrastination is delaying doing something. It might be something we find boring, challenging, unpleasant or we feel it’s wasting our time. So we put it off. The intention to do ‘it’ is real, but not right now.
There’s much more to procrastination than this, but that’s the essence of the matter.
I’ve found that I can completely fall in love with hoovering when I have something challenging I really need to get done. Furniture is moved, rugs lifted and given a good shake outside, then the wood basket needs filling even though it’s the middle of summer….you know how it is. The hoovering is necessary, however it isn’t the important task at that point in time.
And that’s what often happens – we suddenly find an interest in all the tasks we actually don’t enjoy, or offer to help a colleague when you need to get your own report submitted by the end of the week. Instead of doing the things that are meaningful, important and sometimes required of us, we focus on trivial, unnecessary things.
Any of this sound familiar?
What’s the impact of procrastinating?
The most obvious is that we don’t do what we need to do. With potentially negative consequences. Here’s some of the ways procrastination can have a real negative impact on you:
- increased level of stress
- less enjoyment doing things
- inefficient use of time
- running out of time
- lower self confidence
- feeling unfulfilled
- you feel overwhelmed
- poor mental health*
*procrastination can be linked to anxiety, depression, ADHD and OCD. I’m currently studying for my Mental Health First Aid Certificate and will be doing my own research into this connection. If you have any good resources on this topic please let me know.
Towards or Away from? How does knowing your motivation type help?
For a long time I thought I wanted to be less like my grandma in terms of health and fitness. She was immobile for much of her final years and that was the result of not being physically active for a long time. She never walked anywhere, didn’t do any sports or exercise. So I thought, I don’t want to be like her. This is an AWAY from motivation.
The trouble was it didn’t work as a way of motivating me to do exercise.
Add on top of that my hormonal shifts which were all over the place (due to perimenopause), and my mojo had dropped off a cliff. I had no interest in any form of exercise. I knew this wasn’t right, but I couldn’t get the motivation to change for any length of time.
It wasn’t until I unpacked this issue in great depth with my own coach that I realised I needed a TOWARDS goal to get me excited about going to the gym and running. I am now back to exercising regularly and look forward to it…it’s been a massive shift in mental energy expenditure. It’s all because I realised I needed to be thinking of what I’m moving towards. I have chosen a few famous women and a couple of lesser known ones to be my inspiration. Strong, active, motivated women. I think of them and know I want to be like them in the years to come.
Figuring all this out means that I’m less inclined to delay going out for a run, in fact I feel inspired to go because I have a clear vision of what I want.
What’s the risk of not taking action?
Following on from the points noted in What’s the Impact of Procrastination above, I think it’s work considering this question any time you have the urge to put something off til later.
The risks could be that you don’t achieve, you might be so paralysed by the fear of failure (or whatever guise your fear shows up) that you don’t take any action, and therefore don’t succeed. This can then filter into other areas of your life, where you might be ashamed or embarrassed so you socialise less, don’t exercise as much, which all results in you feeling less optimistic and alive!
By taking action you will deal with your fear. Action reduces fear, which enables you to grow in confidence. The upwards spiral of feeling good about yourself will gain momentum and you take even more action.
STRATEGIES TO HELP YOU
Sometimes we need to chunk it
In the past I’ve found myself dreading starting a massive project – it feels too overwhelming. My strategy is to think of an elephant. In fact if you’ve ever been on a zoom call with me you might have spotted the ceramic elephant behind me.
I made my elephant as a permanent reminder for this strategy – to achieve great and momentous things all I need to do is take one bite of the elephant. Digest it. Learn if the chunk was too big. Then take another, smaller bite. One bite at a time. Breaking tasks into manageable chunks is a great strategy. It reduces overwhelm and promotes action.
Learn where your procrastination comes from
- What triggers your inaction?
- What comes to mind when you think about doing ‘the thing’. And what are your feelings as you consider putting it off?
- If you’re overwhelmed – make a list or journal to sort out your thoughts.
- What themes show up?
- Do any particular situations, tasks, period of time (in the day, week, or year) mean you’re less likely to make a start?
- Distracted? Block out time for deep work (I use Flown, online deep work sessions, no affiliation – I just love their sessions). Block any obvious distractions – close browser tabs, put your phone on airplane mode, move to a different location (e.g. quiet spot in a local cafe, reading a document in the park).
This is something I tried recently. The aim was to account for every 15mins of my day by noting down exactly what I’d been doing. It was incredibly powerful at pushing me to see just how productive I could be in each time chunk. Plus, it was really visible where I wasn’t focused or allowed other things to hijack my time.
This isn’t a technique I would recommend as a daily practice, as it becomes a bit mundane constantly writing down what you’ve done. I did it for 3 days and could feel the effectiveness wearing off. I will however be returning to this method on a regular basis, and especially when I have lots of things to get done. It really did keep my attention on the most important thing.
Now I’ll share my ultimate winning strategy
Commit to doing ‘Just 10 minutes’.
This was, and continues to be, my go to mind trick for getting in the gym. I tell myself I’m ‘only doing 10mins’. It is almost always more, but even 10mins of positive action is a forward step, you have taken action and tricked your brain into starting. The next 10min chunk of time is then much easier to begin. This strategy, for me at least, removes the feeling of being daunted and overwhelmed.
Taking action, even as small as 10mins, gives you a dopamine hit. You tick something off your list and that gives you another dopamine hit. Before you know it you’ve smashed an awesome day.
Give it a try and let me know how you get on.
One final tip
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system which works for some people. It’s another of my go-to methods. You set a timer for 25mins and then when the buzzer goes take a 5 min break. Repeat 2 or 3 times before taking a longer break. The key to making this work is that your 25mins must be 100% focused, with no distractions.
Implementing one of these tactics will get you started. Putting a few strategies in place will have you smashing through your procrastination and wondering why you spent so long faffing and putting things off!!
Please do take the time to figure out where your procrastination manifests – understanding can lead to clarity and less time wasted.
Note down when you’re in the flow and getting on with things rather than putting them off. Keeping a Win List serves as a great reminder when struggling. You are then armed with evidence you are capable….that you can start and you can accomplish…and this makes it more likely you’ll be motivated to do more. Good luck!
I’ll leave you with one final thought from Seneca, a Stoic and Philosopher: “While we waste our time hesitating and postponing, life is slipping away.”
Life coaching conversations can help you adopt better habits and thought patterns. You have the space and time to explore what keeps you stuck, unfulfilled and not living aligned to your values. If this sounds like something you’d like to look into take a look at the Services I offer or get in touch to arrange an initial free and informal chat.