Most of us have experienced procrastination at some point. Putting something off right until the last minute. Or avoiding it entirely. Always choosing to do something easier, more comfortable or more pleasurable instead.
I will happily admit I procrastinated recently. Over making my first LinkedIn video. Being a tech dinosaur, I was convinced learning about video creation was going to be a massive pain. Plus I wasn’t sure if people even wanted video content. Leaving me to wonder if it would be the most effective way to add value to my LinkedIn Fam.
And then, of course, those other typically human, and perfectly normal thoughts crept in. Which can be quickly summarised as “What if I mess it up?”
The problem with procrastination is twofold. Firstly, it destroys productivity. Widening the gap between us, our goals and our dreams. Secondly, it plays havoc with our psychology. With a gremlin-like creature setting up camp at the back of our minds. Telling us to put things off. And then making us feel really bad when we do. Leading us to feel even more stressed, demotivated or useless than we were already.
So, what causes us to procrastinate in the first place? And what steps can we take to overcome procrastination in the future?
Procrastination is a result of:
1) Focusing on the pain of doing a task – not on the pleasure/purpose of completing it
2) Believing we can’t do it – or don’t have the resources required to achieve it
If you want to put an end to your procrastination, first assess which one of the above (if not both) is true for you. Once you know what’s driving your procrastination, you can start to look at ways to overcome it.
1) Associate the task with something meaningful or purposeful
For me to overcome my procrastination of creating the video, I had to remember the purpose of it. As with anything I do on LinkedIn, the purpose is always to add value. Several members of my LinkedIn Family had stated they preferred videos to articles. Because they could listen to them while driving etc.. Creating video content now had a meaningful purpose. And by focusing on the purpose (and not the pain), I was able to motivate myself to do it.
If you’re struggling with procrastination, align the task to something that is meaningful to you (e.g. contributing to the lives of loved ones, colleagues, the world etc.).
If you can’t find any meaning in what you’re doing – then maybe you need to reassess why and what you’re doing overall.
2) Associate more pain with not doing the task than doing it
Think of the pain that will happen if you don’t do it. This could be anything from a poor performance review, or self-disappointment, to letting down your team or being nagged at by your loving spouse (“Seriously? The trash can is right there!”).
This isn’t the best option (option 1 is much healthier and more sustainable), but if you’re looking for a quick fix, this can help.
I focused on the butt-kicking (and/or merciless teasing) I would get from my #LinkedInFamily if I didn’t post a video. That worked a treat!
3) Stop dreaming too big
Normally, I would never encourage anyone to stop dreaming big. But if procrastination is an issue, it could be because you’re overwhelmed by the size of the task in front of you.
Break down the task into smaller, more easily achievable steps. Focus on doing them one at a time, not thinking about the next one until the current one is finished. It might take some time to get them all done, but that’s better than not doing them at all.
4) Find ways to make the process more enjoyable
Sometimes, I like to work in a café. Or with a fellow solopreneur. I might listen to music or a podcast while I’m typing away. And sometimes I will make myself an almond milk hot chocolate so I can catch up on admin enveloped in chocolatey bliss.
What could you do to add more pleasure to the task at hand?
5) Clear your mind
It’s not the task that causes us the pain. It’s our thoughts about the task that do. When we think “It’s so boring!” or “It’s too hard!” – we create pain in our minds. Clear your mind of those thoughts and the pain automatically disappears. Leaving you to complete the task like you would any other.
As my Dad gently teases, “Just stop thinking about it. Put your big kid pants on and do it.”
9 times out of 10, it’s much easier than we thought it was going to be anyway.
6) Reward Yourself
Interesting fact. A perceived reward activates the same neurotransmitter pathways in the brain as cocaine.
If you want to stop procrastinating, make an agreement with yourself, “If you finish ‘x’ within ‘y’ time, you can have ‘z’.” It might help you to form a new habit!
7) Focus on the pleasure of completing the task
There’s something quite satisfying about crossing something off your to-do list. Or achieving something in general. Particularly if it’s something you’ve been putting off.
By focusing on the sense of achievement we will experience afterwards, or any other favourable outcomes, we can effectively increase our motivation levels.
8) Make yourself accountable to someone
One of the key reasons people come to me for coaching is because they want someone to be accountable to. They’ve had no success in motivating themselves and sticking to goals on their own. But having someone to hold them accountable, who can challenge them when they haven’t done their ‘homework’, is enough to keep them on the straight and narrow.
9) Upskill yourself
Self-belief is a certainty we have the right skills, network, experience and knowledge to achieve our goal. If we don’t feel ‘good enough’ or supported enough, fear of failure will creep in and paralyse us.
To increase your confidence, look at how you can develop your skills, and build relationships with people who can help you with your blind spots.
If procrastination is stopping you from following your dreams, the question isn’t what will it cost you if you do it. The question is, what will it cost you if you don’t?
What other useful procrastination-fighting tips and tricks work for you? Please share below!
Do you have a dream, goal or task you’re putting off? Is procrastination keeping you stuck? Please visit www.zetayarwood.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how I can help you!
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Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.