“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.” – Don Marquis
As I worked on the first draft of this post, I wondered what on earth would I be able to share about beating procrastination that hasn’t been covered already. The number of articles that have been written about this common issue is ubiquitous! What more can I add to the existing body of knowledge that readers, like you, haven’t already been exposed to?
After much thought, I concluded that all I can do is share my unique experience of dealing with procrastination and hope that it will provide you with some viable solutions. While I’ve never been a chronic procrastinator, there are isolated cases when I struggle with it. This usually occurs when I perceive a task as being too complex or monotonous, or something I can’t handle very well.
The people who fall in the higher end of the procrastination continuum experience it as a lifestyle instead of an occasional challenge they face. It’s a maladaptive pattern that affects all domains of their life, causing them to miss out on opportunities, fail to meet their commitments, and constantly sabotage their progress. If you identify with this pattern, I suggest looking into cognitive behavioral therapy.
But for the rest of us occasional procrastinators, we can override this dysfunction by becoming more self-awareness and managing our thoughts and emotions. This can be tough, considering that we live in a world where it’s easy to lose focus and squander our time on the innumerable entertainment options that tempt us, such as the Internet, smart phones, social media, and other modern forms of distractions.
Despite what we’ve been told, procrastination is seldom about poor time management skills or lack of planning but about an inability to control our impulses and our need for instant gratification. It’s also a result of our unwillingness to get real with ourselves and face the truth of our situation.
Self-delusion will cause a person to lie to themselves and generate an inner dialogue that says things like:
“I work best under pressure.”
“This isn’t that important. It can wait until later”
“I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow.”
“I’m too tired right now.”
There’s a lack of urgency and accountability in the mind of a procrastinator. They can’t see that they’re getting in their own way, on the path to their personal vision. Yet on a deeper and unconscious level, they have a nagging sense of not being in control of their life, and consequently, they experience a steady depletion in their worthiness and self-esteem.
I believe that if a person wants to avoid procrastinating, they need to start by first reconfiguring their core identity and by looking at the big picture of their life. These five broad themes form the foundation for making any behavioral and environmental changes:
1. Values: Your values are your fundamental beliefs about yourself and the world around you, which guide your behavior and action. Re-visit your values and examine them to see if you have the constellation of values that belong to an individual who follows through with their commitments, such as discipline, hard work, persistence, consistency, determination, persistence, success, truth, and dependability. If you’re missing any of these, begin cultivating those values within yourself.
2. Labels: Self-labels gives you a sense of identity and belonging. We all have a tendency to label ourselves and sometimes, we get too attached to those labels, even if they’re negative. When our labels become part of our identity, it dictates our behavior. If you’ve always labeled yourself as a procrastinator, you should replace it with an empowering one such as a responsible individual who gets things done.
3. Purpose: Your life purpose is what you believe you’re here to accomplish during your lifetime. When we have a strong sense of purpose and a deep burning desire to manifest it in our reality, we are naturally pulled towards it. Staying connected to our vision and purpose will generate the excitement and momentum that’ll help you overcome any tendency to procrastinate when the going gets tough.
4. Time: Realize that time is a limited resource and you’re not going to be around forever. Just like everyone else, you’re allotted 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and 365 days in a year. What you do with it will determine how far you’ll go in life because big dreams require a big investment of your time.
5. Realize what’s at stake: Some people are motivated when considering what they could lose if they don’t take action versus what they would gain if they did take action. For example, if you’re overweight and you can’t get yourself to go to the gym and eat healthy, you face the risk of contracting debilitating ailments such as heart disease or high blood pressure. The emotional cost would be the risk of not being around long enough to see your kids grow up. Focusing on an emotional reason can inspire action.
Once you’ve addressed these higher-order principles and themes and have made an internal shift within you, you’re ready to take the next steps towards altering your behavior. Here are three steps that you can take towards a smooth transition:
1. Understand the root of the issue: At the root of procrastination is fear. But you need to identity what kind of fear is driving your procrastination because not all procrastinators are created equal. In his book Still Procrastinating, Joseph Ferrari identifies three basic types of procrastinators: arousal types/thrill-seekers, avoiders, and decisional procrastinators. You might exhibit shades of each one in different circumstances. To be totally clear about which type you’re exhibiting in a specific situation, I would suggest observing your behavior for some time and writing detailed notes about what you notice. Share your observations with a friend, family member or co-worker who knows you well, and get their input on what you’ve noticed.
2. Identify your deeper needs: Very often when we’re procrastinating, there is a part within us that feels dissatisfied and unfulfilled on some level. I believe that if we’re living a balanced life and coming from a place of wholeness, we would find it a lot easier to navigate through the bumps on the road. Besides our basic needs, we should to be conscious about meeting the needs of our spirit such as fun, joy and creativity. We aren’t like machines that work non-stop, requiring only occasional fueling. If you’re burning the candles at both ends, you will lose steam and you’ll be more likely to procrastinate. So take a step back and nourish your heart and soul.
3. Create structure in your life and stay accountable: It’s only after you’ve looked at the big picture of your life and made some internal shifts within you, will the time will be right to set some structure in place. This entails incorporating good time management and planning skills into your lifestyle. For example, if you want to ace your final exams, create a quiet place in your home without distractions, have a desktop calendar with a study schedule, and organize your notes and books. Ideally, you want to aim for being self-accountable, but if you need someone else to check on you, ask anyone who’s close to you or hire a coach to help you out.
Like a dam that obstructs the natural flow of a river, procrastination will block your talents and gifts from being expressed in the world. The good news is that you have the power within you to break down that dam and allow all the goodness and magic from within you to gush out into the open.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you struggle with procrastination? Why do you believe its challenging for you to beat procrastination?
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