Procrastinate much? Yeah, me too. That’s why it has sometimes taken me months to put out a blog or three weeks to renew my gym membership. Procrastination is pretty common, and most of us know that it doesn’t serve us, so why do we do it? Why is it so hard to follow through on our plans and get stuff done?
Procrastination is a form of resistance. Maybe we’re scared of whatever it is we are trying to do (hello, fellow perfectionists!), or maybe we are avoiding something we feel we have to do but don’t want to. Either way, telling ourselves to ‘just do it’ or setting daily reminder messages just doesn’t seem to cut it.
A lot of coaches will say that the key to overcoming procrastination is to break the task down – make the big goals smaller, so that they don’t seem so overwhelming and unattainable. This is super useful, and it is true that when we understand the small steps we have to take, they are easier to action on a regular basis. There are also times, however, when we know the small steps to take (start a yoga class, finish our homework, stop eating bagels for breakfast), and we still don’t do them. Why? Because our habits are not supporting our goals.
Let’s take writing as an example. There is no use saying, “I’m going to write 2000 words by next Friday and submit three articles for publication in the next month” if we don’t have any habits to support us. Even if we understand the basic action steps involved and commit to writing every day (or eating healthy, completing our assignments, starting our pottery lessons –whatever it is), we would find it hard to continue as soon as work had a stressful week, the kids got sick or we woke up a little too hung-over one morning.
Procrastination is a form of self-deceit, and we trick ourselves into thinking we are too busy, too tired or too un-supported to undertake a certain task. We look for evidence by prioritising everything from cleaning our house to walking the neightbours dog, but this is difficult to do when our daily habits and routine are supportive of our dreams.
If you are serious about overcoming procrastination, consider adopting some of the following habits in to your routine.
Meditation isn’t just for yoga enthusiasts or Tibetan monks in mountain caves. It is a practice that can help even the worst of procrastinators, which is why I set it as homework for all of my clients. It could be considered ironic that by taking time to sit still and do nothing we actually accomplish more, but in the words of Lao Tzu “By letting go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go, but when you try and try, the world is beyond winning”.
Meditation helps us to go within and centre our minds. When we are able to slow down and observe our active thoughts, we can see where our resistance to a certain task is coming from, and how to move past it. Meditation allows us the space to start each day in a way that is sacred, and to make a silent commitment to the tasks we want to complete.
2. Be Mindful
Some might say that this is the same as meditation, and indeed there is such a thing as mindfulness meditation, but what I mean here is to be present in every day life. So often we are racing from one thing to the next – we are in the shower planning what we will eat for breakfast with our spare seven minutes, or scrolling through Facebook on our morning commute. Rarely do we take the time to truly sit and be present with the activity at hand.
Daniel Goleman, best-selling author of Emotional Intelligence, says, “While many assume we’re splitting our attention while multitasking, cognitive science tells us this is impossible. We do not have an expandable area of attention to offer simultaneously; instead, we have a limited amount to allot. We’re not partitioning our attention, we’re just moving it back and forth rapidly. And doing so really prohibits us from being fully absorbed.”
Our culture says that multi-tasking is valuable, and it is considered almost a pre-requisite to many jobs these days, but it isn’t necessarily what makes us the most productive. Multi-tasking often means our brains become so scattered that we forget to drink our coffee until it is cold or we finish the day with eight half-written emails and a third of a presentation, but nothing complete. Mindfulness, or ‘single-tasking’, allows us to be present, to process information faster, boost our attention span and is even known to decrease anxiety and stress.
3. Write, daily.
Journaling is a profoundly powerful practice, so I don’t just suggest this for budding writers and bloggers. Studies have shown that daily writing helps decrease anger and frustration, elucidate our goals and inner thoughts and even boost the immune system! Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin empire, is quoted as saying, “My most essential possession is a standard-sized school notebook”.
Starting your morning with just 10 minutes of free-flowing writing can have an impact on the rest of your day.
4. Remember Your Compelling Why.
Most of us procrastinators find it easy to forget (either selectively or unconsciously) why it is we are doing what we are doing. Understanding our ‘compelling why’ (also known as the end-goal or grand vision) gives us the motivation to work through the uncomfortable muck we avoid by procrastinating.
Above my bed is a vision board which I look at each day. This collection of images serves as a reminder of why I have certain goals, and where I want my life to go. It shows me my ‘compelling why’, and provides me with the motivation to work through the uncomfortable and not delay my dreams.
5. Get a Coach.
Yeah, yeah, I know I’m saying this as a coach myself, but having a life coach is what has helped me work through countless issues, including procrastination. A life coach not only helps keep you accountable for your regular actions, but also provides insights and strategies for overcoming fear, breaking down obstacles and getting clear on the big picture. They’re cheerleaders and strategists for your dreams, and a good coach will help you get from where you are to where you want to be.
Depending on what you are procrastinating over, there are countless other daily habits which can support you in your goals, but the above is sure to help. What can you adopt into your routine today?
How have you overcome procrastination? What habits have you adopted? Let me know by commenting or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org