Procrastination can feel like a way of life for many of us. Its avoidance spelt with a capital ‘A’! The calling card could be, ‘I’ll get to it … soon!’ You may know the scenario! You have that important task to undertake with a tight deadline. Everything is riding on you completing the task. But all you seem to do is find every excuse under the sun not to do it. It’s amazing how you can find yourself surfing the internet aimlessly or watching hour upon hour of television. Suddenly those unimportant jobs around the house become the most important thing in your life.
Your goals remain unfinished and the lack of progress that accompanies this Dream Breaker can make you feel lost. You may feel frustrated, totally de-moralised and angry with yourself at your inability to get even the smallest jobs done. Or when you do accomplish something, you realise it took far longer than it should have done.
The lack of direction that accompanies procrastination may send you quickly to the bottom half of the rainbow. It may also be a sign that you are trying to do something outside your comfort zone. Perhaps you are working towards something that is not that important to you or it doesn’t match your personal values, so you feel uncomfortable about doing it.
In a previous life as a Credit Manager I was responsible for a large team. Unfortunately, I had to manage staff performance issues. I can recall one employee who was not being responsive in his role and his behaviour was affecting the whole team. I needed to discuss this with him but performance discussions were not one of my strong points. When I reflect back, the role I was in did not align with my values. I really should have been doing something different. So, I did not give this situation the priority it should have had. In my mind I was making excuses why I did not need to talk with him and I kept putting off the discussion. Finally, when I did meet him it had become a bigger issue in the team to manage. My procrastination had made what was really just an awkward conversation into a very difficult situation to deal with.
Going through that experience and others was very draining for me. Procrastination is like being on an emotional seesaw! One minute I’m up, motivated and raring to do something and the next I’m down and equally demotivated. My lack of action makes me begin to feel scared and I feel sick in the stomach. I know I have to get this done, but the truth is I don’t think I can do it! I’m getting frustrated by this Dream Breaker, so much so, I’ll do anything to avoid the feeling of having to do it.
Here are some reasons why you may find yourself avoiding things:
Stand by your values
Do you feel comfortable with a task you need to do? You may find the task is in direct conflict with your values. You may be trying to channel energy into something that is not really important to you. Take the time to think about your values, the task and consider if it is really something that you want to be doing. If you need some guidance, go to the Understand Your Values section of the Success Generator and then complete the values activity in the Action Hub and complete the values activity.
Failure to ignite your passion
When you procrastinate it may mean you’re not emotionally connected to what you need to get done. It’s important to acknowledge the root cause of this disconnect. It may be that you are not passionate about the task you are doing. In this case, it may be worth spending some time to reflect on the task and how you feel about it. You may find it useful to go to the 'Discover Your Passion' page of the Success Generator and then complete the passion activity in the Action Hub. But remember, there exists a fine line between allowing you time to analyse a situation thoroughly and using this period as an excuse for continued inaction.
Embrace your fear
Procrastination may also rear its head when you are fearful about doing something you need to do. This may occur when you are forced outside your comfort zone. While fear may stop you from doing stupid things, it’s important to acknowledge this same fear as it may actually be holding you back, acting as a barrier between where you currently are and where you need to get. Sometimes the most challenging yet liberating thing you can do, is to push through the fear and do it anyway! This may be easier said than done, but unless you face the fear you may never overcome it. You may be a better person for the experience.
Remove the obstacles
Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by your tasks and responsibilities? Perhaps you are tired! You believe you lack the knowledge or the ability! Or you think you don’t have enough time to get the task done! Dr Joel Minden suggests focusing on removing these obstacles should give you the best chance to completing your task. He suggests the need to analyse what needs to be done and how to make it happen. Then break that down into smaller and more manageable pieces. (1)
Have you read how my placemat helped me to analyse a situation and overcome the feeling of overwhelm I experienced? This is a good time to reflect on this as it links closely to procrastination. You can find this story in the Dream Breaker, Overwhelm
At some stage everyone avoids one task or another. Dr Elizabeth Lombardo suggests research has shown people avoid tasks that they perceive as being unpleasant, boring or painful. While avoiding some tasks may be a short-term solution it may cause greater problems by putting them off. Dr Lombardo suggests these quick ways to address procrastination. (2)
1. Keep things in perspective, you may not like it but hard work won’t harm you
2. Remember why you are doing the task and the benefits of completing it
3. Schedule when you need to do the work and stick to it!
4. Keep your schedule simple and realistic
5. Break down the task into smaller pieces
6. Stop making excuses, just do it!
7. Team up with someone, have someone hold you accountable!
8. Create an environment so you can focus, turn off all those distractions!
9. Use your past inaction to be empowered on your next task
10. Reward yourself for meeting a target
11. It does not have to be 100% perfect