On a good day, which thankfully for me is most days, it’s hard for me to imagine not actioning a task which I desire, need or simply have to do. As a CEO and mum of five, I have constant mental, physical and digital ‘to do’ lists, topped up with tons of self motivation, which help to streamline the efficiency of my life. For the most part, I can work on a plane, in a cafe or under a tree – as long as I can access wifi, and I feel comfortable (preferably with a skim cap in hand).
Why leave for tomorrow what I can do today, right?
Not Always:( Many people suffer procrastination on a daily basis, it can have different root cause and the consequences can be debilitating.
The truth is that we all have opportunity to procrastinate, but some of us have the capacity to understand why we do it and then apply strategies which result in us acting quickly before getting sucked into that well-known pull to ‘do it later’.
Why is it so hard to shake off?
Procrastination is not just being lazy or the result of poor time management, it has a strong link to our emotional state. For example, it’s easier for me to jump out of bed to get to an early morning trek training session (because I love being out in nature, seeing my friends and feeling the positive effects of exercise endorphins) than cleaning my laundry and putting out the garbage. The second task is actually much quicker and requires significantly less energy but I don’t feel as happy or positive doing it, in fact, I am known to put it off until I feel like doing it! Later….when the garbage is overflowing into the kitchen, I feel even worse AGHHH, as the issue has now compounded and it’s now a critical health issue for my entire family. Why didn’t I do it before it got this bad!
How do you break the procrastination cycle?
1. Be proactive and beat the mood cycle.
It’s helpful to train yourself to become more aware of how and why your emotions fluctuate.
- Make sure the task is appropriate, realistic and achievable
- Break the task down to manageable chunks. Smaller tasks are less intimidating and easier to get started. Before you know it, you will be on a roll:)
- Choose to act, the first step is the most difficult. Jump in, before the consequence of not doing the task negatively effects your mood.
2. Stop and reflect – but don’t dwell
Ask yourself – why am I procrastinating?
- If it’s just an unenjoyable task (like going to the dentist), suck up the energy and knock it off quickly.
- If there are obstacles in your way (tired, hungry, hot, cold, TV, technological distractions, noise) proactively attend to your environment then get to it.
- If the task is resulting in anxiety or depression, seek further guidance before progressing, maybe you are putting it off for a reason which matters.
Take control of your negative self-talk
- Don’t dwell on why you procrastinate or it will remain front of mind and you will do it more.
- Rather, fix your mind on action rather than behaviour by focusing on what you want to achieve and how you will feel when you have done it.
Stop trying to be a perfectionist!
Think about it, you can’t pour from a cup with nothing in it, nor can you edit a page with nothing on it.
Over the years I have had many staff members delay commencing tasks as they feel “it won’t be perfect”. Surprise surprise, almost everything we do is not perfect the first time around, most actions take time to germinate, grow and often change greatly in the process, this is normal.
3. Maintaining is easier than regaining
If you have ever lost weight, got yourself fit or quit smoking, you will know that it is much easier to maintain the benefit of your blood, sweat and tears than regain the results that are no longer evident. Consistent discipline is required to reap ongoing rewards. Try using systems and processes which make tasks more planned and efficient e.g checking emails every 2 hours instead of as they come in, arrange to meet a friend at the gym, book your yearly dental appointment and ask for a reminder call.
4. Reward brings motivation
If you don’t celebrate the small wins, you miss out on the necessary motivation required to overcome procrastination. We all need regular confidence boosters and ticking off the ‘to do’ list is very motivating and builds momentum to next task.
5. Be kind to yourself
We all have less than productive days so don’t be too hard on yourself if this happens to you. Now instead of beating yourself up about it, focus on the positive feelings you will have every time you achieve bite sized wins – this will lead you on the path to success, confidence and satisfaction.