12 Sure-Fire Ways to Busting Procrastination

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Recent research demonstrates the far-reaching health effects of procrastination in our lives.

‘I’ll Look After My Health, Later’ is a fascinating study which links procrastination with higher stress levels, increased acute health problems and a lower immune function.

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There’s little doubt about it. Procrastination isn’t healthy.

We all experience it – permission to be human, granted – and there many ways to get yourself moving again.

Here are 12 of them.

1) Invite fear to be your friend.

Fear is not the enemy. Since cave man days we’ve been programmed to avoid risk (sabre-toothed tigers) and to remain in our comfort zone. One of the major causes of procrastination is fear. … of failure, success, rejection, pain, discomfort, embarrassment, even death.

Our egos are very clever at protecting us from failure. So clever that we’re not even consciously aware of this protection mechanism. All we notice is that there are a tonne of ‘good reasons’ why we are unable to start a certain project … yet.

“Just another quick cup of tea”

“Oh, and I really need to call my mother, I haven’t been in touch with her for ages”

“I’ll just quickly check my emails, because I really need to get back to people”

“Phew. I’m suddenly really tired”

You can be-friend the fear by realising it will never go away. It’s hard-wired. Even super successful people get scared. The difference is they still do the thing they’re nervous about.

When I’m having a wobbly moment, I find this quote helpful, “It’s OK to have butterflies. Just get them to fly in formation.”

Fear can be a good thing. Honestly. It can be cautionary. It reminds us to consider carefully. A surge of fear, well-harnessed, can nudge you in a new direction.

Since it’s here for life, you may as well invite it round for a BBQ instead of having it lurking along the boundary fence.

2) Start somewhere and do something.

I have a close friend who gets an extraordinary amount done in her 24 hours. What I notice about her is that when she gets an idea, she writes it down and does something.

Immediately.

Most people get an idea. Then they sit there. They wonder if it’s a good idea. Then, they wonder if it’s a good idea some more.

Quit second guessing yourself. That’s procrastination in disguise.

Got an idea? Begin it now.

3) Collect the minutes.

We’re all busy. Lots of us complain about having no time. My guess is that we all have time. It just doesn’t happen to be all at once.

Are you waiting for many hours of spare time before you go for your walk or prepare that healthy dish? Stop waiting. Learn to use the spare 15 minutes that arise here and there.

4) Decide to be ‘approximately’ perfect.

Well-spotted you procrastinating perfectionistas out there. This one’s for you.

Set a goal and aim for approximately perfect. Not perfect. Approximately Perfect. Set a goal to show up. Let go of doing it all, or doing it well.

Some of my clients’ biggest victories have a lot more to do with getting over perfectionism and fear, than they do about getting it all done perfectly.

We’re designed to make mistakes. It’s how we learn. Perfectionism, as a way of life, tends to be self-defeating, inactive and not much fun.

As a reformed-perfectionist I know that my old pattern was to set my goals soooooo high that I’d never even start the first step.

5) Define quantities.

Nebulous goals make for nebulous results. “I’m gonna lose some weight” is a lot like saying, “We oughtta do something about the harnessing third world debt.”

Most procrastinators have a hard time defining quantities. We think everything needs to be done now. Then we go into overwhelm and do nothing.

How much? By when? For what purpose? How? What exercise will you do? How often?

Define the goal and celebrate its completion.

6) Less is more.

Have fewer goals. Have no more than three priorities for a week.

Why?

Because you’re not lazy. You’re just trying to do too much.

Find out what it feels like to accomplish one thing instead of not quite getting to everything.

7) Do it first.

I encourage my clients to exercise first thing in the morning. You must schedule a chunk of time for you as your first activity upon waking.

Why?

Because you’re telling the world (and your unconscious mind) that this is your priority. And then the world lines up everything to align with your priority.

Action grounds your priorities. It makes them real. It also makes your day easier because you’re not wasting energy thinking about this thing you’re supposed to be doing later.

8) De-fluff

Email, Facebook, television – any activity that steals time from you is fluff.

When you do it all the time, you never complete it. You just let it slowly drain the very life force from you. Define times for these activities. Then, turn off your email, your Facebook, your television, until that time comes.

9) Never ask how you “feel” about doing the activity.

Have you ever committed to getting up early to do exercise? And at 5.30am it’s like the you who set the alarm last night has been body-snatched?

You lie in bed thinking, “Do I really feel like going to the gym?” (Like you even have to ask.)

We’ve all been there.

Instead, you must make your decision, commit and when the alarm sounds and you’re cosy and snug in bed (here follows the most important step) completely de-link the emotion from what must be done and just do it. Thank you, Nike.

Do not have coffee and sigh and think, “I’ll probably feel more like it later”. Because you know that’s bull.

If it’s a priority, don’t waste time asking yourself how you feel about doing it. Feelings are an easy out.

10) Create a competition.

If you always leave stuff to the last minute so you get to feel the euphoric rush…you’re a thrill-seeking procrastinator. Instead get your kicks by creating a competition. Put yourself under play pressure and give yourself a reward when you succeed. Invent whatever scenario you like to do so. Be creative and trick your mind until a new habit is formed. .

11) Understand the power of self-praise.

For you procrastinating perfectionists who feel overwhelmed by the sheer thought of a project, ensure you always praise yourself for what you’ve done well instead of putting yourself down for what you yet have to do.

12) Break it down.

Some projects can be breath-takingly scary. You need to approach them obliquely. Face the challenge just enough so you catch some of the excitement radiating from it, but not so much that it paralyses you.

Enter…the Kaisen approach.

Kai- Zen is a Japanese-invented philosophy that delivers betterment in bite-sized bits. All you need to do is identify your next step and attend to that. Just as a sail boat can sail closer to the wind and increase speed once it gets going…so can you.

Step by step by step.

All 12 tips work individually or if you like to mix it up, try different combinations. Explore them all and use them to regain your power. Before you know it, you’ll have inspiration, excitement and motivation pulling you forward instead of having a to-do list pushing you in a bored fashion.

I’ll leave the final word to some bright spark who reckons, “If you are so good at procrastination, why don’t you put it off for a while?”

Love etc, Avril

References
Sirois, F. M. (2007). “I’ll look after my health, later”: A replication and extension of the procrastination-health model with community-dwelling adults. Personality and Individual Differences, 43 (1).

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