Drilling down into your procrastination, towards conscious thought…
There are a few causes of procrastination, and most are done on a subconscious level, with perhaps fear or a feeling of overwhelm as the root cause. However, simply bringing the issue to your conscious mind, through some simple self-questioning, can often alleviate the associated ‘paralysis’, and see you move past it.
Firstly, identify what you’re procrastinating over – is it an individual task, or type of work, that’s continually being pushed to the bottom of your to-do list? Or is it a general feeling of avoidance or apathy? If the latter, you may need to soul-search on a different level, most probably, with a third-party to help you explore the thoughts and feelings behind this mind-set.
However, if it’s a specific task you’re putting off, consider drilling down further by answering the following:
- Why am I putting this task off?
- What do I expect to happen to me or my career?
- What advantages will I realise if I wait to complete the task?
- What will be the disadvantages from stalling?
- What third-party help would be of benefit, which tools should I have to hand, and what information is requisite to help me complete the task more easily?
Once you’ve identified the pros and cons, and the outcomes and emotions surrounding the task in question, you may the angst you felt dissipates. Preparing yourself for possible consequences takes the sting of them away a little, and helps you plan a recovery should the worst happen. Knowledge is power, as they say, and once you envisage the worst it doesn’t seem as frightening.
Just because you’ve visualised the bigger picture around the task in question, and you know the whys and wherefores, it may not make the task seem any less surmountable. Therefore, let’s look at dissecting the task further into baby steps.
- What do I need just to start the task, i.e. information, equipment, etc.?
- Where would I start, and what will be the first step?
- How many steps does the task entail, and do I have all I need for each one?
- How long will I need to complete the task overall, and for each step I’ve envisaged?
- What problems may occur at different stages of the task in hand? How can I be ready for these?
Even though, on a practical level, you may be able to see how and why the task should be done, you may still not be ‘feeling’ it. You may still be going through the motions without any real attachment, emotional investment or motivation to proceed, which may still see you procrastinate at the first hurdle. Again, preparation is key – practise turning your procrastinating thoughts into proactive, positive ones:
- It will be a disaster if I don’t……turn to: I would like to/I choose to
- I have got to finish…..turn to: I want to work efficiently in order to…
- Why did I take on this project? It’s so overwhelming…..turn to: Where’s the best place to start so I can see some progress?
- I must do well….turn to: I will do the best that I can
- I’m always so busy in this job, I never have time to laugh or be light-hearted….turn to: I will think of a way in which I can refresh my energy and opportunities to laugh/be light-hearted during my working day
- I’ll never succeed, so there’s no point in….turn to: If I want to succeed, I’m much more likely to if I…
If procrastination is a common problem for you, try monitoring your thoughts, feelings and the circumstances surrounding each example, in the way you’d keep a food diary when watching your diet. Try different methods to kick-start your energy and motivation, like spending just ten minutes on the task you’re procrastinating over. Though this sounds innocuous, the chances are that, once you’ve made that first move, you’ll be happy to continue for another ten minutes, then another, until you’ve made a good start on the very thing you’re trying to avoid. A good book that describes this ‘diving in at the deep end’ is ‘Eat That Frog’ by Brian Tracy.
One simple act that may help your procrastination – though not to be seen as a reason to avoid a task you’re procrastinating over – is being more organised. The adage ‘a cluttered desk leads to a cluttered mind’ holds some weight; if you’re overwhelmed by the feeling of where to start, it will be harder to get organised if there are files and papers everywhere. If you see chaos whenever you’re sat at your desk, it’s not hard to understand why your mind may have difficultly focusing or forming clear, actionable steps.
Next week I’ll look at the different types of procrastinator and their associated attitudes. Will you identify with any of them?
If you’d like my help to remove recurring obstacles that are present in your daily life or career, contact me on 01302 220021 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to holohololand and samuiblue at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the images