‘Tomorrow: A mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored’
All of us are guilty of procrastination, at some point of time for some task or another. We find a hundred excuses to justify it too – “It’s not the right time yet”, “I am neck deep in work”, “I am too tired”, “I want to, but…”, “Once my kids fly the nest” and so on.
The difference between the guy with a brilliant idea, trudging along in his mundane job and the guy with a crazy idea making millions, is that the second guy went out there and put his idea into action. Won’t it make you miserable to see your colleague walking away with that trophy you so coveted, but didn’t end up striving for? You always dreamed of hanging up your boots, but never really worked towards it, till age makes you retire – do you want to live with that regret?
Is procrastination the same as laziness? While both may arise from lack of motivation, laziness is when one does not do something out of apathy, inactivity and a lack of energy. Procrastination is more like postponement due to lack of confidence or poor or ineffective planning. It usually leads to the procrastinator being at a loss in the form of stress, lost productivity, or lost opportunities. What’s more, procrastination can also hinder your self-esteem with the guilt, shame, or self-critical thoughts that can result from putting off tasks.
Some of the reasons behind procrastination are:
- Fear of failure:
People often assume that procrastination is simply a matter of willpower, but in reality, anxiety and fear of failure can cause us to put off a task, as can having a task which is unpleasant.
- Excessive perfectionism:
Excessive perfectionism causes procrastination by encouraging you to put off attempting a task until you think you can do it perfectly.
- Lack of focus:
Lack of focus causes procrastination by preventing you from homing-in on an “end point”. Instead, you will wind up expending all your energy unproductively. It can also happen when one is working in an environment which is filled with distractions.
Once you identify what is holding you back, try some of these solutions to overcome procrastination and get going:
Stop making a mountain of a molehill
One of the biggest reasons people procrastinate is because they dramatize, or make a huge deal out of something. The human mind is a powerful tool and you can use it to trick yourself into believing anything – so if you want to convince yourself that the task is too tough, too boring, too dangerous -then that’s how you will feel! In reality, challenges, boredom, and hard work will not kill you — or even make you sick. On the other hand, the stress that comes with procrastination, may make you sick. So, keep things in perspective.
Failure is not the end!
Understand and accept that failure is not fatal. Most mistakes can be fixed, and you will get a second chance to right any wrongs. Obviously don’t go into a task with a mindset of failure, but realize that mistakes do happen. Not even trying is a sure shot end.
Create a vision
Set yourself some inspirational-yet-attainable goals. Focus on your ‘why’. Visualise the joy or sense of accomplishment you will get when you achieve the goal. You can go a step further and actually pin it up somewhere you will see frequently.
Use technology to your advantage
Our phones have become an extension of ourselves and yet we do not effectively use it to get work done. You can set reminders, use the calendar planner, make a to-do list. ‘I forgot’ or ‘I don’t have time’ is no longer an acceptable excuse. Avoid getting distracted by social media; you can switch off the wifi for a few hours – trust me, the world will still go around!
Drop the perfectionism
Perfectionism is an all-or-nothing mentality that can hold you back from starting or completing tasks. Rather be realistic, break down the task into smaller, achievable and measurable chunks and keep improving on the way.
Get a partner
Establish specific deadlines for completing a task. Then find someone who will help you be accountable. It could be a promise to your boss or client that you will complete the job by a certain date. Or it may be a coach who helps you stay on track.
After all this, you can still waste more time beating yourself up for not starting earlier – so please forgive yourself and move forward, NOW.
Khyati Shah is a Transformation Coach and seasoned professional dedicated to helping people balance the demands of life and career more effectively. You can reach her on firstname.lastname@example.org.