Struggling with Procrastination?
Updated: May 7, 2021
We all know it well.
Putting off the tasks that we tell ourselves are important but somehow just can’t make ourselves do!
As soon as we sit down to do them, activities which we would otherwise drag our feet about - cleaning the kitchen, or organising that drawer, or sorting out our inbox - suddenly become very appealing and must be done now!
I’ll bet that when you ask yourself why you’re procrastinating, you tell yourself it’s because you’re lazy, or incapable. And I bet that’s not actually true (or very helpful!). Beating yourself up about it is hardly going to make you feel more motivated.
From talking about procrastination with many clients, and struggling with it myself, I’ve found that the reason we are procrastinating often falls into one of three categories (or a combination of the three!).
The task you are procrastinating about simply feels too big. It’s impossible. It’s too hard.
If this sounds familiar to you, try asking yourself this question: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how achievable does this task feel?"
If your score is low (and you can decide on the definition of low), perhaps you need to break the task down into smaller sub-tasks. What milestone sub-tasks do you need to achieve in order to work up to completely that “big” task? What different focus areas could you break it down into?
Which of those different milestones or focus areas is important for you to tackle first? What makes you choose that? How achievable does that sub-task feel on a scale of 1-10?
An example of this might be updating your CV ready to apply for a job. Every time you sit down to do it your brain goes blank, your stomach fills with dread, and it just feels impossible. So how could you break it down?
Your different milestones or focus areas could be: digging out whatever version of your CV you already have, or finding a template if you don’t have one; writing out a list of the roles and responsibilities you’ve had since you last updated your CV; writing out a list of your skills and strengths; reviewing the advert for the job you want to apply for and pulling out the key things they are looking for.
Now just pick one of these sub-tasks, and see how it feels to have a go at that. And when you’ve done that one, pick another. You’ll probably find that quite quickly that big tasks you've been procrastinating over for ages will almost have done itself!
Step by step and the thing is done.
- Charles Atlas
2. Fear stories
Perhaps the task you’re trying to complete feels perfectly achievable to you on the surface. And yet you’re still not doing it!
What stories are you telling yourself about what you’re trying to achieve? Give the exercise below a go, and see what comes up for you.
Complete the sentence: "I want to... " (e.g. “I want to post on LinkedIn to announce my new business venture and ask for support”).
Now follow that sentence with a "... but..." and see what pops into your head. Some examples might be "... but I’m no good at writing", or "... but everyone will judge me or laugh at me", "...but I don’t want to bother people". Write down as many "but" thoughts as you can. Don’t try to force it or judge what comes up, just get it written down.
Now look over your list. Which of these thoughts feels like your biggest blocker? How does thinking that make you feel about the task you’re trying to complete?
In the example above, perhaps it feels like your biggest blocker is worrying that your friends and connections will judge you or laugh at you. Thinking about that makes you feel anxious and small.
Now ask yourself: what evidence do I have that this thought is true? What evidence do I have that it isn’t true? What could be true instead? In the example above, what could be true instead is that your friends and family will be really excited for you! And perhaps thinking that makes you feel excited too!
How does thinking your new, more positive thought, make you feel about the task you’re trying to complete? Does it suddenly feel easier?
Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start to have positive results. - Willie Nelson
What if what you are trying to make yourself do isn’t what you actually want deep down?
Connect with your why. Why is completing this task important to you? What will the benefits be? How will completing this task move you closer to having/being/doing more of what is important to you? What effect will completing it have on the people around you?
If the task you’re procrastinating on really is helping you move towards having/doing/being something you really want, take some time to really connect with that "why". If you’re still procrastinating then revisit points 1. and 2.!
If you’ve realised that completing the task actually won’t help you move one step closer to something important to you, just let it go. What could you do instead?
Maybe you’re actually telling yourself you need to do this task as an avoidance tactic for something you know deep down is much more important! Procrastination inside procrastination, how meta!
Begin with the end in mind. - Stephen Covey
If you’ve worked through the suggestions in this article and still find yourself procrastinating, send me a message here and let’s jump on a call so we can breakthrough this together!
And if you haven't downloaded my FREE guide: "Four Secrets to Creating Work You Love!" yet, grab your free copy here!