You know it already…it feels great when you’re getting on with stuff that moves you forward and progresses you. When we procrastinate we rob ourselves of that feeling and we don’t get the end result we’ve been looking for. Procrastination is a kind of self-sabotage; it’s extremely harming and can lead to short term disruption and then on to long term destruction.
So, what I thought I’d do is to add to the million or so blogs and pages out there that deal with the subject! Haha…you should all know me better than that by now…I’m planning on doing something a bit different in this blog and instead of rambling on about how to stop it once it’s started, I thought I’d ease you into a few pointers on how to make sure you don’t even start procrastinating. Better a fence at the top of a cliff than an ambulance at the bottom is what I say huh?
There are many reasons why people don’t take action, it’s impossible to write an exhaustive list but 4 of the most common I think are:
2. Feeling overwhelmed
3. Perfectionism (I have to include this one for my own sake)
You see procrastinating is a behaviour that is triggered. So, rather than trying to stop it when it’s started already, what if there was something you could do so that you wouldn’t even go there in the first place? It’s all about focusing on what comes first, because procrastination comes second, (did I say that already?) So, doesn’t it make sense to focus on that first behaviour? This way you can engage a series of strategies at that moment and stop procrastination before it even starts.
The key to avoid procrastination is to focus on the WHY you are not taking action.
If you focus on the WHY as soon as you recognise your procrastinating behaviour patterns emerging you shift your focus onto the root cause, which lets you not only understand it but enable you to tackle it head on by applying the relevant strategies (What are the relevant strategies then Shaun?) Well…I’m glad you asked…
…There are 2 steps that work hand in hand – identifying the lack of action (it sounds simple and yet, because it is often ignored, it leads to procrastination), and asking yourself: “Why am I not taking action?” (You might have to ask yourself several times).
When you have your reason, you can then move forward. Strangely enough you’re already more in control and avoiding procrastination – Good eh?!?
The reason gives you the clues you need to take action. As promised, here are a few strategies to tackle those 4 main causes of procrastination we read about earlier. I use these strategies a lot when working with my clients; I’ve found they work a treat but you might like to adapt and bend as you see fit in your own particular circumstance.
If you are not taking action because you are confused…
…Confusion is caused by a lack of clarity (duh, obviously Shaun). Simply put, it is really hard to act upon something when we are not sure of what that something is. Here are my favourite 2 strategies:
Strategy No 1 – Write it down; write everything that you can think of, it’s a called a brain dump. You need to get it all out of your head and capture it. Draw it if you can’t write it.
Strategy No 2 – Answer a specific series of questions that will lead you to further clarity; you can either do it on your own or with the help of a coach, a mentor, a colleague, a supportive friend…me for example (see what I did there?)
If you are not taking action because you are overwhelmed…
…Overwhelming is caused by a huge volume of disorganised information. It’s interesting that this often follows the confusion state. What happens is that you actually know what to do but because it seems so big it freezes you. Here are my favourite 2 strategies:
Strategy No 3 – Take your clarity list, write each of the items on individual notes (ideally, sticky notes), and then sort these around by ordering, planning, picking that FIRST action AND GETTING ON WITH IT!
Strategy No 4 – Review your action list and cross off the items you can do without i.e. the ones that are not aligned with your goals (you’d be surprised!) and then the items you can delegate.
If you are not taking action because you are a perfectionist…
…Perfectionism can be beneficial when (and only then) you are able to stop yourself and see when it becomes an obstacle. It is important to accept that this is something you do so that you can take control over it. Here are my favourite 2 strategies:
Strategy No 5 – Set a clear and defined milestone to every single thing that you do and the due dates will act as deadlines to ALL of your activities.
Strategy No 6 – Create an added accountability by sharing your plans (and dates!) with someone else: a coach, a mentor, a colleague, a supportive friend.
If you are not taking action because you are scared…
…Fear is often encountered when you are aiming towards reaching new heights, reaching that next level. It is completely natural, and the most important thing you can do when you question your every move is to just keep moving forward. Here are my favourite 2 strategies:
Strategy No 7 - Make yourself more uncomfortable than you are scared by listing the consequences of you not taking actions; ask yourself, “How does my lack of actions impact me (and others)?”
Strategy No 8 – Increase your excitement of what is to come by describing in details (visuals, sounds, feelings) the accomplished goal. Visualise it well
There you go: 1 key and 8 easily achievable strategies – you can have them for free.
Remember, tackle the WHY immediately and avoid the harmful procrastination loop completely.
Where you are today is the direct reflection of the thoughts, the decisions, and the actions you took days, months and years ago which means that where you will be tomorrow will be a direct reflection of the thoughts, the decisions, and the actions you are about to take.
Make it so Number 1.