It’s a Monday.
You make a massive to-do list of all the things you NEED to do this week. Coffee’s ready (other beverages are available!), you sit down and start the first order of business.
It’s going well, you’ve done task 1 and 2 – you feel great. Now on to the next one…but first, another coffee would do, so off you go.
Oh wait, you need to check your emails first.
What’s that? Someone has sent you a funny link – you have to watch that. The WhatsApp group chats are particularly engaging this time of the morning; it would be rude not to partake.
Your eyes flick over that to do list again – a Facebook notification pops up and you start scrolling through the feed.
Several cat videos and news articles later, the to do list is now giving you the stink eye.
So, you make yourself another coffee…
Procrastination is quite simply delaying or postponing doing something until a later time. And apparently, we are masters at it.
Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago and author of “Still Procrastinating? The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done,” has found that about 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators. As he puts it: “Everybody procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator. To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”
Procrastination isn’t as simple as putting something off. It can be a series of complex reasons as to WHY we don’t want to complete certain tasks. There can be several demotivating factors that can affect the way we approach our to-do list: anxiety, fear of failure, perfectionism and not being clear enough in the tasks can be a few reasons why we choose to put things off rather than tackle them head on.
When you come up against the wall of procrastination, your brain will do just about anything to choose something either less painful or more pleasurable than the task you should be doing (like that Netflix series you’ve been bingeing).
Procrastination is that inertia that STOPS you getting started.
Being a serial procrastinator doesn’t just negatively impact our productivity and the to-do list. Research shows that putting off tasks to such an extent can cause extreme stress and poor mental health.
Which is why it is imperative to overcome that inertia, don’t focus on the activity that is causing you to procrastinate.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Here are few tips on how to overcome procrastination:
Focus on a SIMPLE action to get you over the inertia.
Think of procrastination as a signal. A signal that there is something you need to do (or even want to do) that you feel like putting off.
And ask yourself, “How much DON’T I want to do this on a scale of 1-10?” (with 10 being: not at all - 1 being: no probs!)
So, let’s say, you’re at a 7, often by just acknowledging and measuring your feeling in this way, you will gain insight as to where you sit with the task – what reasons are counteracting you from completing it.
Here’s the thing, in engaging in this thought process, you’ve switched to a solution mindset and increased the chances of getting started.
Give it a go, try scaling your procrastination over the next few days and observe what happens.
After you get that feeling of procrastination, strike a Superman Pose (if you’ve read Amy Cuddy’s work, then you may be familiar with the term Power Posing). Changing how you move your body can change the way you feel.
Now think about that ‘thing’ you were procrastinating over; does it feel different?
As someone who used to be an actor in the 90s and 2000s, this idea was very familiar to me. If you want to inhabit a character, first learn how they move, the change in physiology, changes how you feel and the emotions you experience.
Experiment and try different poses and see how it goes with the tasks you have been procrastinating over.
After you think about starting an important task and feel yourself procrastinating, try this:
Whilst these strategies are great in getting over the wall, it is important to remember to be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up over a task can lead to increased overwhelm and stress and for you to be able to tackle a task head on, your cortisol levels need to be balanced.
Take it one step at a time.
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