How many of us have plans and goals to do something and complete them? I do and I am guilty of not starting even! There is this book that I need to read up on and take the exams after, and I have been procrastinating since 4 weeks back.. actually it goes way back to February. The only reason it was delayed to April was due to the online payment for the membership and exam paper. Now that the payments have been settled, I need to take that exam and read that manual! Ahhhhh tough one.. the books goes to the bedroom, the living room, the kitchen and dining room with me but untouched except for the front cover as I am carrying it..So, just what is procrastination?? According to procratsination.com, procrastination means we have trouble persuading ourselves to do the things you should do or would like to do. Also, means that we tend to put things off intentionally or habitually. It is a behavioral issue because in our minds we know we need to get it done, and we're feeling the anxiety rising because we know it should be done, but we're just not doing it!
So let's try to understand that better. I am using some of the work done by one of my clients and we built up on it to find out the reasons why we procrastinate before we sought for answers on how to move ahead.
So here goes:
1) Laziness. No need for an explanation here? Perhaps we are tired and we just need a break from any doing.
2) Perfectionism. We can be such perfectionists, that the thought of creating an imperfect work is enough to discourage us, and the fear of failure is enough to stop us!
3) Distractions. Social media - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Watsapp, gaming, television etc. Social media is there to distract us or do we use it to distract us? Much like a chicken and egg, which comes first.
4) Unmotivated. Mainly, the task is just boring, uninteresting, not passionate about, why am I even doing it? Go back to the baseline and ask yourself why you started this in the first place or look to the end to see what you'll gain / benefit. Perhaps you need to clean your house windows, definitely boring and uninteresting. There was a reason why you wanted to clean it in the first place otherwise you wouldn't have noticed it?
5) There are no short term or long term benefits for the goals. So, why are you doing it in the first place? Perhaps you need to sit down and find out some reasons why this task is important even if it has no benefits - in a fulfilling sense. Perhaps it is a project that needs to be completed (remember getting paid your salary is still a benefit); perhaps it is an unimportant paper you need to complete to pass your degree (well, you still need to finish this in order to get your degree); there is bound to be some small reasons behind them, we just don't see it. Keep finding that needle in the hay!
6) Not ready for the task yet. I personally like this. I find that some tasks need time - it's where our minds are subconsciously helping us build courage or strength to prepare us to face it; it could be putting your home up for sale, clearing your home of all the old paperwork or anything of sentimental value, and the most interesting is (depending on the context of what you are procrastinating about), to grieve over a loss. It is all about being ready and you'll know it when it is time. Let's take the selling of a house; you have been wanting to put it out on the market and you hem and haw that the cost is low, there is so much to pack and clear etc. The house is tied with so much of memories to it; perhaps it was your first purchase and you remember how much courage you took to buy it, it could be that you had a lot of fond memories of family gatherings that you are not ready to part with. Again, it all depends on the situation and context this is in - perhaps someone you loved had passed on or moved on, and this was the last place you had all the memories of this person you loved. So, procrastination is quite valid here, and when you ready to have that change, that breath of fresh air, that is when you will get going. So, honor this process of grieving & procrastinating.
How do we overcome it?
1) Being aware that you are procrastinating. Once you know you are avoiding your goals/ tasks, begin by setting your mind (reprogramming your thoughts) to begin your task. Say, "I want to or I choose to do xxx and I will finish this and be proud of myself!
2) Find out your optimal time that you feel energized to do such tasks. I find writing in the morning or late evenings the most optimal time for me, while I also find mornings, are best reserved for clearing out old paperwork. To each their own.
3) Cut the elephant by the chunks. Plan on how you intend to complete each task and when its enough for you to say it's ok to stop and take a break. Celebrate every effort you have taken to complete a small chunk! Remember to reward yourself for the effort you have taken. Keep that memory of how that feels like when you reward yourself as a motivating factor.
4) Start with the most unpleasant task first. This will give you the rest of the day to concentrate on work that you find more enjoyable.
5) Minimize distraction. Turn off everything and put your phone away from reach unless you have an urgent call coming in (but be honest to yourself). Reward yourself to a ten minute of social media if you complete a section of what you promised yourself to do.
6) Find a support group or friend who will hold you accountable. It may be a coach who helps you stay on track or a support group. I have a support group who meets up once a week, and our hour long framework is such that we begin with EFT tapping, followed by grounding work with singing bowls or meditation. Then each of us take turns to share about our week, the challenges and celebrations of what went well or what we have achieved. This is then followed by our goals for the week, where we talk about what we want to achieve and we hold ourselves accountable to each other. It may be a little pressurizing and can cause anxiety BUT, we are also people of compassion. We understand that there are difficult days, days that are hard to cope. We hold the space so that anyone of us can feel safe, vulnerable and open. That doesn't mean you get to avoid the work you're supposed to do; you would be encouraged to be honest with yourself and seek the support of the team to help you overcome any fears or worries that you may have. So, committing to this weekly call is perfect as it keeps each of us on track. If there is one good thing that has come out for year 2020 and the lock down, it is this support group! I am very grateful for each of them. So far, I have managed to complete my online course because of my commitment and the accountability. Next is to get through my 114 page manual, and I vow to read ten pages each week (which isn't much really.. but I am now down to 5 days and I have yet to touch the book!
7) Commit to the task. Focus on doing and not avoiding. Write down what you need to do and a timeline on when you will complete it. This will help you to proactively tackle it. " I choose to read one page by tonight!"
8) You might want to have a nice ambience around you as you start your work. Nice motivating music, coffee or herbal tea, and if you are sitting to write or study, have a comfortable chair to sit on.
So tonight, I will carry my book to my bedroom with the full intention of getting through my first hurdle and reading that first page. Like NIKE says, JUST DO IT! and I am sure it will get easier. Make that “some day” today, and be proud of every bit of progress you make.