Usually at this time of the year, we all have goals or projects coming up, or to be accomplished but then one factor can hinder the progress completely. This bone of contention is PROCRASTINATION, but that’s not all. It is accompanied by other after effects of its stay, ANXIETY. Many of us have had an encounter with procrastination and we know what it resulted into. Some lost a life changing opportunity, some a job, and others are nowhere to be found as a result of procrastination. Procrastination is simply putting something off or waiting until the last minute, leading to either an unfinished or a totally disappointing end product than expected.
Procrastination could just be lack of motivation or not knowing where one is heading or we could be most likely to procrastinate because we want to avoid that discomfort; we look at the task and don't want to deal with it. So we pretend it doesn't exist but the problem with that is procrastination generates anxiety, which makes us even more likely to procrastinate until we become terrified about what would happen next. So how do we break the cycle?
Recognize that the task itself doesn’t cause the anxiety and most times doing it actually feels kind of good. The anxiety is caused by not knowing how to get started, not knowing how it'll turn out or not having started at all, and having absolutely no idea how it's ever going to get done. Avoiding the task because we're anxious only increases fear and anxiety.
Procrastination doesn't make it go away, getting it done does. The question now is “how do we get it done when we're too anxious to even get started?” With the above, some of us are now aware that we are also procrastinators. So what do we do to overcome procrastination? Overcoming procrastination is like giving up smoking, the mind of the victim has to be made up to quit. It’s hard, yes but with simple steps, you will walk through to victory.
Figure the trigger: A lot of times we don't even know why we're procrastinating. What is crucial at this stage is to find the causes that speak most clearly to you. Procrastination is something you, me and many others experience. The key is to understand your own current journey in your mind. This is your battle to conquer, and you hold the key to winning, not anyone else.
A quick look at four major reasons for procrastination which can help you identify your trigger and ways to overcome;
A fear of failure - In my experience one of the most common causes of procrastination is a deep-rooted fear of failure. If you fear the consequences of failing, then a logical extension of this is a reluctant attitude to take action. This is because you are guaranteed not to fail if you don’t attempt something (although the argument can easily be made that not attempting is the same as failing in the first place – which is an important point to consider). Procrastination is comforting when you fear failure. It serves as a protection mechanism, shielding you from the possibility of real failure – as opposed to the more subjective failure that accompanies not attempting something in the first place.
How to Win: 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. Train yourself to understand that failure to take action and give something a go is actually worse than being unsuccessful in its execution. If you try and fail, you at least have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. If you never tried in the first place, then you’ve got nothing to show at all. As the saying goes “you will never win if you never begin”.
Excessive Perfectionism - Another common cause of procrastination is excessive perfectionism. If you are a self-confessed perfectionist, then you might find it difficult to take action unless you know you can do a job with which you will be totally satisfied. This becomes a problem when you have to try something new, or different to what you are used to. Because of an ingrained perfectionist mind-set, you will either consciously or subconsciously worry about being able to reach an end-state that will be to your liking. It’s a great thing to be proud of the work that you do, and to want to do your best. However, when your mental picture of something you want to complete is actually beyond what you can reasonably expect to do, then you have a problem. Basically, you know that you won’t be able to do as well as you want … so it’s easier to do nothing at all. This excessive perfectionism causes procrastination by encouraging you to put off attempting a task until you think you can do it perfectly. In many ways, this is similar to the “fear of failure” concept I outlined above; except that instead of believing you cannot succeed at all, you worry that you cannot meet your own high standards.
How to Win: Aim to do your best, and be happy with the output. Accept that there is no such thing as a perfect job (especially if someone else will be critiquing your work – their idea of perfection will differ from yours).
Low Energy Levels - Another frequent reason for procrastination is experiencing low energy levels. If you are lacking energy, then it stands to reason that you will not feel like doing much at all. This is a common cause for those of us with relatively unhealthy lifestyles. Whether you get insufficient sleep to “recharge your batteries”, or your diet causes you to feel sluggish and tired, lifestyle factors can play a huge factor in how inclined you are to get up off the couch and take action. You should be able to easily identify this problem in your life: If you want to be active and productive, but simply lack the physical energy to do so (i.e. the mind is willing but the physical body isn’t) then you are probably suffering from low energy levels.
How to Win: Work on developing a healthier lifestyle. Experiment with sleep, diet, and exercise to find a balance that works for you. There is a wealth of useful information online about making positive lifestyle choices – and you’ve probably already got a fairly decent idea already of what changes you could make.
A Lack of Focus - A lack of focus in life is another frequent cause of procrastination. Although some people like to claim that “the person who does not know where they are going always travels further”, this phrase does not mesh well with those of us who are predisposed to procrastination. You probably have a lack of focus if you frequently feel directionless, or that you do not really have a purpose in life. If you do not have any goals set, then it is almost certain that you will be lacking in focus – as you have no target to work towards. You may simply feel as if you are just drifting through life. This lack of focus causes procrastination by preventing you from homing-in on an “end point”. Instead, you will wind up expending all your energy in the here and now, with nothing to guide you towards productivity. Are you someone who does not set goals or targets to reach, which then results in you not really achieving anything in your day, week, month, or even year. It’s time to learn the art of effective goal setting and become able to overcome procrastination and achieve more with your life. I set goals for just about everything I do. I have goals for my fitness (e.g. wanting to be fitter and faster on the football pitch) through to long-term financial goals.
How to Win: Set yourself some inspirational-yet-attainable goals. It’s important to set the bar high enough to encourage you to take action, but not so high that you are likely to fail (which isn’t good for your motivation and drive).
A good goal encourages you to take action, because you do not want to disappoint yourself by failing to achieve what you set out to do.
You should now have a solid understanding of the primary causes of procrastination. What is crucial at this stage is to find the causes that speak most clearly to you.
As I mentioned above, understanding what has caused procrastination in your life will give you the power to fight back against it.
Once you understand why you are procrastinating, you can take steps to overcome the problem and experience a much more fulfilling life.
I’ve beaten procrastination, and many others from all walks of life have managed to do so as well. There is no reason why you cannot do the same – now is your chance to go out and make the most of life. :)