Friday, August 20, 2010

Is Procrastination Holding You Back?

Procrastination is probably the number one reason why people "fail".  Fail to achieve what they want, fail to get what they want, fail to be what they want.  But WHY do people procrastinate?  They are generally putting off something that they find too hard, too unpalatable to them, or too scarey!

Sometimes we procrastinate because of something to do with the task at hand.  It might seem too threatening, too difficult, too boring, impossible to finish or a waste of time.  Perhaps we don't quite know where to start, or don't want to ask for assistance from someone for those aspects we are unsure about.  Perhaps it seems like such a big job that we feel we will never complete it so why bother starting, or perhaps it just simply doesn't appeal to us and therefore seems like a waste of our time.

Sometimes our procrastination is a factor of who we are! Perhaps we suffer from perfectionism and until we feel we can undertake the task to perfection we put off doing it at all.  I have a friend who is a brilliant painter and writer and yet does neither, the work just never meets his very high expectations of himself and so he doesn't start.  Perhaps we thrive on adrenalin.  Many of us will have been "last minute" students who do their assignments the night before they are due.  I myself undertook a 10,000 word dissertation for my degree, scrapping everything I had done on the last night it was due and starting again.  This aspect is further exaccerbated if we have done this successfully in the past, finding that we have great success or get good marks acting at the last minute.  And then again many of us will lack self confidence and so put off things we are unsure about perhaps internalizing all our past failures believing that we were the factor of the failure and that another would have had success, or externalizing the positives and believing that any successes we have had are actually the result of other factors and not essentially our own work.

Regardless what the reasons, the truth is, if the task has appeared on our to do list and we have asked ourselves "do I really need to do this thing" and it has remained there, then eventually we must undertake to do it.  Until we do, the task continues to take up valuable space in our head and actually avoiding the task will over time, take up more time and energy than the doing of the task itself!

We've all procrastinated at some point.  The trick is to overcome what holds us back.  So what is the antidote.  It's really very simple.  MAKE A DECISION.  Then START!  TAKE ACTION!  One small step at a time.  Break the task down into bits we feel we can achieve and just simply begin.  There quite simply is no other way. If we need assistance, identify who and where we can get it, that in itself is a step, an achievement, it also helps make the task seems achievable, surmountable.

Successful people do the things others find hard or unpalatable to do.  Successful people don't procrastinate!  So, if you are not having the success in your life that you would like to have, take an inventory. Are there things that have been sitting on your to do list for too long?!  Things that you are avoiding!  Decide if you really need to do them.  If you don't then simply take it off your list and forget it all together.  If you do, make a list of the things you have been procrastinating over.  Next to each one, identify why you have been avoiding the task or procrastinating over it!  You may have to do some soul searching to get to the bottom of this, but it is worth taking the time and being very honest with yourself.  This will help you to identify the first step you need to take to overcome your procrastination (perhaps seek help from another, perhaps take steps to raise your self confidence etc)

Once you have done this, next to each task/item, write down 3 things that are essential for you to do to get the task done.  Do the easiest one first.  The start will give you some momentum, and a sense of achievement.  It will reduce the size of the task because after all, mostly the size of it, has been created entirely in your head.  Once you have done this, you will find continuing to complete the task so much easier.  Once you have done this with one of the areas you have been procrastinating in, you will find it far easier to tackle the next.  If you continue to do it, taking action will become a habit, and avoidance and procrastination will become a thing of the past and your life and success will take a significant turn for the better.  But the bottom line is YOU and MAKING A START.   So what have you been procrastinating over?

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