If you find yourself surfing the web, watching TV or cleaning the refrigerator while a looming deadline is getting closer, you are probably a procrastinator. Putting off until later what you can do today may give you instant relief. However, studies found that procrastination is associated with higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue and unemployment.
In contrary to popular belief, procrastinating isn’t necessarily a sign of laziness or lack of motivation. The most common reasons why people procrastinate are overwhelm, lack of confidence and the fear of potential failure, judgment or any other kind of discomfort. In this regard procrastination is a survival pattern, which is created by the subconscious mind to use evasion, denial and ignorance to keep us safe.
Let’s take Tim as an example, a bright young man, who wanted nothing more than to overcome his anxiety and low self-esteem. However, once we started working together, it became apparent that his inner procrastinator wasn’t on the same page. When he for the third time in a row, despite his best intentions hadn’t followed through with his “homework,” it was time to tackle this seemingly self-sabotaging pattern.
He told me that it wasn’t a matter of him not being motivated enough to improve himself. But every time he wanted to sit down and do a writing or visualization exercise I asked him to practice, he found himself seconds later either with the TV remote control in his hands channel-hopping, or in his car driving to the store, because he remembered that he urgently needed to buy something for dinner.
“It reminds me of the time when I was a kid and I didn’t want to do my math homework. I was terrible in math and just knew, that no matter how hard I would try, I would fail. So distracting myself with a book or going outside to play with my friends became an escape.” Tim admitted that he took advantage of the fact that both of his parents working and didn’t have the time or energy to check his homework. Although it was painful to receive bad grades and get reprimanded by his teachers, his conviction of being stupid only grew stronger and with it his procrastination pattern. However, over the years it became more and more difficult for Tim to numb his pain of failing with the short-lived pleasure of escaping, which is when his struggles with depression and anxiety got worse.
Besides addressing and resolving the deep-seated emotional baggage and limiting beliefs of the past, Tim overcame his tendency to procrastinate with the following strategies and insights, which I am sure will also work for you.
- Have compassion with your inner procrastinator. Blame and shame are terrible long term motivators and just reinforce the avoidance pattern. Remember that procrastination has a positive intention, which is to keep you safe. But also acknowledge that this form of protection undermines your opportunities to experience greater joy and fulfillment.
- Procrastinate procrastination. Make a list of all the reasons why you are better off avoiding procrastination. Write in the first part of the list all the negative consequences of your old pattern, and in the second part, what positive changes you would experience if you would stop procrastination now.
- Make your word count. One of the reasons why procrastination leads to low self-esteem, is that every time we intend to follow through and then don’t, we are proving to ourselves that our word doesn’t matter. Since most of us are less concerned letting ourselves down than others, ask someone you respect and don’t want to disappoint to become your accountability partner. Make a commitment to consistently take doable steps to reach whatever goal you have set yourself.
- Stay awake and aware. Since procrastination is driven by the subconscious mind, it often includes automatic distracting behavior, such as checking your e-mails or getting a coffee or something to eat, just when you are about to start the most pressing task. Instead of going on auto-pilot, take a moment before you tackle the job at hand and imagine yourself at a fork on the road. The left will lead you down the familiar path of procrastination and evasion. The right path will make you stay committed and focused on your project. Watch yourself first take the left path and notice how you would feel at the end of the day – more frustrated, anxious, stressed or deflated? Then, in your mind’s eye, watch yourself step-by-step going through the process of accomplishing what you have set out to do. Imagine how you will feel at the end of the day – satisfied, at peace, confident?
Join me for the next empowerment radio and learn more strategies and tools to overcome procrastination, so that you can reach your goals with greater ease and enjoyment. As always, feel free to call in at 888-418-6890 or use the chat box during the live show to ask with any questions you may have.