This is gonna be a really long post. Procrastination got me wondering for a while now and here is what I came up with after lots of reading and examining my habits and attitudes.
Procrastination is not about the ability and it’s not even about the approach. It is about the emotional blocks you have either acquired or were born with, and they are holding you back from taking the actions. Identifying and understanding them is the key. On the contrary, various tips, advices and strategies on how to “beat procrastination” will not last you long. Because beating something involves fighting, resisting, disliking and denying, which leads to more anxiety and guilt rather than the opposite.
What does help procrastination and sort of dissolves it, is becoming fully aware of why it has occurred in the first place, and then continuously spotting that short time gap in which you have a free will to decide whether to fall into the trap or not.
Here is what internet has to say about the root cause of procrastinating.
In short – we procrastinate because we “resent” either the action itself or the final result and we are avoiding the task by all means, since deep down we believe we don’t have control over it anyways.
This didn’t resonate with me at all, but if it sounds relevant to you – have a look at this article: http://startyourworknow.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/List-Of-Reasons.pdf
- Fear of success
Fearing that with the success there would be new dilemmas and unnecessary changes, such as learning new skills due to the career advancement, moving places or having to choose between your friends and professional life. Again, didn’t resonate with me much. Plus, “fear of success” is not such an accurate term. It is fear of possible changes rather than success, and people fear changes because they might not know how to adapt to them, which makes it a fear of failure, really. And this leads us to the next point.
- Fear of failure
Now this hits home. Everything I’ve been struggling with summarized in couple of slides and it goes like this: procrastinators hold a belief (consciously or not) that their skills and therefore, the work they produce, is a direct reflection of how worthy they are as a person. That is, if you produce something of a poor quality – you have little value as a human being.
This does sound quite harsh and no wonder that our mind is searching for ways to avoid facing such “reality”. Quoting one of the procrastination websites:
“You try to overcome this (facing failure that is equivalent of being worthless) by procrastinating – since the product delivered at last minute cannot be a true assessment of your skills.”(http://startyourworknow.com/course/module1/ )
In other words, your ego is trying to protect itself from pain and suffering associated with such a failure. I have also come to realize that holding a belief that ability is fixed is the root cause of the root cause. Your achievements are the result of your skills that are fixed. Therefore, bad results will reveal to the world that you were born not smart enough or not fit enough or anything else not enough. This is how I used to think and what hit me lately is the understanding that putting effort is what actually makes a difference.
Emphasizing the importance of effort over inborn ability (although not ignoring it completely) is what does it for me whenever I have even a remote thought of not following through with my plans.
What does it for me
Quotes. Quotes work as written reminders to readjust yourself, to put yourself in the right mindset and to stay committed to the new good stuff. In case with procrastination, and in case if your cause is same as mine, the good idea would be to search for the quotes that remind you that ability is not fixed and that in no way failure indicates you’re a bad person.
“Output can be made better with a little bit of effort.”
I also caught myself thinking that to achieve something, to “get somewhere in life” you need to put a gigantic amount of effort in one big lap and then you’ll be a king sitting on the top of the hill and everything will be great till the end of time. Such a view is not only quite far from reality, but is also damaging. Instead, it is better to adopt this approach: every little effort counts, every little effort brings you closer to the desirable outcome and certain amount of energy you put into something generates you rewards that are more than that “certain” amount. Great world that we’re living in, eh?
“The primary reason for failure is that people do not develop new plans to replace those plans that didn’t work.” (Brian Tracy)
Particularly relevant for someone who knows procrastination far too well. Often we set unrealistic (and vague) goals in order to compensate for all the procrastination we’ve been doing so far. There is that tiny little chance that we will accomplish all of the 15 things we have put on the list in one day and then we will rule the world once again. The problem is that it’s not gonna happen.
The solution is to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for all the wasted time, the work that wasn’t done, the guilt, the shame and the anxiety. And start anew. Create a new plan, fail couple of times, start over and repeat the cycle until you found what works for you.
And instead of suggesting that you’d be your own judge of how to achieve this, I suggest you search the entire internet or hit the library and look for systems and approaches created by other people who have their shit together. Try them all, mix and match and come up with your own super personalized but easy-to-follow system for setting goals and making to-do lists and alike. This won’t solve procrastination altogether but it will come in handy when you’re in that gap where you can either fall for it or break the cycle. Breaking the cycle is extremely easy when you know exactly what to do. And you should know way before the crisis hits. In other words: “There are only two states you can be in when facing difficulties – prepared or unprepared.” If you’re procrastinating think about getting prepared and start really enjoying your life guilt-free.