Yes, you know it! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. We’re all guilty of putting things off from time to time (myself included). So what does it really matter?
Well, sometimes it doesn’t, but sometimes it really does. It really depends on what we’re putting off; how important it is. We tell ourselves that tomorrow is another day, and sometimes what’s needed is some time to recharge, to sleep on it and come at it with a fresh mind. The real problem arises when it becomes ‘chronic procrastination’ – you’re avoiding something for a long time, or ‘critical procrastination – you’re avoiding something that’s really important.
We tell ourselves some great stories to make our procrastination more palatable… I’ll do it tomorrow… it doesn’t really matter… the list is endless. The hard truth though, is that procrastination is often very costly, we just rarely acknowledge the true cost. That being ‘time’ – your most precious resource which you can never replace or get more of. In many cases the thing you’re avoiding often gets worse, so you just ended up with a bigger challenge further down the road.
“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”
— Christopher Parker
In my experience, the root of procrastination is usually one of two things:
- Lack of Clarity/Plan – in many cases you’re either not really clear about what action you need to take, or haven’t created an implementable plan to help you move forwards.
- Fear – Whether you’ve really acknowledged it or not, deep down you’re scared on some level and that is creating some degree of paralysis/inaction. This can often manifest as perfectionism too, which is just another form of procrastination.
So start by reflecting on these two aspects and ask yourself where they are true for you. How much clarity do you really have? Once you’re explored that, ask yourself ‘What are the actions I must take?’ Many people get stuck when it comes to figuring out the ‘how’ – remember, you don’t always need to know the whole route, you just need to plan the next couple of steps and then take them, then the next couple, etc…
If like many people you already know what you need to do, you’re just not doing it, then you need to acknowledge and find a way past your fears. Common ones are: fear of failure, fear of getting it wrong, fear of looking foolish/embarrassment, fear of upsetting people, fear of reprisal. If you’re really stuck then it might be best to seek the help of a professional, like a coach, to help you move past them.
It’s not possible to cover all the answers to the destroyer many great ideas and dreams – procrastination, but here are a few more things you can try to help you start moving forwards:
Say no more often – overwhelm is often a key cause of procrastination, so learn to say no to things that aren’t really important
Get an accountability partner – or even better go public! Having someone who’s committed to help keep you on track and avoiding embarrassment can be a great motivator.
Change your environment – get away from distractions and go somewhere more motivating.
Remove distractions and break it down – GET away from distractions, turn off email, social media, phones etc, then prioritise and break it down into baby steps – then work through them one at a time.
Know your why! – Often times you need motivation to push through fears and doubts. Knowing your ‘why’ – the reason it’s important – can be what keeps you going when things get tough and fears creep in.
Give yourself a reward – Dangle the carrot. Allow yourself a reward once you’ve completed whatever you’ve been putting off.
The cost of putting things off is often much higher than we acknowledge, so the bite the bullet and pick one thing that you’ve been putting off that you will tackle today!