Procrastination comes in many forms and acts-out many deep-seated motivations. Not starting; not finishing; fear of failure; fear of success; fear of disapproval; overwhelm; boredom; perfectionism. The list goes on.
My personal favourite – probably because it’s my own most common procrastination model – is “positive procrastination”. That is: filling-up my ToDo list with other work so there’s no chance I’ll get to the things I’m avoiding.
(Actually, we probably all do this one. Think about it: when we procrastinate, we rarely do nothing at all as the alternative to the avoided task. We just find other things to do – and life and work are happy to oblige with a plentiful supply!)
There can be some positives to procrastination, especially if it’s structured. But over time and left unchecked, excessive procrastination most-likely leads to delayed and underachieved goals, missed opportunities and deadlines, poor reputations and extreme frustration – for the procrastinator and those who have to deal with them.
So how great would it be to get on top of your procrastinating behaviour? To make in-roads to the project that’s not moving forward? To take-care of the background toleration that’s been niggling you? To get into action on your priorities?
We all do procrastination differently. But here are 2 big self-coaching questions to beat your procrastination, whatever its form.
Q1. How am I doing the procrastination?
We all have strategies: routines of behaviour that we execute to perform some activity. Procrastination is no different. We have a procrastination model.
So: how are you doing your procrastination? What are the steps? What’s the sequence? What’s the pattern of behaviour, from trigger to output, that we summarily label “procrastination”?
Bringing your model into your conscious awareness is an important first step in giving yourself opportunity for different choices and new behaviours. Just noticing how we do our procrastination will kick-start that process of getting out of avoidant behaviour and into something more positive and progressive.
Q2. What am I getting from my procrastination?
All behaviour has meaning. All behaviour has positive intention. So: what’s the pay-off from your procrastination?
Avoid conflict? Remove decisions? Increase urgency? Promote autonomy? Save money? Reduce stress? Find time? Dig deep into the source motivation behind your procrastination. What positives do you get by avoiding a given task? What do you get when you don’t do the task?
And from there, challenge those motivations.
- Will you actually get those things? Or is that just what we’re telling ourselves by way of justification?
- And is this the best way to achieve those things? Or does our procrastination produce the kind of short-term benefit that would be easily superseded and outlived if we were simply to tackle the actual task?
Getting into action
To help you overcome your procrastinating behaviours, here are a few quick thoughts to get you into action.
- Action #1. Simplify everything and make it about the first or next action only. Just getting started is often all that’s needed.
- Task break-down. Reduce the overwhelm. Break down the project into small and easy-to-achieve steps.
- Introduce accountability. Reach-out to someone in your circle. Tell them what you’re working on – and when you’re going to achieve it.
- Link to a higher purpose. Find the goal behind your goal. What deeper significance can you find to doing this?
- Imagine completion. Think for a moment how fantastic it’ll feel to get this thing done.
- Celebrate wins. Don’t let your achievements simply merge into one another. When something gets done, celebrate.
Promoting awareness and responsibility
As with so many such behaviours, procrastination has no one cause and no one solution. But by becoming aware of and understanding how we’re creating our procrastination, we can start to take responsibility and make changes.
So be super observant. Don’t jump to your first thought. Dig deeper. Watch for themes. And be sure not to label yourself a “procrastinator”. That’s simply a label. Just as “procrastination” is a behaviour: something temporary, choice-driven – and changeable.