Procrastination is a short-termist perspective that confuses our pleasure / pain associations. We associate pleasure with the avoiding and pain with the doing – when, of course, the reverse is the (long-term) reality.
Why, then, do we still procrastinate? Because a procrastinating mindset is a powerful and attractive perspective. But we can use that idea of perspective to overcome procrastination. Here’s how.
#1 Reverse the goal
Think now of a task or a project that you know will move you forward, but that’s continually being stalled by your procrastinating behaviours. And now, reverse the perspective on that goal and imagine, for a moment, that you goal is the exact opposite. I DON’T want to make that call. I DON’T want to kickstart that project. I DON’T want to complete my timesheets and expenses. Sounds ridiculous to say it out loud (so don’t!). But this is what’s going on for you: you have a DON’T WANT TO goal that’s driving the agenda.
#2 Score your commitment
Now, give yourself a score out of 10 for your commitment to this DON’T WANT TO anti-goal. You might not want to admit it to another person, but at least have an honest conversation with yourself about how committed you are to NOT making that call; NOT kicking-off the next project; NOT doing those expenses. And it doesn’t matter what your score is – just notice that it’s less than your commitment score to your actual goal. Your desire to stay stuck is greater than your desire to achieve your goal.
#3 Get real about the benefits of staying stuck
Now, let’s take a look at the benefits of your anti-goal. What are you getting from NOT moving on your goal? And sometimes, people get stuck on this. They might say to me: “But my goal is my goal. There are no benefits to me NOT working on my goal. That’s why my goal is my goal.” But to your unconscious, there is some survival-driven benefit behind NOT working on the goal. More time. Less (short-term) stress. Social safety. Comfort. There will be benefits. Get clear about what those are.
#4 Identify the trigger
And now, given your DON’T WANT TO anti-goal, notice the PERFECT strategy you have for achieving your anti-goal (that is: avoiding your actual goal). The trigger that makes achievement of your anti-goal (avoiding your actual goal) INEVITABLE. Perhaps you just check your email first. Or you’re just going to wait on one final confirmation. Or you just want to postpone until you have a good chunk of time in the calendar to really get into it. Note this moment because it’s the moment your procrastination battle was lost!
#5 Get to work eradicating that trigger
Now, it’s decision time. Do you want to get back to your goal? Really? Check your commitment level. Check whether you’re willing to give-up the benefits of staying stuck. And if you still want to get moving on this project: eradicate the trigger behaviour. Be alive to it. Create a system that makes that procrastination trigger unavailable to you. Focus instead on a replacement activity that represents the smallest possible first step you can think of that moves you closer to your goal. Commit to that – and eradicate the procrastinating trigger.