Do you struggle to make decisions? Put things off? Avoid doing certain tasks?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, there is a good chance that you are a procrastinator! Now, don’t panic and get upset because I am labelling you. This is simply a behavioural trait. One that you may have unconsciously developed over a long time, so that it has now become an ingrained habit. You probably don’t even realise that you are doing it.
It can start small. You may have an email to write to a customer that either feels like a drag, or may feel a little confronting. Perhaps you need to deal with a delicate issue. Money owed could be one of these issues! This is an area where many of us feel uncomfortable and tend to go out of our way to avoid dealing with it. So, rather than scheduling in the time to do it, and then just biting the bullet and making it happen, you put it off. Tell yourself you’ll do it later. You just haven’t got time right now. You’re not in the mood.
And you may even be able to convince yourself that it is in your client’s best interests for you to hold off dealing with the issue for a week, because then things will have settled down. Time will soften the effect of your request for an unpaid invoice. But, deep down you know that this is really just an excuse. You are justifying why you are not doing this uncomfortable task, with what is probably a pretty flimsy reason.
And of course, once you have done it once and have successfully procrastinated in one instance, like anything, it gets that little bit easier to do it again. And next time it may be for a bigger issue.
Imagine you are booked to do a a speaking engagement. And, rather than sit down and actually writing your speech, you put it off, and tell yourself you will do it later. Now if you really look inside yourself, deep down, you may discover that the reason you are doing this is because you are secretly petrified of giving your speech, so are procrastinating because it is so scary. So far out of your comfort zone that it actually makes you feel physically sick!
So what can you do to avoid the procrastination trap?
Well, the first step is to identify why you are procrastinating. It will usually fall into one of a few categories:
- It is boring or tedious
- It is scary or confronting or makes you feel uncomfortable
- You can’t really be bothered
- It doesn’t really benefit you, so what is the point?
- You promised someone else you would do it!
- It will take a lot of time and effort
Once you have identified WHY you have been putting something off, you have made yourself aware. Rather than having a vague annoyance or uneasiness about the task, you have now identified exactly what is de-motivating you about it. And awareness of the issue, means that you can then address the issue, rather than the task itself. You can then develop some strategies to deal with these issues, and can pull them out of your bag of tricks the next time procrastination rears its ugly head.
So what sort of strategies can you use?
Well, the most direct and effective one is to just make the decision to take action and DO IT! And for some of us, this may work a treat. Just like “eating that frog” as made popular by Brian Tracy, who wrote a book based on Mark Twain’s comment that, if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. And Brian’s message is that if you don’t overthink it, but just get on with it, the rest of your day will be that much easier and run more smoothly by comparison. You won’t spend the whole day dreading and anticipating what you are procrastinating about because it will already be done!
If this is too confronting, and too big a leap, then focus on the pain or the pleasure. Whichever will motivate you the best! So what do I mean by this? Imagine you have a workshop to prepare. You need to book the venue, set a date, create invitations, do some killer marketing so you can fill your seats, and also you will need to create the content for your workshop.
What is the pain?
So, if you don’t book the venue, what will happen? Well, you will probably have to run the event in your garage! Not ideal, and potentially quite painful! But if you do book it, you will feel relaxed and organised, less stress, and secure in the knowledge that your event now has a place for you to run it, and you can go full steam ahead with all of your other arrangements.
You see what I mean?
In some instances it is more compelling to focus on the pain, while in others, the outcomes, or pleasure will be a greater motivator. The key is to be able to self-motivate yourself, so that you are not relying on someone else, or something else to MAKE you do a task, you can make that decision yourself, and then go ahead with it!
So, there are really only a few shifts to make to the way you view a dreaded task that you are procrastinating about, that can make all the difference. And if you commit to making those shifts, you are well on your way to eliminating the procrastination that is holding you back from achieving everything you want to achieve, both in your life and in your business.