Do you habitually procrastinate or re-schedule your appointments, postpone your resume submissions, or delay scheduling a licensing exam? If that resonates with you – keep reading.
Procrastination is more common these days than we realize or are willing to admit. There are many “reasons” that we use to explain this habit – a habitual mufti-tasking, overwhelming number of “to do list” items, fear of “not being ready/good enough/ perfect” or increased demand on our time and attention. Sorry to disappoint your “fancy” but it doesn’t really matter what is your reason (excuse) for procrastination – you may rob yourself from the opportunities and… peace of mind. In my opinion, procrastination is a habit that you have without realizing it. “The way you do anything is the way you do everything”.
So ask yourself a question: “Where else, in what areas of my life I’ve chosen to postpone making a decision or acting on what I wanted or was important for me to do”? Starting a healthier lifestyle? Registering for the licensing exam? Exercising consistently 5 times a week? Writing a book that you always wanted to write? What is your “still thinking about it” thing? You need to be aware of your disruptive habits in order to change/replace them with supportive ones.
I always like to ask the question “Why”… It helps me to understand the underlying, often subtle, causes of behavior, including habits, reactions, and tendencies. Observing repetitive procrastination habits in my family members and myself, I decided to dig deeper and ask a few “Why” questions. Here what I found.
Most common reasons for procrastination:
OK, you are scared, I get it. I’ve been there too… But do you really think that postponing something that you know you need/want/decided to do will help you feel less fear? Nop, it won’t! Instead of feeling less fear, you will get more and more anxious over time… because deep inside you know that you must act.
Imagine that whatever the outcome that you are so afraid of has happened… Accept that it may happen… Acknowledge the intensity of the feeling you experience… then see it from a bigger perspective, see it as “a thing” you chose to do, not something that will “change your life forever”… Finally, just let it go, release… Every experience in life is an opportunity to grow and learn, not a test of your worthiness.
Fear of not being ready/perfect/good enough
A fear of not being ready, not being perfect, not being good enough are all signs of perfectionism and self-doubt. You are always your biggest critic, aren’t you? Ask me how I know that… If you have a habit to seek perfectionism, remember this quote by John Henry Newman: “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.” You know that nobody and nothing is perfect, then why to de-motivate yourself and lose your enthusiasm over it? Here is another great quote by Harriet Braiker: “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”
If this is the reason that prevents you from taking action and stopping procrastinating, ask yourself these 2 simple questions:
If you can honestly say that you’ve done everything you could to prepare yourself for taking the action that you have postponed for some time, acknowledge that out loud to yourself by saying: “ I am ready to act” and do it! Because you are Ready and “Good Enough” for You.
Fear of Rejection and Need for other’s approval
A fear of rejection is manifested by lack of confidence and self-reliance. It is simply a magnified concern for the approval of other people (your boss, professor, spouse, parent, friend, client, colleague). It is often a hidden emotion you carry since childhood that underlies many of your decisions, choices, and habits, not only the habit of procrastination. According to psychologists, the fear of rejection is a result of a parent giving the child what they call “conditional love.” A child who has grown up with this kind of conditional love tends to seek for approval from others all her life. The preoccupation about being perfect, being “good enough”, and need for acceptance leads to fear, anxiety, and habitual procrastination. But you can change it and rise above the need for approval!
You must internalize, “deep in your heart”, that the opinions of others are not important enough for you to feel stressed, unhappy or overly concerned. Others’ opinions and judgments are their personal perceptions and have nothing to do with your own personal worth and value as a person. Use the mantra “I am what I am” while meditating, driving, or walking… If have self-doubts or any kind self-defeating thoughts – smile and gently remind yourself how silly it is to be overly concerned about what other people think about you. Whatever “they” think about you is none of your business. Besides, most people are not thinking about you at all. Live your life on your terms.
Lack of work priorities’ management
I understand that you are very busy, I mean, really busy… like most of other people. We are all bombarded with numerous ads, email, calls, texts, etc. This incredibly fast pace of life makes many feel overwhelmed and stressed out, which then leads to a desire to postpone, delay, or reschedule. What if you decided to filter your tasks, your “to do items” based on their priorities for you and act only on high-priority tasks? As Stephen R. Covey said: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”.
“We realize our dilemma goes deeper than shortage of time; it is basically a problem of priorities. We confess, we have left undone those things that ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.“ ~ Charles E. Hummel
Decide what you want and what is important to you. Clarity = Power. Decide what you are willing to postpone in order to focus on what you want or what is important. Once you establish your Priorities – get to work. Take Responsibility for your decisions/choices! No excuses, no destructions – Focus on one task at a time. When finished – move one to the next high- priority task.
Lack of time management
You don’t have enough time for everything you want/need to do? Well, welcome to the club. Our lives became so complicated and busy that it’s no surprise we feel overwhelmed and tired. Relax, you don’t have to be a super-woman, nobody expects you to be, except maybe yourself! ;>) So what can you do with your busy life? Manage your time wisely and keep things in perspective. You can buy fancy “time management” courses or start with simple and practical steps.
“To do two things at once is to do neither.“ – Publius Syrus
Have a Time Calendar (or use the electronic ones like iphone/outlook calendars, etc), write into it your “high priority tasks”. Divide your “work day” into 2-3 timeframes (e.g. 9 am-noon; 2 pm-5pm, etc). Decide to focus on 1 or maximum 2 tasks at a time during 1 timeframe. Honor your time commitments but don’t feel guilty if you slip a bit. Practice makes perfect… well, most of the time. ;>)
Hope this article was helpful. Do you have other suggestions to deal with the habit of procrastination that work for you? Would love to hear it!
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