Confession time: I’m a procrastinator. I’ve been working really hard the past few months to overcome this habit, & the more I think about my relationship to procrastination, the more I realize that procrastination is the most abusive relationship I’ve ever been in.
Procrastination has kept me trapped in jobs I didn’t like, kept me in debt, prevented me from working on myself both physically & emotionally, & generally made my life harder than it needed to be. It caused me to have regrets, but also made excuses for itself. Procrastination tried to kill my dreams & destroy my success to keep me with it for as long as possible.
If you’re also in a bad relationship with procrastination, you need to know that it’s not your fault, & that I know how you feel. The thing with this relationship is that the more time you spend in it, the worse it gets, but the harder it becomes to get out of it.
Okay, you get my point with the relationship metaphor, so I’m not going to beat it to death.
The thing with procrastination is that it isn’t just putting things off, it’s putting things off which are important. It’s ignoring the things which will get us closer to our goals by doing things which are unnecessary or have nothing to do with what needs to be done. This makes us feel stressed out, guilty, & in crisis, which in turn fosters further procrastination. Procrastination stops us from taking action. Every time we let procrastination in, we get further & further from our goals, until procrastination becomes the default setting.
You see, setting a goal is like making a promise to ourselves. Every time we don’t work towards those goals, we’re breaking those promises to ourselves. That affects our integrity. Eventually, we get the idea that it’s okay to break promises to ourselves, & we begin the downward spiral of losing trust in our own abilities.
Take a moment to imagine where you could be in life if you weren’t consistently putting things off. How many of your hopes & dreams would now be a reality, instead of just would-haves, could-haves, & should-haves? How many failures would never have happened if you had just taken the next step—or even the first step?
Procrastination is a survival instinct. We want to avoid danger, & since we’re not being chased by beasties in the night anymore, that translates to any difficult task that is uncomfortable, which is harder to do than something pleasurable. We instinctively avoid unpleasant things where our physical selves, self-esteem, or egos might be threatened. It’s the whole “fight or flight” response. We can run for safety or prepare for battle—but it’s probably easier to run.
We need to remember that our time on this earth is finite. As much as we’d all like to think that we have as much time as we want, the fact of the matter is that none of us are going to live forever. So we need to learn to battle procrastination & stop it from holding us back. We need to learn how to handle it now or it will consume our lives, if it hasn’t already.
The first step in the battle with procrastination is asking ourselves if we really want to fully handle it & take control. Stop reading, right now, & ask yourself, “Do I want to control my procrastination?”
If the answer is yes, then great! You are already one step closer to getting out of this relationship, because you’ve set a strong intention for yourself. Knowing that you can control this, you will already start to feel & do better things with your life, & make better choices. Don’t blame yourself, other people, or the environment for your procrastination. Just acknowledge that it exists, & make the decision to change for the better.
If all our goals are things we dislike, of course we’re going to procrastinate. Doing the things we love will give us the drive necessary to get it done. You know that feeling when you’re really in the flow of doing something you love, & you could do it all day, even forgetting to eat & go to bed? Those things are awesome. But unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to do only the things you love—someone’s got to clean the cat litter & pay the bills, right?
It helps if we have clear-cut goals, goals which give us some kind of pleasure, & that we really want to reach. When you are figuring out this goal for yourself, it should be specific & what you really want, phrased in a positive way. Think, “I want to be a non-smoker by the beginning of December”, rather than “I want to quit smoking”. Spend some time with the wording of this, get on the inside of it so it’s worded exactly how you want. If you’re having some troubles with setting these goals & figuring out what it is exactly you want from your life, this would be a great time to work with a life coach who can help you identify those goals.
When our goals are clear & strong, our minds function more efficiently towards helping us reach those goals. Even if one of the tasks you have to do to get you towards your goal is unpleasant, keeping your “eye on the prize” will help you power through the unpleasantness.
Another super-effective weapon in our battle with procrastination is visualization. Visualizing your success at a task will help keep you on track. If you mentally rehearse success, & train your mind to expect it, you will be more likely to take action. Eventually, your mind comes to expect success, & it will be easier to get yourself there.
Finally, you need to break your big goal down into smaller steps in sequence that are specific & easy to do. Taking small steps melts away resistance & the fear of change. With every small step you take, it gets easier & easier to take those steps. Think about it like learning how to run. You don’t immediately walk out your door after sitting on the couch for years & run a marathon! Of course not. You train. You start walking, & then running in short intervals.
It takes practice to form a habit, and to break long-standing bad patterns, but if you take these steps, you’ll find you’ll stop running from threats, & that you are charging full-steam ahead into your glorious, dream-filled future.
Are you battling with procrastination? I’d love to hear about what you’re going through, & any positive steps you’ve discovered in your journey. Please feel free to share in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter, or even to just send me an e-mail if you’d like to stay private!
Guys, something big is coming. Make sure you come back on Monday, September 30th for a big announcement… & maybe some free stuff!