In this article, I'll be covering
Patterns that indicate procrastination issues
Basic description of this debilitating problem
Share some root patterns of procrastination to be on the lookout for
Offer simple effective solutions to begin overcoming procrastination
Any of these sound familiar?
Do you substitute one activity for another activity?
Despite the fact that the one will give you better results? For example, you are asked to complete a business proposal that is due on Monday, but instead of working on it, you go see a movie.
Do you find yourself constantly delaying things?
And do you believe that this is no big deal? What if you have an important project to finish, but you'd rather check Facebook, thinking you will only spend ten minutes on Facebook and then get back to the task at hand? Three hours later, are you rushing to complete it?
Do you make it look like you plan to do something when in fact you don’t?
You promise yourself this will be the year you _________________. You talk to all your friends about it, and talk a great game, but you never even bother to do what you said you would do or have any kind of plan at all.
Do you find you get obsessed on really small details and lose sight of the whole picture?
A good example of this would be if you are editing a video for your website but get obsessed with making an incredible logo sequence rather than work on the whole video and the message itself.
You have two different choices, you become so bogged down in making the right choice and you end up wasting huge amount of time and energy.
A good example of this might be trying to decide between two night school courses you are interested in. You hum and haw and can't decide until you miss the deadline for both.
If any of these fit you, guess what? You have a tendency to procrastinate.
Procrastination affects all of us at times in our lives, and that's ok. But when it becomes a chronic condition, it can drastically reduce the quality of your life, and prevent you from living life in a meaningful way,
PROCRASTINATION IS A COMPLEX BEHAVIOUR.
It is a behavior that affects a tremendous amount of people. Many psychologists have suggested that procrastination is married to perfectionism. It is a means of avoiding some type of action or task, and often finding very interesting and novel excuses to back up the avoidance... and trust me, I have heard some pretty amazing excuses.
Procrastination comes from the Latin word procrastinatus:
pro- (forward) and crastinus (of tomorrow). The term literally means to forward action till tomorrow.
I would offer it is the single biggest issue I see over and over again in my work.
Some root causes may include can anxiety, low self-worth, and giving up too soon. Procrastinators are often also overly conscientiousness. This is based more on wishful thinking, or wanting everything to be perfect.
The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that is responsible for brain functions including planning, impulse control, and attention. This part of the brain also acts as a filter by decreasing distracting stimuli from other parts of the brain. When it is out of whack, we are much more likely not to be able to focus on the task at hand, so we put it off.
We also know that meditation and mindfulness training are very helpful for normalizing the prefrontal cortex.
WHAT KIND OF PROCRASTINATOR ARE YOU?
There are many different shades of procrastination that I have noticed in my work as a mentor, but these four emerge most often.
The first one I call the relaxer.
The relaxer tends to see responsibilities with a negative bias, and avoids their duties by doing other things with relentless enthusiasm. The relaxer does everything to avoid any situation that is not considered pleasurable, so what they do is keep telling themselves they need to relax. They want to take it easy for now and start fresh tomorrow. Of course tomorrow only brings the same problems again, but now we have to start to include the guilt factor, which only grows with time
They are not so much avoiding work but just trying to evade the real issues in their life.
The second one I call the fear monger.
They are usually overwhelmed and feeling pressured by life. They are often bias towards fairly negative thinking, although they may not be aware of it, and so they tend to make decisions based on fear, which always leads to putting things off till they feel more secure.
The third one I call the hopeless romantic
These are folks who often have so many ideas, they don't know where to begin, or they start many things and finish none of them. They become unfocused and unable to complete based on too many choices and not enough commitment. They often have very little sense of time management, and are convinced they just have not found the perfect thing yet that will be the game changer for them.
The forth one I call the analyzer
In short, they analyze everything to death and end up paralyzed and unable to do anything because they are convinced they don't have all the facts - or the right facts, yet. They become uncertain and unsure, especially when they are around people who have strong goal strategies. The analyzer is often very disconnected from their high level values, so they value information overload instead.
You might find that you fit a little bit into all of the categories, although most of us can find one that seems most familiar. Later at the end of the article, I'll discuss some universal antidotes for each of these.
WHAT's really going on?
The first step is just to acknowledge the problem, and then find strategies and techniques to help you. From there, you can take small steps to adjust your behavior.
Getting clear as to its functions and causes will go a long way toward helping you to overcome it. By knowing the source of the issue, you can take the necessary steps to solve the issue.
There may be many reasons, so we must first diagnose the cause and dig it up from the roots.
Many people procrastinate out of fear. Imagine taking on a new project or trying to learn a new skill. Something happens and it is not going the way you expected it to go, or your were looking for different results, based on your unrealistic expectations. This creates fear and confusion inside you and doubt begins to creep in. So you hesitate and make excuses or put off what needs to be done to succeed, which saves you from failing.
Lack of Strategy:
Procrastinators often don’t make a plan of action. They just simply stumble forward with no idea of what they will do or how they will do it. They just get into the groove basically, and think they can accomplish the task like that. And sometimes that can be very effective creatively, but over time it tends to make progress much more difficult.
It's a much better option to create a strategy and then sense and respond and stay flexible as you move forward. Having a strategy also helps you when encountering an obstacle.
Lack of Analysis:
Procrastinators often don't correctly analyze a situation. Every aspect of a project or situation has to be analyzed based on what you are trying to achieve. This takes time!
By breaking big things down into small parts, you make it much easier.
Every part has to be examined and an estimate for when you think you can complete it. Don’t try to analyze the whole thing at once. That might overwhelm you. What we are looking for is a realistic approach here, and we need to look at all the pieces as well as the whole and take the time to know what we are up against.
Procrastinators avoid things. They'd rather not do anything if they can get away from doing it. One reason for this is fear of losing control. If they don’t have control over the situation, they can’t handle it and start to give in to the pressure. This pressure leaves them feeling depressed and unworthy, which in turn leaves them feeling guilty for not doing it. The classic catch 22 situation.
Lack of Vision:
Without a vision for your life, it's often impossible to really connect to what needs to be done. Purpose and meaning are perhaps the greatest way to overcome procrastination, but a vision must be uncovered and cultivated.
Procrastinators don't want to do anything unless they can do it perfectly. It has to be just right or they will find a way out of it. They will start a project and stop it at some point, if they feel it isn’t being done right. They will start up again when they believe they are more in control and will continue until they lose control again. Perfectionism is debilitating! It does not deliver better results.
There are many more causes that can be referenced, but these are some of the ones that show up most often.
Procrastination does not have to be a dominant factor in your life. Instead, you can begin taking small steps to overcome it and develop wonderful new habits.
We all procrastinate in one form or another in one of the areas below. It is rare that a person who suffers from procrastination is affected in every area of their lives.
The areas of your life that are affected to some degree by procrastination are:
If you take some time to take stock of your life, it will be pretty obvious which area needs the most attention. Just start with one!
Some ideas to consider
Take stock of the way you make decisions.
If you take too much time making decisions because you are afraid to try, wanting it to be perfect, perhaps you need to look deep inside yourself to see why you feel that way. You might want to experiment with making faster decisions. Sometimes it is better to make a decision, even if your not sure than to procrastinate. Remember, sense and respond. We can always recover and make changes along the way. The key is to get moving.
You may want to take on the project, but take it one step at a time instead of looking at the whole project as this enormous mountain to be climbed. This way you won’t get bogged down or overwhelmed with what you are facing.
When you do a project, break it down into small steps, have a specific time frame set for each part and focus on completing that piece in the time allotted. Just make it realistic. Find the middle ground.
Plan your work - Work your plan
Try to plan your activities throughout the day so you can give yourself time for relaxation. This is critical because if you work too much, you will burn out. Not only that but if you reward yourself with relaxation time, you are in fact giving yourself credit for some desired time out. This will alleviate resentment over the thing you have to undertake.
Any time you take something on, monitor your steps closely. Take small steps and watch for any distractions that can occur. When a problem occurs, or you have a feeling about something, take care of it right away. Don’t put it off. Your feelings may be true or may not be. The important point is to face your fears head on and understand why they happen. Then take the proper steps to correct them. This is such a powerful way to deal with fear.
Fall in love with imperfect
If you suffer from perfectionism, try to remember that nothing is perfect, no matter what you tell yourself. Therefore – to do your best is perfect! Expectations create endless problems as you spend more time imagining how it should be instead of just doing what you need to do. Complete the task at hand in the time frame you set for yourself.
PROCRASTINATION CAN BE OVERCOME
The most important thought regarding procrastination is that you have to recognize all self-defeating problems such as fear, anxiety, inability to concentrate, bad time management, being indecisive, and perfectionism are not based on the task at hand, but are associated with how we tend to think about life. They are bad habits we develop to cope with the uncertainty of being human, but we can change our thinking and build new habits also.
As foundational work for procrastination, you'll want to look at your overall vision you have for you life, examine your high level values, connect with some goals you want to achieve and begin to learn the skill of mindfulness and awareness as ways of dealing with fear and uncertainty.
If you are tired of putting off important things in your life, then changes must be made on the inside first. Once these changes are initiated, your problems with procrastination will gradually be eliminated.
David Frank Gomes helps people get unstuck and moving forward in life.
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