Planning to diet on Monday? How to overcome procrastination
We have all been there. Whether it’s the tough conversation you need to have with your partner, asking for a pay rise from your boss, a cupboard that needs clearing out at home, or a diet and fitness regime you know you have to start, you put it off, you procrastinate. You find other pressing things to do - watching TV, reading a book, nipping to the office canteen or out to the shops. You choose anything other than the thing you should be doing.
It is a perfectly natural reaction to want to avoid doing something that makes you fearful or embarrassed or that you feel you might fail at. Still, if this procrastination turns into a pattern of behaviour rather than just an occasional wobble, it can hold you back. You never ask for that pay rise or promotion and are stuck in the same job, you never confront a partner about their bad behaviour and the relationship doesn’t improve. Your lives stagnate and your self esteem also suffers.
The answer of course is to stop being indecisive. But how do you do that? Here’s our 'Stop procrastinating!’ action plan.
Find your motivation
Simply saying ‘I want a better job’, or ‘I want to get fit’ are not enough. You need to find your motivation. Most of us are motivated in two directions, ’away from’ which is where we don’t want to be and ‘towards, which is where we do.
Take a sheet of paper and divide it into four columns. In the first write your goal e.g. getting fit. In the second column, write down where you are now e.g. Unfit. In column three write all the bad stuff about not being fit (the ‘away from’ stuff) – you can’t fit into your clothes, feel out of breath at Zumba etc. In the last column, put all the good stuff about what being fit would mean (the ‘towards’) being slimmer, being able to buy a whole new wardrobe ...
Now, look at the paper and work out what will motivate you to stop procrastinating most effectively. Is it the bad stuff about where you are or the good stuff about where you could be? With difficult changes such taking up an exercise routine, ending a relationship or leaving a job, ‘away from’ motivation is usually most effective. Keep a note of all the ‘bad stuff’ and put it where you can see it to motivate you.
Break the project you’re putting off into bite size goals
Often we procrastinate because we feel overwhelmed. Breaking the thing you have to do down into smaller chunks solves this. If you have a project at work you are putting off, set aside just 10 minutes to make a couple of phone calls.
If you have a loft to clear out, start with one box. If you feel your relationship isn’t working, plan a meal out. If you want to run a marathon, set yourself the smaller goal of running 1,2, or 5 miles first.
Choose the easiest place to start
As an author, I know that the most difficult chapter to write in any book is the first. So too with most projects. But you don’t have to start at the beginning. It could be that you there is an easier bit that you could begin with.
If you’ve been procrastinating about asking for a pay rise, perhaps you could start by noting down all the ways you could add value over the coming year to your employees. Armed with this, you will have more confidence to approach your boss, as long as you actually do so and don’t just use this research as more procrastination.
Set a deadline and then reward yourself
Procrastination is a habit and you need a combination of carrot and stick to beat that. The stick is a deadline. Be firm with yourself. Make it realistic – no point saying you’re going to run a marathon next week – but write it down and stick to it. Plus, plan a treat.
If the action you’re putting off is finding a new place to live, for example, you might set yourself the deadline of 4 weeks to answer ads and visit possible house or flat shares and 6 weeks to move in. When you do move in, you could reward yourself with new bed linen.
Streamline your workspace
If your goal is work related, say to write a novel, you are more likely to get started if your workspace is organised and a pleasure to use. Clear your desk or create one with a minimum of clutter and get a comfortable chair. If what you’re putting off is eating better, declutter your kitchen. Remove all the unhealthy foods and organise your cupboards and fridge. After all, they are your health and fitness workspaces.
Do something, anything, just get started!
The only way to break the habit of procrastination is to stop procrastinating. Do something, anything towards achieving what you have been putting off. It can be tiny: one phone call, one press up, one line typed on a computer. However, small, taking action builds confidence and self esteem. This will buoy you up to continue.
Lowri Turner is a hypnotherapist and nutritionist. To make an appointment to see her, please go to www.lowriturner.com
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