10 steps to overcome procrastination
Hang on - I’m just watching a cat video on YouTube. Do you procrastinate too?
You decide to do something that needs to be done and then suddenly the time has slipped by, you’ve got sidetracked, had a drink, looked at your emails, answered a few texts, checked social media, or done a few bits and pieces that are not very important - you just frittered away some valuable time when you had planned on completing a specific task. If you can recognise the pattern in yourself (or someone else), and you would like tips to break the habit, read on.
Procrastination is a delaying tactic. It’s usually known for the avoidance of something we consider to be difficult or somewhat unpleasant, but there can be some positive aspects too, like taking time to 'think it over'; delayed decision making may sometimes be better than making a bad choice. I’m talking about the negative aspects of procrastination here.
When procrastination happens, you may or may not know you’re doing it, as other things compete for your attention and give you a quick fix of instant gratification. 'I’ll just do this first', and one thing leads to another, and, before you know it, it's lunchtime already. Days, weeks, months or even years can go by for a person who has a serious procrastination issue.
It’s never now, it’s always tomorrow, and then the pressure builds up.
It’s stressful - you have to play catch-up and there is always so much to do. It can also lead to missed opportunities and deadlines not being met. A chronic procrastinator may suffer from low self-esteem, overthinking, an inability to make decisions, perfectionism, or people pleasing. Some say 'it’s just the way I am', although secretly they might wish otherwise, but feel it’s too late for that.
I thought I’d share a story about a self-employed client of mine, Jessica (not her real name), who used to procrastinate about 'sorting things out'. She would typically create nice piles of papers that needed to be filed or worked on; her study had boxes of folders that needed to be stored, and her desk was a mess, her clothes were thrown in the back of the wardrobe, and her kitchen cupboards were jam-packed. She wasn’t good with money and she never knew how much money she had in her bank account. As a result, her business was suffering, her home was cluttered, her kids were usually late for school, and her self-esteem was low. This wasn’t who she thought she would be.
Henry Ford, among others, said 'If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got'.
Nothing changes unless you change
If you really want to overcome procrastination, ask yourself two simple questions:
- What might your life be like in a year from now if you continued to procrastinate?
- What might your life be like in a year from now if you no longer procrastinated?
Could it be that people who don’t procrastinate are more successful, have more confidence, have higher self-esteem, and feel a greater sense of personal achievement and happiness?
Jessica felt overwhelmed with the realisation that her chronic procrastination was stealing her joy and her time. She was ready to change.
We discovered other issues that had never been addressed, and it seemed the procrastination was serving a purpose - she didn’t have to face these other issues when she was stuck in the chaos of the small stuff.
We formed a plan. I asked Jessica to think of her life as a jigsaw. Each piece represents an important area of her life that needed attention.
- work - career/education/learning
- home – housekeeping/meals/shopping
- finances – earning enough/budgeting/planning ahead (seeking expert advice)
- relationships – spending quality time with people you care about/weeding out toxic relationships
- health – physical/mental/emotional
- spiritual – aspirations/dreams/purpose/connection to something greater than self.
She encouraged herself to take ownership, personal responsibility, and accountability. This gave Jessica an amazing sense of freedom. For once in her life, she felt she could overcome this problem and has begun to take back the power and gain control. Her life may not change overnight, but Jessica is confident that she can do it.
In fact, Jessica was surprised at how easy it was to stop procrastinating once she saw how the pieces of the jigsaw formed a beautiful picture of her own amazing life. We worked together over a number of weeks, we agreed some homework tasks to keep her on track, and she found it was easy to follow the 10 steps below.
10 steps to overcome procrastination
- Imagine your life without procrastination, and get an image of you looking and feeling amazing.
- Identify the fist, most important, area of your life that you want to work on (first piece of the jigsaw) - this could be your priority.
- Identify your overall goal for this piece.
- Think about how this goal fits into the bigger picture of your life and how important it is.
- Clarify the benefits of doing what needs to be done, to the best of your ability.
- Think about how you will feel when it’s already done and connect with that emotion.
- Break it down into small manageable chunks so you have the steps clear in your mind.
- Do the first small task and notice a feeling of satisfaction.
- Plan the next move and commit to doing it within a reasonable time-frame (the sooner the better).
- Keep moving towards your goal step by step, day by day, until you have achieved your goal for each piece of the jigsaw and make the picture of a happy you a reality!
There are some things to look out for along the way. Be aware of self-sabotage – identify things that might stand in the way of your success, and form a plan for dealing with it. For example;
- Laziness – count from five down to one, and on one get up and do it (Mel Robbins 'The 5 Second Rule').
- Tiredness – go to bed early, avoid caffeine after lunch, and practice relaxation or meditation.
- Sickness – remember self-care and give yourself ample time to recover.
- Hunger – keep on top of your blood sugar levels and eat regularly (learn what your body is telling you).
- Words – keep your words (including thoughts) positive, helpful, and constructive.
- Making excuses – watch out for excuses that disguise themselves in 'good reason' and apply 'The 5 Second Rule'.
- Other people’s agendas – be aware of people who may have a negative influence and steer clear of them. Energy vampires are good at stealing your time and energy, leaving you feeling drained.
And finally, do your best, keep optimistic, and enjoy taking control of your life. Hypnotherapy is a great way to get your subconscious mind working for you in the background, so you can achieve your goals with ease.
If you need help with procrastination or any other issues, get in touch with a professional hypnotherapist today.