Procrastination is that guest who has stayed long past their welcome. It sits stubbornly in the “shoulds” area of your mind, annoying you, until you’ve either: done the thing or discarded it.
This post is very dense in terms of content. I recommend that you read it, then reflect on it. And when next you catch yourself procrastinating again: walk through these questions and check if they apply. Following it through can get you unstuck and possibly hit you with some personal insight.
Necessary steps to conquer procrastination
1. Recognize that you are avoiding another task that needs doing
2. Understand what your priorities should be and are
3. Calibrate your expectations vs reality
4. Figure out why you are procrastinating against that task
5. Get curious
6. Do the thing.
1. Recognizing that you are procrastinating
You need some sort of interrupt or ability to check in with your needs. Tracking yourself, mindfulness, accountability. There is a threshold level of urgency between the carrot and the stick. What's the activation energy needed to get started? Procrastination is a habit that comes from an emotional signal. There is a reaction in you where you do not think it is the best investment of your time to do the thing. This could be because of a risk, an unknown, a looming detriment, whatever. What is that doubt?
2. Understanding what your priorities should be and actually are
Use goal-setting, recursive planning, prioritization for importance and value. Aspired-to vs deeply rewarding goals. What's necessary to move you forward? What’s the order of importance and urgency? Are the tasks really necessary for the thing that you are trying to achieve?
3. What is actually happening?
Are you being true to your intentions? Are you committed to your actions? How do you know the disconnect between the path that's gonna get you what you want? Consequently what are the actions that you are actually taking day to day? What's the evidence?
4. So what's stopping you?
Ever stopped to ask why you're procrastinating? There's usually a very good reason. Everyone is just trying to do their best all the time, even when they don't say they believe in themselves. We still make decisions and act upon our best understanding of the situation and evaluation of ourselves in it. We all want to live a good life as we see it.
Is there a connected challenge that you are not facing that is causing some sort of discomfort?
Are you making excuses? What are they? How can you challenge those excuses?
5. What's a possibility that you haven't tried before?
There's an opportunity in every challenge.
The pressure that is causing you to procrastinate holds the key to unlocking the problem. It shows you what type of questions you need to start asking; what assumptions you're making; what things are still unknown; where you need help; what you cannot do and must either get help for; or learn to do it; what is too complex to look at all at once and could be broken down into some component parts?
Check in with your motivations for accomplishing this thing:
Why is it so important for you to do it in the first place?
Do it anyways.
Seriously, just start.
Often unravelling the causes and feelings tied up in procrastination is enough for it to stop being so scary. And this naturally leads us to the steps necessary to making progress. Once you're moving, it's easy to leverage that momentum into continued action. But you must start with this choice to act that is realized.
If you can do five minutes I'll give you a cookie.* No really, studies show that if you can get past the first 10 minutes the area of your brain that's involved with this doubt will show less activity.
Do it for yourself, or do it for someone else.
*Disclaimer: I'm unlikely to send you cookies.
Aaron Ball. Recovered Academic. Grieving Environmentalist. Evidence-Based Transformational Coach. Electronic musician. Transrationalist.