How To Overcome Procrastination To Begin Again
A year ago, I began this blog for a number of reasons. I wanted to give voice to the ideas that were rolling around in my head, to reveal the musings that I needed to see in print, and to share the life and business lessons that I thought were too good to keep to myself. (Read my very first post here.)
I had planned in January of that year to start a blog. It took me months to get up the nerve to put ink to paper…or more accurately finger to keyboard even though I knew that I needed it.
It happens like that sometimes…
You know that there is something you must face, a difficult conversation or a habit that you need to break, but you avoid it or put it off. You push the inevitable out into the unknown future where it may (you hope) “work itself out.”
How often does that magically happen? 🤔
Let’s be honest about what’s really going on. Procrastination, read with a whisper. Few people like to openly admit it, particularly high achievers, but procrastination contributes to a lot of the undone items on many ‘to do’ lists. If you’re like me, you’ve heard throughout your life that procrastination is equivalent to being lazy. For some, laziness is right up there with the worst wrongs of the world.
For me, delaying the launch of my blog had nothing to do with being lax.
And I didn’t really understand it until I had an opportunity to help my son, a high school senior, work through his own procrastination in launching his college application process. I could see so clearly what was holding him back.
It made me think about the nine months it had taken me to “birth” my blog.
Fear was at the root.
I was afraid of the visibility, the exposure, the vulnerability. I was afraid of failing (what if no one reads it?)…and succeeding (what if people read it, begin to expect it, and I cannot think of enough posts to write???) To overcome it, I did what I do…I did a little digging (i.e., research).
Here are the research strategies that I applied to finally sift through the fear and to begin my blogger life. These practices work when confronting fear-based procrastination as well as those triggered by other motivations such as boredom, frustration, or challenge.
Most times, we have more power to control our thoughts than we assert. However, with practice, one can make a habit of steering the thought life. When faced with a task that triggers anxiety, change your thoughts about it. How? Take a deep breath, hold for a few seconds, then exhale. This reduces stress and anxiety and increases the flow of oxygen to your brain. Then try making the task more appealing. Break the task into chunks to accomplish. Then focus on one chunk at a time. Avoid “catastrophizing” the task. It’s probably not as difficult as you imagine.
DO AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
Determine your work threshold for tasks in terms of energy and time. If you have an hour’s worth of energy, then commit only that hour to the task. See how much you can get accomplished within that time frame. I give myself writing blocks. I write for the time allotted then I walk away. I feel like I’m progressing, even if the task is not complete.
Yes…we tend to remember unfinished tasks better than completed ones. It is this that creates a subconscious fear of not completing the new task as well. Push through this tendency. Put a dent in the task, even if it’s an imperfect one. Getting over that hump motivates and builds momentum toward task completion. My first post was me simply getting started. I didn’t know for sure about my voice or my approach but I just did it.
COUNT THE COST
Consider for a moment what it would cost you if you allowed procrastination to eat away at the time meant for task completion. What consequences would you have to face personally and professionally for not doing the ‘to do’? With the blog, I kept reminding myself of my ‘why’…which is to serve all of you. I realized by not posting, there may be people out there who didn’t receive what I was meant to give. That wasn’t a price I was willing to consider.
TURN IT OFF
Disconnecting from the world is vital. Turn off the notifications on your phone and computer. Schedule time to check your social media after you work on your task. Communicate with your family and friends to inform them of your task work blocks. This will ensure that your interruptions are limited as much as possible.
A key to all of this is to be good to yourself. Don’t waste time or energy beating yourself up for not completing a task. Procrastination is a tricky rival. It steals from you and causes you to blame yourself. Actively forgive yourself for the unfinished areas of your life. Give yourself permission to take stock of the resources available to you, in terms of time and skills, and apply yourself accordingly. Let go of perfectionism.
When the task is done, reward yourself well!
If procrastination gets the best of you, at any moment in time, remind yourself that it’s ok. It’s completely normal. And…it is another opportunity for you to begin again.
Until next time…