I often have clients ask me for better time management strategies to help them overcome procrastination. They believe that it is a time management issue when it is something else altogether.
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of delaying, or postponing something unnecessarily. This often brings along with it negative or unpleasant consequences such as not progressing on our goals, failing to meet important deadlines, and getting us into trouble in our professional and personal lives. This leads to more anxiety, frustration, regret, shame and makes us feel horrible about ourselves.
- Do you procrastinate because you do not know HOW to do the task? Possibly.
- Do you procrastinate because you are not sure WHY you have to do the task? Possibly.
- Do you procrastinate because you do not like how performing the task makes you FEEL? Yes! Most of the time, we procrastinate because the task at hand triggers a certain emotion that is unpleasant which we don’t want to feel.
Darren Hardy, the Success Mentor, says that procrastination is the inability to manage negative emotions and moods associated with a task. So procrastination is not about time management, but emotion-management. Now, it all makes sense!
Here are 3 simple strategies that I want to share with you in overcoming procrastination.
1. Notice the emotion
What are some of the emotions associated with a task that people try to avoid? It could be self-doubt, boredom, sadness, frustration, inadequacy, insecurity, regret, shame, and the list goes on.
To overcome procrastination, you have got to identify whatever emotion is driving it.
- If you procrastinate because you do not know HOW to do the task, then you might be avoiding the feelings of inadequacy, incompetence or self-doubt.
- If you procrastinate because you are not sure WHY you have to do the task, then you might be avoiding the feelings of frustration and anxiety related to uncertainty.
- If you procrastinate because you do not like how performing the task makes you feel, then you are avoiding the painful feelings associated with the task.
Many people struggle with identifying the underlying emotion that they are trying to avoid. This is where a life coach will guide you in sorting through your thinking and feelings to get to the heart of the matter.
You get clarity.
2. Let it go
Once you have identified the emotion(s), so what?
Well, you need to process it and then let it go. As long as you are holding on to the emotion, it becomes stuck in your energy system.
People want to know how they can ‘let it go’. Is it as simple as making a decision and ‘poof’, the unpleasant feeling dissolves and floats away into the stratosphere?
It depends on the individual’s personal circumstances and how deep is his or her emotional wound(s). Some might see a positive shift in their procrastinating behaviours pretty quickly.
Others might take a much longer time because they need to unpack the emotional baggage underneath those feelings. This could involve a past trauma, or an unpleasant experience that gave rise to this feeling.
Basically, your brain is taking a bad experience in your past and applying it to every similar situation in your future. If an interviewer mocked you during one interview that you had attended, your brain is now telling you that you will be mocked at in EVERY interview that you go to. You might really want to look for a new job, but the unpleasant feeling associated with THAT particular interview is going to pop up. To void feeling that way, you avoid applying for new jobs.
If you think that delving into those unpleasant feelings will be scary, painful and just simply too much for you, that could be the case if you do it alone. Processing your feelings together with a coach will be an empowering experience – you will notice immediate that these feelings have less power over you.
3. Take baby steps to overcome procrastination
What would be a super teeny-weeny step that you can take to move forward? Something that does not take more than 2 to 3 mins to complete.
Moving forward does not mean you have to take a huge bite at the cherry. Something small and manageable that does not invite the unpleasant emotions to make their appearance.
- If you procrastinate at writing a blog-post because you do not know how to start, a small step could be just writing one line.
- If you procrastinate at writing a blog-post because you do not know why you need to write it, a small step could be just brain-storming 5 possible reasons why you would need to write it.
A small step ahead is still progress. As a coach, I co-create many small steps with my clients because we want to #StayOnTheCourse as that is the only way for us to enjoy the journey that will take us to your destination. Together.