Hands up who washes up, on cleans the house and vacuums the car when they have something important to do? (My hand shoots up high at this point). Hands up who finds they’ve spent three hours on social media when they had a blog post to write, a piece of work to do or have promised themselves they’ll get round to something you really should have done ages ago? (Hand shoots up a bit higher). So hey we all procrastinate at some time, but according to the leading experts on procrastination 20% of us are chronic procrastinators. This would be those of us who put bills in a drawer, who never get the important stuff done, and who never ever buy a gift on time. But why do we procrastinate?
I’ve been asking myself this quite a lot recently as I find myself putting things off again and again. Most of this is in relation to me blogging, and making the time to blog. It’s not because I don’t like blogging. I flipping love blogging. I love writing full stop. The power of putting pen to paper or type on a screen and getting feedback that it’s helping others is just such a great feeling. I enjoy it. It’s pleasurable, so why do I procrastinate when it’s time to blog or I start working on the Mindful Hub ideas?
Well perhaps to dig more deeply I need to go back to the time when I first learnt I was a procrastinator. If you are already recognising yourself in these examples, I bet you’re gonna remember this one. Exams. Hands up who used to do absolutely everything they could to avoid revising for an exam? Suddenly helping the parents do jobs around the house seemed appealing. Even the dreaded room tidy was my favourite thing to do in place of revision. Then there I would be frantically cramming in my knowledge a few nights before the exams when procrastination was no longer an option. That followed me through university and into work where I pick off the easy jobs sometimes in place of getting into the meaty stuff I know needs doing. And breathe…
I procrastinate…hell I even had a flick through the internet first before I started this blog. So why do I and millions of people like me sabotage ourselves? Well let me tell you some of the things procrastination is not first, before we tackle that. It’s not about a lack of time management. I rock at time management. I juggle multi-tasking like a pro. I might underestimate the amount I’ve got but I get loads of stuff done when I get my head into gear.
According to these experts we learn to procrastinate, we’re not born that way. Phew there might be a chance to reverse this procrastination after all! It can be a response to a controlling parent style, a form of rebellion, a reaction to a past event or events in our life. I think mine is a reaction to fear. Most of my procrastination relates to areas of business, career and work. I procrastinate when I should be setting up my ebooks and workbooks. I get confused by mailing list options so I flit between tasks when they feel too difficult. I’m scared. Scared of failing. Scared that I will put in all this work and no-one will want to read my ebooks. No-one will want to buy what I have to offer. No-one will click on my newsletter.
Do I have any basis for this fear? Well no. OK my blog is still small but people still read it. Everyone is very positive (thanks you guys). I know I know enough to talk about mindfulness and minimalism. I’ve trained as a coach so I know how to coach people to bring change into their lives. So why am I afraid? Do you feel like this sometimes? I think the fear of failure gets ahead of me, and so I find something else to do. Read other people’s blogs on how to blog, look at pretty pictures on Pinterest or go off and read a book. Then what do you know, time flies and I am back to square one again. Is this sounding familiar?
End the procrastinating!
So we know it goes on, we know we’re not alone and we know some classic procrastination tendencies, but what do we do about it? Now this is where I come into my own because although I am a big procrastinater, mindfulness has an anti-procrastination tool. Once you learn how to take a break from your thoughts; through relaxation, meditation (click on the link for some of my tips to get started), being present right now, you get a break from the emotions, such as fear, that thought brings.
If you can give yourself a dedicated time every day to consciously acknowledge what you’re thinking and then see those thoughts for what they are, just thoughts, and not necessarily reality, you will start to find space. Space to regroup, space to feel more motivated, space to start doing, rather than just thinking about doing. That humungous task you’ve been dreading for weeks and putting off? Now you can break it down into small steps, put deadlines against it and complete it. Those bills in a drawer you’ve shoved away for months? Now you start to accept they don’t go away, and that you will find a way to deal with them. That difficult conversation you need to have?
By taking 15-30 minutes for yourself every day to meditate, to breathe and relax, will give you the focus and the ability to face difficulties in a way you might have struggled to before. Don’t believe me? The only way is to try it.
Here are some other ways of blowing procrastination out of the water;
Get started – Even if you’ve got a big task or project to do just get started. Even writing the first paragraph, or making the first phone call will give you a sense of achievement and motivate you to keep going
Set realistic steps – If you have a big mountain to climb such as say a… well yeah you’re aiming to do a hike up a really big mountain and you’ve never hiked before or you need to pay off a big debt and are at the start, it can seem overwhelming and impossible to get to where you need to be. So set small and realistic steps; it’s not likely you’re going to be able to climb up Mount Everest in a month from a sedentary lifestyle but by getting to a 10k hike, then a 20k and then doing smaller hills and mountains, over time you’ll be able to do the big one!
Same with debts. If you’ve got a lot, there’s no point planning to set all your income aside every month to pay it off. It’s unachievable and you’ll be setting yourself up to fail. Instead look at what you can afford, set yourself a goal to find out the interest rates of your debts so you know which will be best to pay off first. Then start month by month clearing away. If you can, find side hustles to help pay it faster and before you know it you’ll be snowballing to a debt free lifestyle.
Start with the hardest task first – If you’re anything like me you will like to pick off the quick wins first: that quick email, a small run over the road to the corner shop, a quick load of washing, whilst the mammoth report, monthly shop or complete house clean lie in wait. So pick the hardest task first , get the report started, do the monthly shop, pick the messiest room in the house and you’ll feel a sense of achievement that will keep you going. Let me know if you’ve got any great procrastination tips. I’ve managed to stop procrastinating long enough to write this post. Now what else do I need to do…