Procrastination is common too us all, who hasn’t put off starting something that is important in favour of small meaningless tasks? There are lots of time management tools and we all have our favourites but take a moment to consider the psychology why you are procrastinating before considering the ways to break the habit.
We are hard wired to staying safe and our fear of change, both through success and failure, creates anxiety. Our subconscious creates the barriers of self-doubt, and emotionally based thoughts disturb our sleep whilst our logical brain is resting. Inwardly we decide on what success should look like and then start to doubt that we can meet our own exacting standard. When we delay getting started, waiting for the ‘right’ time, it’s easy for procrastination to set in, our sub-conscious message that failure is a lack of time rather than lack of ability.
The brain-based science that helps us understand our procrastination can also be used to assist us overcome it. Here are my three tips for calming your inner critic and moving forward to achieve your goals.
- Celebrate what you have achieved in addition to planning what’s still to do.
It’s easy to keep adding to your list, anxious about what’s still to do without stopping and looking back to all you have achieved. This approach is likely to drain your energy, make your tasks feel endless and your goal unachievable. Think of it as climbing a mountain, if you just keep trudging up the path the journey can feel hard and miserable; if you stop and enjoy the view, take pride in achievement then the summit becomes real and obtainable. Always Reflect, Celebrate and then Plan your next steps.
In a big project such as career change, groundwork is a vital part of achieving success, if you don’t celebrate the milestones along the way its likely you will start to feel dishearten because you haven’t been successful in achieving the goal. Working alone celebration doesn’t feel a very natural thing to be doing, so find an accountability partner or coach, then share and mark the milestones with them.
- Change your language and substitute ‘could’ for ‘should’
‘I should update my LinkedIn profile and make more contacts’, changed to, ‘I could update my LinkedIn profile and make more contacts’, will make you feel that you are making a choice rather than a negative judgement about yourself.
It’s such a simple change but it does make a massive difference. Could gives you an active choice on what to do, it puts you in control of your decision making rather than leaving you powerless to your inner critic. Ask someone close to you to notice when you say should and then replay the sentence replacing it with could. Practice and notice how this changes the way you feel about moving forward.
‘Of all the judgements we pass in life, none is more important than the judgement we pass on ourselves’ Nathaniel Brande
- Allocate time between ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’, recognising that they are both of equal importance.
It’s always tempting to rush in, ticking the easy stuff of your do list, and whilst this might make you feel better in the short term it’s unlikely you are tackling the important tasks. Instead, the real work stays on your list whilst you procrastinate that you don’t have enough time, energy or focus to start it.
To overcome this, always allocate ‘thinking time’ at the point in your day when you know you will be feeling positive and energised. Breakdown down the big things that you are struggling to start and define specifically what you need to do rather than adding a generality like ‘write a blog’ of ‘update my CV’. Consider the small steps that will move you forward, set yourself up to completing just the first few and celebrate each milestone. The busier you are, the more important balancing thinking and doing time becomes in breaking the downward spiral of procrastination and self-judgement.
Procrastination isn’t just taking time to consider; it’s about delaying long after you planned to start. Procrastination leads to missed opportunities, missed deadlines, not completing something to the best of your ability. Procrastination allows the inner critic to take over and emotional thinking to cloud your judgement, its leads to dissatisfaction and frustration both for you and those around you. Procrastination becomes a habit, but it is a habit that can be broken.
If you would like help to overcome procrastination, then please get in touch.