I’ve been meaning to write this article for a while but have been putting it off (bad joke). Do you do that sort of thing, not make bad jokes, but put off doing stuff? If you do, you probably need to find out how to stop procrastinating and start living.
Do you know how much of a procrastinator you are? You can get an indicator by taking this simple test from psychologytoday.com. It’s meant to be just for fun, but it might get you thinking about the time you spend putting off doing things.
A recent study shows that the average internet user spends over 2 hours a day on social media and messaging alone! Of course, much of that time won’t be down to procrastination, but some of it will. When you have a task in front of you, it’s so easy to pick up your phone, just in case any new messages have come through since you last checked a few minutes ago. Most of us are guilty of that, I know I am!
Procrastination or Just Lazy?
It can be a very convenient practise, although mostly, not helpful. There are a few reasons why we do it, perhaps we’re downright lazy, couldn’t give a hoot. Can’t be bothered, why do it now when I can do it later. This can be infuriating for those on the receiving end, for example, if you’re waiting on someone doing something for you and the wait keeps getting longer.
If that’s the pattern of behavior, is there a reason behind it? Although laziness and procrastination can sometimes be linked, they are both very different. There are famous quotes such as, a stitch in time saves nine, that remind us of the danger of procrastination, but my favorite is from Napoleon Hill.
He said, “Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” You notice he called it a “bad habit” and it’s important to recognise that, because it can hold us back. We really do need to work on how to stop procrastinating and start living!
Why Do We Do It?
There are different reasons, but probably the main one is fear – fear of failure or of success. When we fear something, it’s often our subconscious mind trying to protect us. Unfortunately, that fear probably relates to something from our past, with little relevance to what it is we face now. The procrastination causes us to delay or completely avoid what we’re fearful of.
This can have a knock-on effect by making it a habit in all areas of our life. Once it sets in, we miss deadlines and avoid things altogether. We then mentally beat ourselves up and begin to lose self-confidence. It becomes a viscous circle, with our lack of confidence feeding the procrastination.
There are other reasons why we do it. For example, in this article I explained the reason I sometimes do it is because I often set my standards too high. It’s not so much the fear of failing, but more of a concern I won’t reach my self-imposed high standard. Silly, I know, but at least I am aware of the reason and can work on it.
Procrastination is a Waste of Time
It really is, we waste precious time from our limited life that we’ll never get back again. In many ways, it stops us from living and achieving. It’s crazy, we delay doing something and then feel guilty or beat our self up for doing so. Also, the longer we put off the task, the longer we stress about it coming up AND stress because we haven’t done it yet. Double stress!
Mostly, once you’ve eventually done the task (after procrastination) you wonder what the fuss was all about. The outcome was alright, it was no big deal and yet, you’ll probably do the same next time. In some ways, it’s similar to when you stand at the edge of a swimming pool ready to jump in. You know it’s going to feel cold, so each time you almost jump, you hesitate. When you eventually do take the plunge, it’s not as bad as your mind was telling you.
Yes, your mind trying to protect you from danger by tricking you into not doing the task. That’s fine when there’s real danger, but it’s you (not your mind) who needs to take control and distinguish what might be harmful and what needs to be just put into action and get done. That’s the first step in how to stop procrastinating and start living.
Stop Procrastination and Get Things Done
You’ve most likely heard of the psychologist, Susan Jeffers and her amazing book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. It’s a great read and explains how we need to understand that feeling fear is natural and inevitable. If we can see it as just another emotion and expect to feel it sometimes, it doesn’t need to hold us back.
That’s how it is with procrastination, you’re used to allowing your mind to have power over you. If you’re not in control, how will you ever reach your goals? Perhaps you don’t want to reach them? That’s a possibility.
Look deeply into yourself, be very honest and ask why you do this. Is it any particular task, or in everything you do? Is there a deep-rooted fear holding you back? It might be that you’re just badly organised or easily overwhelmed by certain tasks. Once you begin to understand yourself, it’s easier to take appropriate action.
Steps to Consider
- Write down the task or goal
- Give it a realistic deadline
- Break it into smaller steps, each with a deadline if possible
- Contemplate and visualize the end result as it will help with positive feelings
- Set a start time and stick to it
- Remove any distractions – e.g. schedule when you can next check your phone
- Make yourself accountable
- Take small risks, eventually bigger ones will get easier
- JUST START – do something
You Know How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Living
Of course you know, if you’re honest with yourself. Try not to see it as something that’s only negative because that will reinforce you feeling bad about yourself. See it as a habit or a behavioral pattern which can be changed. It takes time and self-discipline with constant monitoring, but not procrastinating can become a new habit.
If you really want to stop doing it, you will because you know it holds you back. Victor Kiam, Mr Remington (for the older ones amongst us – the man who liked the shaver so much, he bought the company) said, “Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin.” To really emphasize the point, Martin Luther King Jr said, “How soon “not now” becomes “never”.
Don’t start tomorrow, begin today, If you can do that, you’ll be on your way. Once you get started, it gets a little easier day by day. So, don’t ask how to stop procrastinating and start living, just do it!!