You can always do it tomorrow, right? But then tomorrow arrives, and you don’t feel like doing it again, and so goes the sad saga of procrastination.
Procrastination can stop you from doing what you really want to do with your life, whether it’s wanting to get in better health, pick up a course of study, start your business in the future, or improve your relationships with your children, partner, parents…
When does it end? If you’ve been wondering about this, let’s look at some common causes of procrastination and their antidotes to help you put an end to procrastination today.
A Written Plan
You’ve probably heard the famous adage: failing to plan for something is pretty much planning to fail. If you don’t have a written plan to guide you through something step by step, you’ll be paralysed, or at least slowed down by uncertainty.
The writer Mark Twain once said: “The best way to do something great is to start now; and the best way to start now is to make a written plan, break it into small steps, and start on the first step now.”
Follow Mark Twain’s sound advice.
What can you do right now?
Every time you tell yourself you’re going to do something that you don’t end up doing, you’re lying to yourself. But the main problem in this is that most procrastinators really do believe that they are going to take action, just not now. They rest, assured that if they don’t take action now, there’s always tomorrow.
The antidote for this is to stop believing yourself when you say: “I’ll get round to doing it____,” and to instead work on a plan to start to fulfill your commitment right now.
Quite often, the problem with procrastination has nothing to do with not following through, but lies in making a commitment that you don’t really want to fulfill, just so that you can please someone else. It might feel good to say “yes” and bad to say “no”, but if you end up going back on your commitment later, you will eventually lose credibility and burn your bridges with that person.
The antidote for approval addiction is to exercise your “no” muscle. Practice saying “no” to things that you know you won’t follow through with.
Do not say “I’ll think about it” or “I’ll get back to you,” because this is just verbal procrastination. Instead, get comfortable with saying “no”, and when you do, your “yes” will be much more valued.
Perfectionism is without a doubt the leading cause of procrastination, and the most challenging one to overcome.
Perfectionism causes you to delay taking action, or to take forever to complete something because of constant revisions and excessive planning. This kind of procrastination is based on the fear that if something you do is not good enough, you are judged as being not good enough.
The antidote for this is to separate your identity and sense of self-confidence from your performance, even when you do something well. This will take the edge off of perfectionism and keep it from paralysing you.
Chose One Thing
You might have heard the saying: “If you chase after two rabbits you lose them both.”
If you’re someone who has diverse interests, you will struggle with procrastination until you learn to make and cultivate a certain degree of selective ignorance in your life. Too many choices and options can cause you to get stuck in analysis-paralysis, and never get around to focusing on one thing only.
The antidote for this is to sit down and write out all the things that are most important to you, and to start focusing your attention only on the things which you have time and energy for.
Chances are, if you do this and get to work, you’ll have time to do the less important things later. If not, at least you’ll have done something instead of being paralysed by too many options.
If you’re in the habit of saying “Let me think about it” or of seeking others’ opinions for hours and hours before coming to your own decision about something, you’ve fallen into the habit of indecisiveness. You must get rid of that habit before it takes your dreams from you. One of the most common characteristics of highly effective people is that they are decisive and not influenced by the opinions of others.
So, your antidote for indecisiveness can be to develop a set of criteria by which you can make all your decisions: decisions about your health, career, relationships, finances and so on.
Having a long-term vision will help you to build decisiveness by asking yourself the question: “Which will be the best decision for helping me reach my long-term goal?”
Develop Beneficial Habits
Too many people buy into the myth that procrastination is a character trait which is somehow “in your blood.” In reality, procrastination is nothing more than a habit, and like any other habit, can be broken through consistent repetition of more preferable behaviours.
If you’ve fallen into the habit of procrastination, it is likely that there are patterns in your life with this habit.
The antidote for this is to develop all of the following habits:
• Always have a written plan for something you want to achieve
• Acknowledge that now is the only time you can ever live in
• Get rid of perfectionism and accept that failure is a natural part of the learning process
• Focus on a few key goals and trust in your own wisdom instead of being swayed by the opinions of others
Now you know what you need to do. Don’t think about it, just get started.
Well begun is half done.