Do you remember the time in history when we believed the world was flat and later we learnt it was round? Suddenly we saw the world in a completely new light and this changed everyone’s lives. It is clear that as we endeavour to understand more about the world and ourselves, we will have mistaken beliefs from time to time. One of biggest misconceptions I think we have at the moment is that of procrastination; and this is why so many people still battle with it.
Today, I want to show you a different way to view procrastination and how you can also use it as a tool to be more successful in many areas.
First, let’s look at a few facts
• Statistics show that the amount of people who procrastinate has quadrupled in the last 30 years…and growing – meaning…we are not dealing with it effectively now
• It is a massive problem for chronic procrastinators, leading to depression and hopelessness
• There is a wealth of information about why you do it and what to do about it, but the problem is still exists
• There are different degrees of procrastination…more on this below
The extent to which you procrastinate and the degree of how serious the underlying reason why you are procrastinating varies greatly…
Not so serious
1) It is a natural part of your physiology – Your ‘thinking part of the brain’ (pre-fontal cortex) is trying to convince the pleasure part (limbic system) to do something and the latter usually wins. When you just don’t feel like doing something; you are not necessarily being lazy. The ‘pleasure seeking part’ of your brain is stronger than the ‘thinking part’ and it doesn’t give up as easily; so eventually you give into those ‘quick naps or one more movie’ pleasures.
2) Related to work – For me, these are the times when you don’t feel motivated to do something; you have no energy or desire to take action. This also happens when you lack clarity starting something new, you are stuck deciding where to begin. Feeling overwhelmed at work or simply not seeing the value in something you need to do, will also make you hesitate. These are more serious because they do have a direct influence on your productivity and therefore, career.
3) When you fear something – The fear of taking action that could lead to failure immediately makes you want to avoid it. The fear of success will cause you to step back because you worry how your life will change if you take action on what you really want. When you set out to make any behavioural or habitual change as well; you will likely feel reluctant; because you are stepping out the comfort zone and into the ‘unknown’. These are very serious because this is where people get into depression, missing out on dreams, opportunities, and undermining happiness.
How can procrastinating make you more successful?
Think about the last time you had to do something at work, for example writing a proposal. You intended to spend two hours on this and when you started, you realized that there was actually much more involved and you first need to do other things. You do those things. You go about all of this subconsciously; simply changing direction, taking action, and then going back to the task at hand. Now that you have the information you need for your proposal, you can carry on, right?
What was the point there? Simply…something needed to happen first in order for the next action to have a successful outcome.
Now, let’s look at how this can be applied to procrastination
2) Related to work – You lack motivation to do something, you just really don’t want to do it and you keep putting it off as much as you can. What you really need to do is challenge yourself in the moment and ask yourself questions like…`What will make me feel more motivated to do this task?` or `In what ways, will performing this task benefit me?`, `How does it relate to my values?`. Find the link and you will find the motivation.
As in the example above, there is also something that is needed to happen first in order for the next action to have a successful outcome (which was you finding motivation to perform your job better). Not only do you find the impetus to take action but dealing with procrastination in this way, but you develop the skill of listening to yourself more, managing your emotions to take action when you need to and this makes you more successful as well in life.
3) When you fear something – When you fear something, it doesn’t mean you mustn’t do it, just the opposite in fact! However, it is obvious that because you are procrastinating, you first need to do something else before you can continue on that road. These are things like balancing your fears, building confidence, getting clearer on your goals, etc.
The questions you ask yourself when you find yourself hesitating to take action on what you want to, are pivotal is identifying what is really bubbling under the surface. I am a firm believer, that if you start to actually confront and work on the reason you procrastinate each time you do it, you will be more successful in life, because…
1) You take action (so you are definitely going to have better results)
2) You deal with areas about yourself that are currently holding you back ( personal growth is key for more success in life)
3) You build a habit of identifying procrastination, dealing with it and at the same time, you build awesome skills and get better results.
Unless information is applied however, it remains useless and this is what is happening. It is like learning to drive a car; if you read about how to shift gears, turn a wheel, accelerate, etc, it sounds really simple. However, it is only when you get in the car and drive it that you really apply the information and experience it.
For me…any feedback that tells you what you need to work on – is a partner in success. It is your internal lighthouse, guiding the way, telling you when you need to deal with first; that is it.
Is procrastinating really so bad then? I think it is our inability to deal with it that makes it bad – simple as that.
The key in managing procrastination successfully is in the questions you ask yourself in that moment, this takes practice; but once you master this; your life will never be the same, only better!
You don’t normally see the word procrastination and success in the same sentence, but I hope that after reading this, you will be using the two words together and applying it more often.
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